The trouble with the arabian horse community


Arabian Horse Society National Championships

BILL ADDIS shares some thoughts on the arabian horse showing world.

“The footing at the Nationals was terrible!”
“There should have been more shavings put in the dirt earlier.”
“It is hard to keep horses sound if the footing is not right.”
“The patron boxes were terrible.”
“We need to go elsewhere with the Nationals.”
“The problem with the Arabian horse business is that the trainers run things instead of the owners and breeders.”
“The judging at the show was terrible.”
“I showed my horse in 9 classes and the judges wouldn’t use me any better than fourth.”
“Unless you have your horse with a big name trainer you just can’t win.”
“We need more rich people in the Arabian business like we used to have.”
“I quit breeding because I can go buy a finished horse cheaper than I can raise one.”
“I quit breeding because I could not sell my foals for what it took to raise them.”
“The cost of going to the class A show is so high that we got out of it.”

Above is just a sampling of the complaints we hear year round. Every one complains about the problems but no-one does anything about them. All the problems mentioned above are trivial compared to the real problem.

At one time we had over 40,000 members in Arabian Horse Association (AHA). As of December 31, 2009, we have 32,580 members. In 1986 we produced around 25,000 Arabian horses. As of December 31, 2009 we registered 5544 purebreds and 2056 Half-Arabians.

Everyone has an idea what the other guy needs to do to fix his problem but no one is really talking about the ‘elephant in the room’.

Folks, as I have said before, the Arabian horse community is in trouble. If we don’t make some drastic changes soon, we will continue to see the number of members and registrations plummet. We don’t need more rich folks involved. In the words of Mr. Tim Shea, a man I highly respect, “We just need more people involved.”

We just finished our 12th annual November auction. Just a few years ago I could guarantee that if you put your horse in the auction we could get it sold. I couldn’t guarantee for how much, but we could sell every horse. That is not the case today. We see some very nice horses in every auction. They may not all be show quality or may have yet to be started under saddle but are, over all, nice horses that will make someone a good companion. Those horses are harder and harder to sell at any price. The horses that are selling today are the ones that can go to nationals and WIN.

Whoever coined the phrase, “a house divided cannot stand” could have been talking about the Arabian horse industry. (We now have the halter people putting on their own show because they do not like the new scoring system. The performance people are planning on putting on their own show sometime in 2011.)

So, what is really wrong with the Arabian horse industry, business or community, or what ever you may want to call it?

  1. AHA runs their entire overstaffed company by producing horse shows instead of being the promotional arm for the Arabian horse.
  2. We have put too much emphasis on our national show and have made a class A championship mean little or nothing.
  3. As the organization has gotten smaller the cost to show has skyrocketed way out of range of most people’s budget.
  4. We offer no kind of incentive for breeders to breed.
  5. Fewer stallions breed more mares.
  6. Backyard breeders can’t sell their production.
  7. An up-and-coming young trainer has little hope to make it training horses. It is difficult for them to compete with the handful of top trainers especially when everything revolves around the big dance (Nationals).
  8. Our local shows have gotten smaller and smaller.

I had the opportunity to go to Shelbyville, Tennessee recently and met with the manager of the grounds that produces the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration. Shelbyville is a town of 20,000 people and is an hour south of Nashville. When I went on the grounds I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the outdoor ring where they show their horses. It seats over 30,000 people!

I asked the manager if they are able to fill those seats. He said they did in 2002, but this last year they only had 25,000 spectators.

I asked how they did it.

He said back in 1939 the town wanted to have a community project that would help identify their town so the Chamber of Commerce along with the Lions Club, Rotary Club and other organizations went together to promote it. Now, can you imagine today having 25,000 spectators off the street at an Arabian horse show? Do you think that much exposure would help the sales of all our horses?

Now I am not a big fan of the walking horse but you cannot help but be impressed with the job that Shelbyville has done.

We need this kind of mindset to build our breed, not everyone out to sell that $1,000,000 dollar horse to the wealthy that make up a minute percentage of our membership. We need the local clubs to put on activities that are fun, hands on and affordable. That may even be an event other than a show. I have often said if we have a market for every $1000 horse, the high end will take care of itself.

