Monday, March 1, 2010

The Realities of the Arabian Halter Horse Industry

I do realize that this topic has already been over done, but I do feel the strong need to discuss it.

As I have said in the past, I started in the Quarter Horses as a kid and for me it was showmanship, reining, cutting and western pleasure. As I graduated High School in 1981, I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a horse trainer. The guy I was starting colts for in Tucson introduced me to the Arabian horse and told me that he could get me a job at Al Marah Arabians in Tucson. I had been to a couple of Arabian Horse shows and was amazed at all of the glitter and glamour and the horses.So I got my job ans worked in the Arabian horse industry for about 10 years, always working with Quarter on the side. Over the years my view of the Arabian horse illusion changed as I saw the ugly side.

Enough about me!

I remember back in the 80's I was schooling a few Halter horses for an Arab trainer that I was working for. When the horse would not 'show' to his satisfaction he told me to take the whip and sting the horses shins. I refused and soon lost my position as halter guru in that barn. I had asked one of the halter trainers why they always put the whip across the horses shins, and she told me that is so there is no welts when the horse goes into the ring. I will always remember seeing the grooms put alcohol on the horses welts to try to get the welts to go down before they go into the ring. That was the last Arab barn I ever worked in.

The cold hard realities of the Arabian Halter horses, is that there is whip abuse that does go on and eventually the horses will let loose. It is hard to feel for the people that perpetuate the abuse, though I hate to see anyone, horse or man, get hurt because of their own stupidity.

A year before that, I was attacked by an Arabian stallion that had been abused as a colt so that he would show better as a halter horse. A few years prior to that same horse attacking me, he bit the owner in the face in the show ring as the owner was standing him up in front of the judge.

So lets move forward about 25 years and nothing has changed. Apparently a trainer was attacked in the show ring and the horse won that one.

When are these idiots going to learn that you can not keep whipping a horse into submission. They will go off and it is only a matter of time before they do.

I have been handling stallions for the better part of my life and with the exception of a few incidents with other peoples stallions, I never had a problem. Our stallions are gentlemen and they are expected to act that way at all times. But we never have to whip them nor do we ever lead them with chains on. Whips and chains are over used and abused as well as the horses that they are used on.

Has the Arabian Horse Industry now taken another negative hit. Yes they have, and that is largely due to the continued methods that they use to train the horses.

The same goes for the way that they train their performance horses. They over use spurs, bats, and continually bump the horses faces to get them to set their heads. I watched an Arab trainer on the RFD channel talking about the horses that he was training and it was all about the horses headset. Never about asking the horses to move laterally and there was never any mention of softening his young horses.

At the Snobsdale show this year, I was watching the reiners warm up, and there again it was all about the horses head. They never left the horses faces alone. Drove me nuts!

It is unfortunate that this is spilling over into all of the breed shows.

I do know that nothing will ever change unless we force change or unless we get these people to use a common sense approach to training, but we have to remember that to them it is all about the glamour, the glitter, a trophy and a ribbon. And it is not just the trainers, the owners share the responsibility as well.

I do know how hard it can be to rehab a horse that has had his mind blown by bad training methods as I had earned a living doing it. I also know that those horses can and will hurt you. And just because we call them domesticated livestock, that does not mean that their survival instinct will not kick in.


EveryoneThinksThey'reGoodDrivers said...

The Arabian halter horse industry is one of the most shameful groups out there IMO.

I like working with Arabians and have always enjoyed them. I think that if more people understood what they needed to do, they wouldn't do all the nasty crap.

Just like the instructor that gets louder when they run out words, the trainer that breaks out the whip when they run out of ideas.

Beating a horse is way harder than teaching a horse. IMO

maiden53 said...

Great post, JR :-). Thx for a bit of your background history- very interesting. Do you think that Arabs are diff than Quarter and how? To me, I think that a horse is a horse.... but at the same time, my Arab shows me much more personality than the 2 Quarter horses that I have... do you think that this is just chance?
Thank you for your time.

JohnieRotten said...

a good horse is a good horse no matter the breed. But the people are always the problem. I liked the Atabs back then, but what the large breeders have done to the breed is absolutely disgusting. But there again that goes for all breeds.

that is the truth. A lot of trainers break out the who far too often when they runnouf of ideas.

Anonymous said...

"I graduated High School in 1981..."

Dude, you're OLD.

;) Just messing with ya, JR--you know I love you and CNJ!

maiden53 said...

