By Brianna York
This is the third year that the Arabian Sport Horse National Show has been held at the World Equestrian Center in Wilmington, Ohio. This facility is one of the finest in the country and was established entirely with equestrian needs in mind. While initially a contentious and challenging decision, moving Sport Horse Nationals to this venue has proven to offer exhibitors many benefits that other US facilities could not provide.
Where else can you rent a small house during the show or ride up to the takeout window on your horse and order coffee after your classes? Between excellent footing, beautiful arenas, and perks like large outdoor turnouts for rent, WEC stands head and shoulders above many other venue options for this show.
The sport horse division has grown leaps and bounds over the last fifteen years. Gone are the days of combining a few dressage classes with main ring nationals or sharing venues for regional shows. As this division has continued to thrive and improve, change was essential. The move to WEC was intended to honor this growing interest in the Arabian sport horse.
Growing pains are commonly related to new show venues and changes to how a division operates. The 2023 show suffered some problems related to show arena access, and the move-in dates for the facility continue to be very tight for those who travel from any significant distance away. The show has also remained largely static with regard to entries despite hopes that the show would significantly increase in size once moved to Ohio.
Despite these challenges, exhibitors love this facility and are eagerly waiting to return in 2024 to show there again. The schedule was exhibitor-friendly, the staff were welcoming and made the paddock and showpen fun places to be, and the beauty of the grounds was complimented over and over again by 2023 exhibitors. Jackpot classes remain a significant attraction to those making the trip to Ohio, and the fun and silly barn parties, progressive meal events, and exhibitor events hosted by the show were enjoyed by everyone on the grounds.
There have been some beneficial and exciting additions to the show since the move to Ohio, such as the various prize money classes and the young horse prospect class. Amateurs are the backbone of this part of the industry, just like at the main ring shows, and amateur jackpot classes help to attract increased entries and people from all over the US to show at the Sport Horse National Show.
The prospect class offers Arabian enthusiasts the chance to evaluate the potential of talented and typey individuals using the European model. This highly competitive class offers a large jackpot and gives breeders and exhibitors a chance to show off the results of their efforts to create, prepare, and exhibit some of the most talented horses in the country. It would be hard to imagine the show without this class these days, and everyone loves to come and watch the jog-outs, if only to see the exhibitors’ fantastic clothing!
One of the most exciting testimonies to the Arabian breed is all of the various cross-entered horses who come to the Sport Horse National Show to compete each year. It is common for horses who excel in main ring events, like hunter pleasure or reining, to come to the Sport Horse Nationals and excel in this entirely different arena. It is also common to see horses entered at this show in a wide array of events, competing in hand one day, dressage on another, and then showing over fences to top it off. One of the most essential virtues of the Arabian breed is its versatility, and nowhere is this clearer than at the Sport Horse Nationals.
Carriage driving is a division that continues to attract new people, and WEC is an excellent venue for this kind of competition to shine. The freestyle dressage classes have also grown significantly, and exhibitors hope these classes will eventually be changed from exhibition classes to regular classes split by competition level.
The sport horse division offers many positive benefits to the Arabian horse industry. Having grown exponentially in size since the early days of its inclusion in the recognized classes offered by the Arabian Horse Association, this division provides exhibitors the chance to show the versatility of the Arabian breed and compete in a wide array of exciting and rewarding classes.
The Arabian breed is one of the most athletic and kind breeds of horse that has ever existed. The sport horse division demonstrates the breed’s athletic capabilities and showcases the Arabian horse’s ideal temperament in ways many other divisions cannot. The sport horse section of the Arabian industry immerses exhibitors in a genuinely family-friendly, amateur-first experience that would be hard to duplicate anywhere else.
The contract with WEC has been renewed through 2026 for the national horse show. Exhibitors who have fallen in love with WEC will not be forced to give up its amenities and perks for some time. The Arabian sport horse division shows every sign of continuing to thrive and grow, even amid economic challenges and the rising cost of hay, bedding, and other equine care essentials.
When you take a step back and look at the history of this division, it’s hard to imagine that these classes were ever held alongside the other main ring events. The Arabian sport horse deserves to have its own show circuit and its own decadent and special national show. The future of the Arabian sport horse looks bright, and the World Equestrian Center venue looms large in this important division’s success and continued promotion. The 2023 Sport Horse National Show was the culmination of the hard work and passion of many committed horse lovers, and this shone through in every aspect of the show experience for exhibitors and spectators alike!