So, what are the answers to turn things around? I don’t have all the answers but being in the auction business, I follow most all of the different breed’s auctions. The common denominator of most of the breeds that continue to do well is that they focus on young horses and monetary prizes.

In my opinion, here is what needs to be done to salvage our beautiful Arabian horse.

  1. Stop all shipping of semen.When you see a class of 30 horses at Nationals and more than half of those horses are all by the same sire, something is not right. We have run all of the small breeders out of business with shipped semen. When a small breeder would have 5-10 mares of his own and then also breed some outside mares, it kept him in business by having some income from mare care. It also kept our gene pool much larger and, if a small breeder had a good stallion, he could stay in business with the sale of breedings and the sale of his foals. The top stallions would rise to the top anyway. We need to get back to where a small breeder can breed a horse more cost effectively.
  2. Stop all embryo transfers.If a mare is not able to carry a foal to term, don’t breed her. And we should not allow multiple foals out of the same mare in one year. If you have a great show mare then show her. Then wait until she is done showing and breed her. It would make her foals that much more valuable.
  3. Hire a Show Manager to run the National Championship show.
  4. Only the top 15 horses in each division are qualified for the Nationals.Have a point system that allows only the top horses in the country to compete at Nationals each year. And require horses to re-qualify each year. Our national show is too expensive, too long, and too boring for the non-Arabian horse people sitting in the seats. If only the best 15 in each division were at Nationals, it would be an event, not just a show. We should only have evening classes and work to involve the local Junior League or other community groups to solicit people to be in the audience. We must have more exposure to the general public. We also need to change the way the horse show announcers work. They have announced for too many years to the exhibitor and not to the audience. We need to explain to the guy off the street what is going on. The only way we will ever draw any corporate sponsors is by having more bodies in the seats.
  5. Once a horse is declared national champion in any division, he can no longer compete in that division at the nationals. One of the problems that we see in the national show is that the same horses come back year after year. So, consequently, there is little room for that next generation of horses to come up and win. Theoretically, when half the national Top 10 horses have been past national champions, there is only room for a few of the 18 regional champions to go top 10. If you look at all of the breeds that are still doing well, even in this economy, all of them revolve their competitions around young horses. If a horse does well in the Kentucky Derby he can’t return the next year to run again. It is just for three-year-old horses. A log jam effect would happen if the same horses could come back. There would be no need for breeders to breed, no need for yearling sales, no need for trainers to start the next crop of colts. Our horses shown on the National level now have gotten older and older.
  6. Stop paying out Sweepstakes Money to horses after they are no longer a junior horse.We cannot reward the breeder by continuing to pay sweepstakes money to 15-year-old horses. All of the breeds that are still successful put all of their emphasis on futurities of some kind.
  7. Do away with all regional horse shows.Our regional horse shows that had 15 to 30 entries in each class a few years ago now have 2 or 3. Most Class A shows today have less than 80 horses at the show. If we did away with all the regional shows and put the emphasis to qualify a horse for the nationals at the class A level, it would raise the entries in the class A show. Whether on a point system or a monetary system, you would have to hustle to enough local shows to get your horse qualified for the big show. It would also return ‘bragging rights’ to the winners at those shows. Today, if someone tells us that their horse won several classes in local shows, it is hard to tell them that it really means very little. They only beat one or two horses to win. We need to have our local Class A Arabian shows get back to a larger number of entries where the upstart trainers have a place to grow their skills.
  8. AHA should have a 7 person board of directors, relieve all of the regional directors of their duties and get rid of the delegates.We need to have a good board to be able to make quick and effective decisions. Look at NASCAR. It has grown from a Southeastern local sport to a major sporting event with millions of viewers. It is nothing more than watching souped up family cars go in a circle. Everything they do is to promote the sport and they come down hard on anyone or anything that is detrimental to the sport.
  9. More than anything we have got to have classes that are fun.Team roping continues to be the fastest growing equine activity. Next in line are the cowboy action shooting, the team sorting and team penning. There is no reason that our Arabian horse cannot be competitive in all of these disciplines. We have to appeal to those that want to have fun in disciplines that are easy to understand.
  10. It is imperative to have young horse trainers coming in to the Arabian horse business.In 1980, the average age of Arabian horse trainers was around 24 years old. Today the average age is more like 50. If there was more emphasis put on the local Class A shows it would give these young people a chance to get in and show the horse people their talents. Everyone knows the economy in 2009 was not good. But even with the state of the economy and a 37% drop in sales from the previous year at the Keeneland auction, they still had a $60,734 average on 3605 head. The 2009 Standard bred Yearling auction in Harrisburg, PA had a $31,591 average on 1086 head. The running Quarter Horse yearling sale was down 15% from 2008 but they still had an average of $8700 on 783 head.