JR - Thank you for your take on the Arab.... I agree totally!

Anonymous said...


I have been following your blog for a while now, and I do not always post. Let me say this, I have been an Arabian Horse enthusiast for many years and have been showing for a while. And I used to like to watch the Halter classes until I was at a regional show a few years ago. We were there late at night and I was helping a friend get her tack cleaned. We heard a lot of yelling whoa in the next barn isle over and went to see what was going on.

The comotion was being caused by a very big name trainer in the Arabians who was schoolig a halter horse. We saw just what you described, the horse was being battered by across the shins and the trainer was whipping the horses blanket to get the horse to stand up.

Needless to say, I know longer watch the halter horses. I mostly show QH western pleasure now, but we still have our arabiam mare that we would never allow anything like that to happen to.

I would love to see you do a blog on flexing exercises for the western pleasure horses and talk also about getting that flat footed trot/ walk.

ponykins said...

Remember the days of keeping your Arab halter horse so frenzied and leaping around so the judge couldn't see how crooked his legs were? I'd like to see them all shown like they do the Arabian Sport Horse. We have an Arab trainer in my area that keeps a baseball bat hanging on EVERY stall door.No thanks, I don't need that much submission from my Arabians.

kestrel said...

And here I thought I remembered a temperament requirement in the Arabian breed standards...sigh. If the judges didn't place out of control scared to death horses they wouldn't be doing that. How do we demand better judging? Extreme is NOT breed type.

Cut-N-Jump said...

I would just like to see some level of enforcement for the current rules already in place. 'Balding' around the horses eyes, muzzle and near the nostrils is NOT allowed. It is grounds for excusing the horse from the class. Checked the rulebooks and there it is...

I also found a few pic's of the infamous, slimey bastard known for only showing halter and I doubt there has ever been a day when he doesn't look like a complete asshole. One of the pic's he is sneering at the camera as if wondering what the lense will prove he has done now?

Where the horse Scapa is concerned, I should hope the responsible party is held accountable for their actions. BTW- a horse that acts out against the handler or another horse in the ring is to be excused. No room for an arguement to be made there. There's the gate- use it.

I know of a stallion that rammed the BNT in the chest with his teeth as a warning. BNT was afraid of the horse. Horse was started under saddle but has been living out his days ever since. He is a horse that knows how to intimidate and push the limits of his handlers.

Cut-N-Jump said...

Flossie- the barn I started at, the trainer would litterally chase the horses backwards down the barn aisle, whipping their legs and sides as they scrambled like mad to get away from him.

The one gelding had to be tied up or removed from the barn during other horses being schooled because he would freak out. Did I mention he could and did, flick the tip of the ears with the whip if they were not up? Yep, he did it a lot. Did I spend time icing and alcohol whip welts? Plenty. Too much actually.

I learned a lot in that barn. Some good, some bad. I did learn how to pick a class from the rail and could nail it almost every time. I also learned the sickening feeling of being handed the lead of a weanling/yearling filly as they came out of the ring. As soon as the lead changed hands, she let out a huge sigh of relief and pretty much deflated before my eyes. No horse should go through that at any age.

The most disgusting part of all of this? This is how these people behave and treat the horses in public. It only makes you wonder how much further they take it all at home, where there are fewer eyes to see them.

kestrel said...

Oh, I have seen how they handle them at home. A breeder in my area has a stallion that it takes 3 people to feed. One with the hay, one at the gate, and one with a baseball bat. I didn't last at that barn very long...the guy had bred a mare/stallion combo that wound up with a foal with wobbles...and repeated the breeding three times. WTF? A 'top ten' as a yearling with a beautiful head and neck, no butt and all four legs go in different directions, and he throws a club foot on the right front EVERY SINGLE TIME. Oh yeah, but he has great bloodlines. did I mention he can go from zero to stupid faster than any horse I've ever seen, and he also throws that temperament? Crooked and crazy actually places?!

ponykins said...

I would love to see Arabians in the show ring given temperament scores. Make it a desirable quality that breeders breed for and buyers buy for. A low score, means gelding to show or out of the show ring forever. How many new people come to the Arabian shows, thinking of getting into Arabians, are turned off by all the abuse? Who would buy a horse for their kid that cringes, falls down on it's knees, flips over backwards, or attacks it's handler in the show ring. I know if that was my only knowledge of the Arabian wouldn't. I have an Arabian stallion in my barn that I have used for 17 years in children's programs. He is well loved and much petted by everyone from tiny tots to people in wheelchairs. They don't have to be fire breathing monsters that some people seem to make them. Poor horses.

