Make no mistake, today I am indeed editorializing. My blog, my thoughts. :) As such, I will once again be predominantly addressing the Arabian show ring and today it's about alternatives to competing at AHA approved venues, since that is my main breed of interest. Don't get me wrong, I love my breed and have had success in that show ring for more than three decades now, and you can be sure we will continue to patronize AHA events ~ but there are other ways to enjoy these horses.
For background on this topic, look to a general unhappiness many exhibitors feel with AHA in general; from judging, to rules, to the excessive cost of competing, to the COI (conflict of interest) which often seems to be inherent and even expected. All of these issues have led to a mass exodus from our show ring, though an awful lot of folks are still interested in showing their horses. They simply would like to do so in a place where they feel fair play and a level playing field are a reality.
Of course, you can always stick with your local equestrian organizations and show in their open events, which generally welcome all breeds but are frequently not considered "Arabian friendly". There is no reason on Earth you cannot be competitive ~ we have done so for many years, converting dozens of exhibitors and spectators alike to the Arabian horse. Being such an ambassador does carry with it a heavy responsibility, however. I have always believed that bringing beautiful, well conditioned, well trained, well schooled, well prepared and well presented horses to a show can make a lasting positive impression on the non-Arabian admiring public.
I start all my beginner students, my green and inexperienced horses as well as new horse/rider pairs at the open or schooling show level. Here is my thinking ~ horse shows cost a lot of money. Most horse owners are not made of money. When there is a question of how a horse may behave in a show environment with other horses in the ring, or if a rider is just not ready for the big leagues, I cannot in good conscience request that anyone pay huge, cubic dollars to attend a large rated horse show. While there are never any guarantees on how well any horse or rider is going to do against any given competition, why take chances? With someone else's money, I most certainly will not.
For those not necessarily jaded with AHA itself, you can also go the Arabian Community Show route. These shows were designed to be a low-key, fun and relaxed way to show Arabian horses against each other with out the cost or cutthroat competition of an "A" rated show. We have been participating on this level since 2006, in addition to the open shows, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our venture into that venue. They allow exhibitors to compete against horses which are often of a quality similar to those you will be up against on the tougher "A" circuit, without breaking the bank.
But what if you're used to competing at a higher level and consider everything else beneath you? In that case, there are other alternatives you may find suitable. For Dressage riders, there are open events sanctioned by the USDF (United States Dressage Federation) which are held across the country in most every state and region. The same goes for Hunters, Jumpers, Eventing, Reining, Cutting and Carriage Driving, where breed makes little or no difference. If Western pleasure is your pleasure, there are open events catering to that division, and if Saddleseat classes are more your up of tea, you can look into both the Renai Horse Registry (started for the purposes of promoting the Arabian/Dutch Harness Horse crosses as flat saddle horses ~ like the National Show Horse Registry was created for promoting Arabian/Saddlebred crosses as English horses ~ but which hold classes for Arabian horses, among other breeds) and the Show Horse Alliance, begun by the NSH Registry for horses other than those with Arabian and Saddlebred blood.
Here is the bottom line: These alternatives are out there if you seek them out and they're generally quite fun. You'll meet different people who will give you a fresh perspective. All in good fun, and in the spirit of good sportsmanship (and good horsemanship)!