Bringing our beautiful Arabian athletes back into the spotlight
The Arabian horse was once known as a supreme athlete, a petite, beautiful, but vigorous package of prepotent genetic dynamite that was used to improve the athletic performance of almost all other breeds around the world. The Arabian combined unmistakable beauty with structural soundness, breathtaking movement, intelligence, loyalty, versatility and athleticism and the broader equestrian community respected them and sought their bloodlines to add certain attributes to their own breeds. Within the Arabian community and without, there were many examples of Arabian versatility which were celebrated for their achievements. For years, they were considered the ‘norm’, every pony club seemed to have their share of terrific Arabian babysitters who safely and successfully carried one child after another through every discipline on offer and it seemed that most Australian Champion Arabians were champions in multiple disciplines.
Nowadays, it appears as though much of the wider equestrian community has turned away from the Arabian, seeing them as beautiful but “too hot”, or not sound and athletic enough to really perform anywhere other than the breed show ring. When endurance Arabians are put forward as an example of the breed’s supreme athletic prowess, they are often ruled out as distinctly different from “those show ring Arabians”, an exception, rather than the rule.
The thing is, our beautiful Arabian athletes still exist. There are a lot of versatile Arabians out there that have never set foot inside a ring of any type for a myriad of different reasons, many beautiful endurance Arabians that have or certainly could succeed in the show ring and numerous current Australian Champions are still champions across multiple disciplines. Whilst the exact reasons for the shift in public perception are a matter of much debate, one thing is clear: lifting the profile of the Arabian horse as an athlete in the broader community can only possibly be a positive thing for all involved.
The Australian Arabian Sporthorse Association (TAASA) is a newly formed group that believes Arabian horses are far more than just a pretty face and that there are a lot of versatile registered Arabians out there that are proof of that. TAASA was formed in 2016 and is a group of dynamic Arabian horse owners and breeders united by a common goal - to encourage, support and promote the recognition of Arabian bred horses and ponies as versatile, tractable, athletic, sporting mounts throughout both the Arabian and general horse communities, exemplified by their participation in performance disciplines and competitions where they are rewarded principally for excellence of execution or for conformational suitability when displayed calmly and in their natural stance and beauty.
Inspired by the wildly successful Arabian Sporthorse movement in the USA and their personal experiences with their own Arabian athletes, the TAASA committee have spent countless hours working to create an association that suits the unique limitations and opportunities here in Australia. TAASA currently has members in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia and conducts their meetings online. Representatives for each of the states that currently have members are working on expanding Arabian Sporthorse classes and opportunities into their respective states and TAASA would gladly welcome members from any region across the country. The association is, at this point in time affiliated with EA, as the insurance coverage provided is more suited to the range of disciplines that they offer, but horses must be registered with the AHSA to be eligible for TAASA competitions.
TAASA held the Australian Arabian Sporthorse Championships at Tatura Park on Saturday in March 2018. Competitors performed in a wide range of classes including Working Hunter, Costume, PC/HRCAV Mount, Mount Suitable for Dressage, Working Stockhorse, Australian Pleasure, Side saddle, Western Pleasure, Trail with the In-Hand Trail class proving very popular again. The committee already have plans for next year’s show, so watch this space for details.
Also commencing in 2018 will be TAASA’s Horse of the Year Awards. This exciting new awards program is offered to all TAASA members with registered Purebred or Arabian Derivative horses. Annual individual awards in a variety of sections including dressage, endurance/racing, jumping, led sporthorse, ridden, activity, youth and breeder will run from 1 August to 31 July each year. Members can join the program at any time, however points cannot be backdated. In conjunction with the HOTY Awards program TAASA also offer accumulative Lifetime Achievement Awards in each individual section and Lifetime Versatile Achievement Awards, with points to be accumulated over a minimum of three sections. TAASA invites expressions of interest in this program for both participation and sponsorship.
Whilst still in its infancy, TAASA has big plans for the future, including all breeds competitions to promote the Arabian as a competitive mount in open company and running clinics across a broad geographical range with a variety of instructors, covering a diverse assortment of disciplines. If these ideas and principles speak to your heart and your reasons for loving the Arabian horse, maybe the Australian Arabian Sporthorse Association is for you. TAASA are always looking for likeminded people to join and share their ideas and inspiration. Membership is extremely affordable and online meetings mean that wherever you are located in Australia, you can become involved.