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Arabian horse breeders and producers have welcomed plans to bring back “traditional” in-hand showing classes.

Some breeders have become critical of the “modern” way of showing Arabians, in which the horse’s head is positioned artificially high with the hindlegs out behind the body when standing up for the judge.

But the Wessex Arabian Horse Group’s Summer C show at The Hand EC, Avon, on 14 August will introduce trial “classic” classes.

Show organiser Felicity Harper said: “ We hope these classes will redress in some way the unfortunate impression many have of the Arabian horse because of the manner in which it is shown”.

She said in the classic classes horses should be shown in a “quiet and relaxed manner” and when standing up for the judge must be positioned with their hocks underneath them.

The classes have been sanctioned by the European Arab Horse Show Commission, and both “classic” and “modern” sections will be assessed by the same judges. No horse entered in a class for one style will be eligible to be shown in the other.

Each will have its own qualifiers for the European Conference of Arab Horse Organisation A show at Towerlands Park.

Leading breeder Geoffrey Plaistow said he was “very pleased” to hear about the trial.

“The objective of showing is to get the judge’s opinion on your horse’s conformation and movement. This can be achieved by trotting the horse up, standing him for inspection and then walking away in a gentlemanly manner,” he said.

Producer Alan Theobald has shown horses in the modern style, but has recently gone into partnership with Gina Hunt of Spirit Arabians, breeding horses for performance.

“In the classic style, you get to see true paces with the horse in a nice, relaxed state of mind. Each style of showing has its own appeal.”

But he added: “I feel when you show at international level you have to go ‘modern’ as this is what the spectators want.”

The Arab Horse Society (AHS) is supportive of the Wessex group’s plans.

AHS council member Annette Dixon said: “It is considered a good experiment and it will be interesting to see how it goes.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (11 February, ’10)