To sum it up, we have to put more emphasis on smaller shows that are affordable to middle income folks and a place for the small breeder to be competitive and also have shows for up and coming trainers to show their talents.

Please keep in mind, we all have an opinion and the above is just that, my opinion.

Addis Equine Auctions, Inc has continually strived to supply a service to all Arabian horse owners and trainers. We have never varied from our main goal which is to sell Arabian horses. We have never excluded anyone. Addis Equine Auctions, Inc has successfully sold over 5,000 Arabian, Half-Arabian, and related bloodstock over the last 14 years.



Bill and Terry Addis
Bill and Terry Addis

Bill Addis, the president and founder of Addis Equine Auctions Inc, comes from a family of three generations of horsemen. Having been raised on a farm in Ohio, Bill grew up with horses and horsemen. He was active with his horses in 4-H as a kid and by the time he was 19, he was licensed by the United States Trotting Association as a driver. He switched breeds to the Arabian horse in 1975, and had been employed until 1991 as a full time Arabian, Half-Arabian, and National Show Horse trainer. He trained Half-Arabians and National Show Horses to over 80 national and reserve national championships. 

Having a fascination for the chant of the auctioneer, Bill attended World Wide College of Auctioneering in 1986, and produced his first Arabian horse auction in March of the following year. In 1991, Bill put aside his training of show horses and pursued the auction business on a full time basis selling from 100 to 125 auctions per year of all types. Always being a competitor, Bill competed in several auctioneering contests, achieving his goal as a champion. Addis has presided as auctioneer for some of the most high profile Arabian horse auctions in the industry, both in the United States and Canada. 

Today Bill and his wife Terry own and operate Addis Equine Auctions, Inc. out of their office in Edmond, Oklahoma.


8 thoughts on “The trouble with the arabian horse community

  • September 14, 2017 at 1:53 am

    You are quite correct – bellyaching about nickle and dime technical problems and fighting among ourselves isn’t going to resuscitate a dying industry. You talk about the “elephant in the room” – all valid points. I am particularly concerned about the loss of diversity in the breed, through small breeders, which is an unsustainable trend.

    But this isn’t enough. The industry has to think outside the competition and equine boxes. It has to evolve backwards to sharing and collaboration to succeed in a very different world. The Arabian industry must either adapt or it will become a backwater in a new socioeconomic reality. I am reminded of a photo of students sitting in a museum surrounded by art masterpieces. Every single student was interacting with their cell phone – not even each other! Many young people do not know where their food comes from. Schools are decreasingly teaching arithmetic and writing in grade school. If you doubt this, watch what happens to a Mcjob employee when a touch screen can’t deal with a tiny discrepancy.

    How do we interest youth in horses? How do we adapt to the new socioeconomic reality? This, along with squabbling and elephants, is the real problem.

    Albert Simard
    Alandra Arabians

  • September 19, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    At the Inland Empire Arabian class A Horse Show here in Spokane, we have a Saturday night showcase of 10 of the coolest classes and a Supreme Championship Halter class, called Arabian Horse Extravaganza. We advertised in local publications as a free public event with food and live music at the dinner. The Club provides food as each member brings a nice appetizer. We have had 300 or more for 3 years. It works, and the cost is minimal.

