The Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show celebrates 62 years in the Valley
The Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show celebrates 62 years in the Valley.
Before heading out to compete at this year’s 62nd Annual Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show in February, it’s a good bet 12-year-old Quinn Eisenfeld has gone up to a week without washing her hair.
“Your hair actually has to be a little dirty to get the best bun,” says Eisenfeld, a student at Cicero Preparatory Academy in Scottsdale. That tightly sculpted bun at the nape of her neck is part and parcel of the showmanship of competing in the 62nd annual world-renowned event. She’s participated each year since she was 7 with her beloved horses, Six Time National Champion, SS Boy Genius and National Champion 2015, Flash Gordon.
“My mom is the only person I trust to put up my hair,” she says. “It’s a very important part of my outfit, and if it comes undone, there can be consequences.”
It all started for Eisenfeld —vice president of the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Youth Group— when she was just 4. It was meant to be perhaps. According to her mom, Quinn’s first word was, “horse.”
“I tried every sport out there––dancing, ballet, swimming––but none of them felt like it was what I was supposed to do.” She tried horseback riding lessons and was hooked. She surprised herself by finishing in the top 10 at her inaugural Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show appearance. Since then she’s gone on to win multiple titles, participating in classes such as Western Pleasure, Side Saddle, and the popular Mounted Native Costume.
Her discipline is impressive. Eisenfeld’s horses are boarded at Scheier Farms in North Scottsdale, where she visits three times a week to prepare for lessons and competitions.
“I love on them, brush them, and give them treats and spend about two hours riding each time. But I also have a big commitment to school, so I go right home and finish up my homework,” she says. She’s set the bar high and plans to earn a riding scholarship to a university one day.
Eisenfeld describes Scottsdale’s event as part fair, part horse show, where the environment is interactive and the food, shopping and kids’ activities are plentiful. She admits to nerves and butterflies, but has learned over the years to become more calm, and also, to remember to eat. “Sometimes when I win, I cry,” she says.
“I have a very special connection with my horses … and riding has helped shape me into the person I am today. From talking to people I don’t know to having thousands of people watch while we compete; it’s really developed my confidence.”
The finest in showmanship from the finest of horses
Many people find horses to be intriguing, gentle, stunning animals. But according to Taryl O’Shea, executive director the Arabian Horse Association of Arizona (AHAA), a non-profit organization that promotes educational activities, trail-rides, and competitions to endorse Arabian horses and their breeders, Arabian horses are the world’s finest. She’s a lifelong horse lover and rider, and says they’re the only breed she’d ever own.
“They’re famous because Arabians are the oldest dated breed. They’re the most beautiful breed with the dish face, big eye, and high tail. They’re known as works of art because of their beauty. But they’re also regarded as the smartest and friendliest of the breeds,” she explains.
During the show, more than 2,400 Arabian horses from across the globe engage in the pageantry of showmanship along with breeders and riders of all ages. They passionately compete for the world’s most prestigious distinctions in the world at the most high-profile competition of its’ kind, O’Shea says.
“On any given day guests choose to come,” O’Shea says, “they will enjoy a variety of competitions.” Among the most highly anticipated she says, is the Arabian and Half Arabian Mounted Native Costume class, where riders and horses dress in traditional desert regalia and gallop around the area.
Other competitions include Dressage, Reining, Driving, and English and Western Pleasure. Another highly popular event is the Arabian Freestyle Liberty Class where the horses run free in the arena without saddles. The most exciting addition to this year’s show, O’Shea says, is the black-tie auction on Fri., Feb. 24.
“We’re featuring some of the most high-end horses available in the world, and we’re very excited about it,” says O’Shea.
A little bit ‘o history
What has evolved into a prestigious and profitable competition boasts humble roots. According to O’Shea, a group of Scottsdale’s early citizenry launched the show back in 1955.
“Most people recognize the names from the street signs around town,” she says. “The Chaunceys, the McCormicks…they were all well-known, wealthy people breeding Arabian horses,” she shares.
It was fellow founder Ann McCormick who lent her Scottsdale acreage, dubbed Paradise Park, to host the event for two decades. The show is sanctioned by the United States Equestrian Federation and the Arabian Horse Association, and has built a reputation as the Super Bowl of the Arabian world.
Today, the show is held at Westworld of Scottsdale, an ideal venue for equestrian events. WestWorld’s generous show rings, accessible parking for guests and exhibitors, and comfortable stabling have contributed to the event’s continued popularity and esteem.
To Scottsdale, with love: A charitable event and a boost to the economy
While the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show is highly revered across equine circles, for Scottsdale, the event has become a signature cultural and community draw. From locals who just want to sample a taste of the local fare to celebrity breeders and enthusiasts the likes of Wayne Newton, more than 300,000 people attend annually.
The event also adds some $57 million to the local economy. The impact to Scottsdale’s merchants including eateries, resorts and hotels, and local shops is powerful, says O’Shea.
Aside from the pride in earning distinct titles, competitors are awarded more than $2.5 million in prize monies. During the history spanning more than three decades, the show has also raised more than $20 million for charitable causes.
“We rely heavily on volunteers each year, so many of the beneficiary charities step up to help,” she says. This year, the AHAA has chosen the March of Dimes, Scottsdale Community College and its Equine Sciences Program, and Arizona State University and its Western Equestrian Team as beneficiaries.
Boots, bling, and everything in-between
While it’s true those who love horses flock to the event, it’s also a sweet spot for foodies, shoppers and those just looking to get the kids out for the day.
With more than 300 vendors catering to a variety of tastes and budgets, the event showcases the beauty of western culture through art, jewelry, accessories, and apparel. Horse owners and enthusiasts can score saddles, tack, trailers, barns, and health products.
“More than 50 local food vendors are on hand, so some people come simply to get a bite to eat and take in the sights,” says O’Shea.
A multi-generational event, there is plenty to do for young children as well. “We have a family fun zone where kids can enjoy horse rides, camel rides, and a lot of free activities such as paint a horse and barn tours,” she says. “It is truly an amazing show for the whole family.”
The 62nd Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show
Feb. 16–26, 2017
16601 N. Pima Rd., Scottsdale
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