For 65 years, the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show has attracted attendees and competitors from around the world, including the United Kingdom and Italy to Australia and the Middle East.
“It truly is an international event,” said Taryl O’Shea, executive director of the Arabian Horse Association of Arizona.
But this year, for AHAA’s 66th annual show – starting Thursday, Feb. 11, and running through Feb. 21 – will be closed to the public due to the pandemic and instead will be available for viewing via livestream.
“[Live-streaming] is a great option for the hundreds of thousands of people that will not be able to come and watch in person this year,” O’Shea said.
Held at WestWorld, the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show features more than 2,000 horses from across North America, more than $3 million in prize money, and the best-of-the-best riders vying for the coveted title of “Scottsdale Champion.”
“This competition is vital to the Arabian horse community and we are pleased to be able to host it again this year,” O’Shea said. “While the event may be quieter this year, we know the competition will still be intense.”
Day passes are available for $9.99 or fans can access the full event for $49.99.
A schedule of each day’s events is posted to the website, outlining what class is competing and when.
Fans, families and enthusiasts can watch live, real-time video of the competition or tune into recorded videos later.
This year, the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show will benefit several local charities, including Healing Hearts Animal Rescue and Refuge, Horses Help TRC, Scottsdale Community College and Youth for Troops.
“We partner with our charities, so they are involved with the show. They volunteer, have booths and help promote the show. These charities have been with us for many years, and they are a part of the Arabian Horse community. We choose these ones because they make a difference in the community,” O’Shea said.
While AHAA has live-streamed the horse show for over 10 years, this year marks the first time the Scottsdale Signature Stallion auction will be online.
Through 9 p.m. Feb. 20, the auction includes 150 horses and raises money to fund the largest prize money program for young Arabian horses in the industry.
“We are lucky to have an event in a climate where many events have been canceled,” O’Shea said. “We have done what it takes to keep people safe and host a great competition. The Arabian Horse community is thankful for that.”
Historically, the horse show has attracted more than 300,000 attendees over its 11 days.
They also typically sell out of seats on their main championship night.
But this year will look different as only participants and essential personnel will be permitted on the grounds.
“Closing to the public has been a challenge as it had a domino effect on our shopping expo,” O’Shea said. “Sponsors and people who have been coming for years are simply disappointed.”
To keep participants and essential personnel safe, AHAA put together a “six-point safety plan” to guard against COVID-19.
“I think our future is going to consist of a new focus on public health and safety – many of the cleaning, signage, communication incident response protocols will live with us forever,” O’Shea said.
“We have implemented many electronic options to streamline options for competitors, [and] I know we will continue to build on that into the future.”
Although AHAA lost almost all of their international competitors due to travel restrictions, O’Shea hopes they’ll still tune in this year.
“Obviously, we want as many people as possible to watch the horse show that they stay engaged with our show,” O’Shea said. “There is a large number every year of overseas viewers, [so] I am sure it will be even larger this year as most are not traveling to the show this year.”
“The Scottsdale Arabian Horse show is the largest most prestigious show in the world, so we have many international Arabian horse enthusiasts that tune in,” O’Shea added.
To access the livestream or videos, visit scottsdaleshow.com.