GoLightly said...

Have you seen this, JR?



GoLightly said...


To HorsePeople.
Let's hope you can help keep them from going extinct..

Cut-N-Jump said...

Ponykins- we have a 17 y/o Arab stallion too. He does not act like those you see in the ring.

I agree with a lot of what you say, however a lot of people seeing the horses in the ring have no clue of the extent of the abuse going on outside the ring, back in the barns or let alone- at home. A lot of people jump in without checking further. I would bet a lot of them would be horrified, mortified, maybe even pissed, to find out what is really going on. Or they just blow it off as no big deal and perpetuate the abuse and carry on as usual. What do we know anyways?

Just like the editor of one of the local horse mags here, called everyone cheering when Boggs' was suspended, a bunch of whiny, no talent hacks who lacked the skill or knowledge to beat the puke in the ring. You know because halter is sooooo tough to train. Yeah, let's see the asshole ride. We won't even ask him to train a horse. Everyone knows better than that.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

The breed to extreme and batshit crazy is not exclusive to Arabians. The AQHA has done a fine job of breeding freakshow monstrosities with temperments to match into their halter horses. And well, if that isn't enough, more than their fair share have a genetic malfunction. Ya know, cause it's not worrisome enough to be standing next to a 1600lb, amped out of his gord, freak on 4 toothpicks...ya need to be worrying about them possibly having a seizure and falling on you-LOL.

It's a shame, in multiple breeds and disciplines what has become acceptable...all for a ribbon.

kestrel said...

I actually knew a woman who was killed when her Quarterhorse started to stagger and fell off a cliff, taking her with it. She was not even riding the horse, just standing beside it!!!! A full 2 years later the HYPP information was made public, even though the registry had KNOWN about the gene defect. That's awfully close to negligent homicide in my opinion.

I also know a young woman with brain damage caused by a thrashing HYPP horse. You can't pay me enough to ride a horse that can go down in an uncontrollable fit or drop dead with no warning.

GoLightly said...

Awww. Thanks, JR. That was such an awesome comment to Liz! man, youze gooood.
For a mAn.
I mean, I'm not kidding that you're a man...
I mean... Never mind.

Sorry my blog was such a mess, you didn't call first!

I found it fascinating on another forum, that people breeding/owning/showing N/H horses were calmly saying medication keeps them all safe.

Now, don't shoot me, but what do the meds actually do?

To Health, for horses.

JohnieRotten said...

Hey GL

Was that Linda P. on that video?

WTF was she doing to that poor horse. It must e Linda P because I saw people out there witht he carrot stick.

It takes a horseman 5 minutes to put a solid whoa on a horse and an idiot like her to screw it up in 3 seconds.

That was a disgusting display of horsemanshit!

It is true that the breed to extreme and bat shit crazy is in all of the breeds. But the Arab people seem to have made it an art form.

And yes GL I will call next time!

GoLightly said...

Yup, Linda P, herzelf, I've read. kinda disgusting, wasn't it.

Teaching the horse to back was the apparent public idea.
Not that it was remotely apparent to me watching, much less the poor horse.

If you bring Johnnie mare, you NeveR need to call:)

JohnieRotten said...

Maybe one day Johniemare will be out there. But you may be calling us to take her back!

Cut-N-Jump said...

GL- I like how there was only one persaon saying the horse was doing this and that before and after. She did a good job. While the rest would have likely tied her up with the rope halter and beat her senseless with an orange clue bat called a carrot stick.

kestrel said...

And here I thought you're supposed to drone the horse to death with the 7 games after you've figured out it's horsenality...that was freakishly amateurish abuse. The horse had no idea of what was being asked, and the swinging lead is guaranteed to make them turn into nose up giraffes. Wow, that's the body position I want when I'm trying to lead a horse...NOT! If the horse was a truly bad actor it would have trampled her right off the bat, reared or struck. There's a difference...oh freakin' never mind. Those people are never going to get it anyway.

kestrel said...

Oh, forgot to answer about the meds..

Basically you give the horse a mild diuretic to control the potassium levels, feed it speshul, exercise it spechul...

Towards the end of the article is a section on prevention that'll make you laugh...before you cry!

horspoor said...

WTF was that woman in the video trying to accomplish. Get in, get out, get it over with. I kept hoping the horse would just land on her. Pick, pick, pick. GAWD. About the worse thing you can do to a horse.