  • September 22, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    This article was written in 2010, and it’s important to note that the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration this year (2017) had only just over 1000 people in the stands on their last night with their largest class. Yes, they used to have 20,000 spectators and standing room only. But you know what happened? First, everyone has learned about soring. Second, they have shoved out the real money in the industry: the person who just wants a good horse to ride. When you focus solely on the show horse, make it seem like only special people can handle them, and ignore 75% of your membership who does trail riding, endurance, trail obstacles, and other non-show events, you push them away and memberships drop and money disappears.

    If you folks in the Arabian horse world would stop breeding deformed, fire breathing machines that do nothing but dance at the end of a chain and are completely uncontrollable, then maybe you could attract the common horse buyer. Stop focusing on showing and start marketing to those who really do make you money: the people who are out there every day wanting to ride a sound horse.
    Focusing only on the show horse means eventually, you’re only going to be pissing in each other’s pockets, and you’ll end up just like the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. Learn from their mistakes and don’t make the same ones.

  • July 19, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    I agree with most of this article. However, I think that using the young horse emphasis like in racing could create many unwanted Arabians that then go to slaughter. And as someone who loves the breed, that would break my heart.

  • September 10, 2019 at 7:57 am

    I agree with this article and I agree with these solutions. I also have an observation about Arabians and Arabian shows. Arabian horses are bred to be beautiful, but are frequently too hot and fractious for every day use as riding horses. The Arabian shows that I attended and showed at were frantic, disorganized, and stressful. The aisles were dangerous with horses biting, rearing, spooking and just being crazy, and the people that I interacted with were not having fun. No fun.
    I owned and showed Arabian horses for more than 10 years. I now own and show (and race) American Quarter Horses. I can do more with Quarter Horses, the events count towards real points that add value to the individual horses, and to the exhibitor. The horses are calm and can be used in a variety of ways. I have personally rescued several Arabians that were owner by my local slaughter buyer, then re-homed them. The slaughter Arabian horses were all club footed and untrained.
    I think that the Arabian horse industry should include more events that reward the backyard breeder and competitors. Much more emphasis should be placed on disposition of the horses. If the shows were more relaxed and had more family oriented classes and events, more young people would be interested.

  • January 6, 2020 at 8:41 pm

    When I shown horses with ya’ll years ago I was sad cause I qualified. to go national with my mare. Couldn’t afford it. Promotions of the breed Should be fun and Honest.
    Go to your competitors ApHC, AQHA, APHA and watch their shows & talk to the people, its a whole different world.
    I love my Arabs & would love to get back in the show circut but I think If ya would loosen up the collars and relax the scenes where people like myself can bring a couple horses and enjoy our selves. with our horses.
    The price of everything has gone up except for a lot of peoples pay checks. Especially in the horse world. $5k for a showjacket. LOL geeeeeeeze

  • September 12, 2020 at 3:19 am

    When is the next election to vote in for positions in the AHA?
    On Facebook awhile back on someone’s post I had commented on being President and starting the necessary changes that need to be made to bring our beloved breed back into the top standings with the public eye, make shows better and definitely a lot more cheaper and much much more fun. I remember all the fun I used to have showing and doing different events on my HA that I received as a gift for my sweet 16 birthday. I haven’t been able to find him in the registry either, he was registered as a Half. Tuff Cookie gray gelding. His dam was Egypt Rose (I believe I have that correct), she was a flea-bitten gray. Stallion may have possibly been Jiggers Joker gray as well.
    Anyways if anyone would like to nominate me for any role with AHA I am all game for it and as sadly as I hate to say, yes it is time to be out with the old and in with the new. No offense intended here, but the Association really does need change and the younger generation are the only ones who can make those changes happen since the majority in office now are fixed in the way things are now.

    Caroline Vaughn
    Stars Arabian Knights, Oklahoma
    (Forgive me, but as of August 2015, I had no choice but to shut down my doors. I pray that I will be able to return and reopen within the next few years.)


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