So that was Linda Parelli. What a gunsel. There was a time when Pat was actually a hand, great timing, great feel and could really read a horse. Now he seems to survive on gimmicks, tricks and picking a horse to death. What the hell is he thinking.

And just an FYI. I love Arabs. I think they are smart, personable and very trainable. The state they have been reduced to is deplorable. A great breed, with a bunch a morons for handlers and owners.

I grew up with stallions, been around them most of my life. Most of the stallions I've known have been pretty good individuals. Easy to work with, pleasant to be around...I mean really, why would you keep one a stallion that wasn't like that?

kestrel said...

Just spewed coffee HP! That would indeed be the question. Growing up around 'ranch' horses, I didn't realize that studs were supposed to be stupid monsters until I started showing. The difference in temperament of show horses of many breeds, compared to horses that are bred to work, is incredible. Show horses should be the ambassadors of the breed they represent, not extreme mutations.

kestrel said...

Oh and JR?! Truer words were never spoken about how difficult it is to turn a horse around after some dumbbell has messed up their mind. They are incredibly dangerous, and it's a life risking endeavor to take them on. The holes in their education can get a trainer killed in a heartbeat.

How many amateurs get hurt or scared away from horses for life by the well meaning 'rescue' mentality? It's a rare set of circumstances that sends a sound sweetheart to a rescue or auction. I'd say 90 percent of the sound ones are messed up mentally. If I'm enough of a horseman to do the job, I am eventually going to want to not have to do it!

JohnieRotten said...


it can be difficult to turn a horse around after their minds have been blown. I was asked to do a post on the Parelli video and my thoughts on it. I will do that later today.

cattypex said...
That's how a horse should be fit for showing halter.
Groomed, but not fake. If you can't judge his confo. because of it, then you're SOL ignorant. A 4H judging team should be able to do it....

About this headset obsession... I pulled out my copy of Happy Horsemanship, and there's a delightful drawing of a horse with an engine in his HQ. That concept is drilled home numerous times in the text.

A wise old horsewoman (trainer of Arabs & half-Arabs) in my area, long gone but not forgotten, once said, "Everything behind the girth belongs to you. Everything in front of the girth belongs to the horse."

I'd like to see all WP horses shown with natural and truly collected gaits, not strung out with their heads hanging at odd angles. But it's a whoooole lot easier to accumulate a collection of lungelines, drawreins, tie-downs, bitting rigs, martingales etc. and call yourself a "trainer" than it is to actually put in the time and mileage and education.... stupid breed shows....

horspoor said...

Catty, Varian's Spring Fling is coming up in April. Seriously thinking of going.

horspoor said...

Catty, Varian's Spring Fling is coming up in April. Seriously thinking of going.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
GoLightly said...

JR said:
"I will do that later today."

Man, you have looooong days, JR!

HP, throw me some kindling, would ya?
I better make a camp-fire 'til JR comes back.

JohnieRotten said...

I will get it tomorrow I promise. We have had a lot of maitainence and repairs to do around here the past few weeks.

Who Said That? said...

Sets lawn chair down by Go Lightly's fire and offers up some snacks...

kestrel said...

Sitting by fire, munching on snacks, passes out beers...

GoLightly said...

Who's for a song?

Hit it!!

100 Bottles of Absorbine Junior on the walllll..
If we're annoying enough, JR will just HAVE to post;)

Cut-N-Jump said...

GL the smell of 100 bottles of Absorbine JR would be enough to kill us all...

Minus Pride said...

Love this blog. Well said, well thought out, and wonderful points. The Arabian is a gentle, intelligent horse and will always look out for himself, it's a shame that so many people have to push them to their breaking points.

ara farm said...

While I agree that there are stiull some Halter trainers who have not changed, not all Arab trainers are like that. Like you I have been in Arabians since the 80's and seen the abuse that has happened. I also train Halter and while I do carry a ship I don't have a horse that I cannot stand up without the whip. My stallion will reach out and take it from me to play with. This breed is ultra intelegent and that is usually the problem. Most people do not give them that credit so when they are bored and don't want to repeat a command 15 times in a row they will either shut down or act up, thus those trainers then think they need to be agressive. yes I agree there is still much to change in our induatry but it has come forward a bit. At least its now judge on the horse instead of who is at the end of the lead rope

Bruce Dyson said...

I grew up on arabians, and have recently been riding my uncles Quarters. There is a definite difference in personality.