I just got back from the 52nd annual Scottsdale Arabian Show in Arizona, which I covered on assignment for Horse & Rider. My impression? Beyond "wow." I'd been to this show before, back in the 1990s, and am astonished by its growth since then. With a record number of 2,800 horses at this year's event (enough extra ones compared to last year to require installation of 42 additional portable-barn setups), and all the extra people who came with them, this show made its own history. I'm glad I got to check it out, because in its current stage of popularity, it really has to be seen to be believed.
"Horse show" is actually an inadequate phrase for describing this event. "Spectacle" is more like it. With classes underway in half a dozen arenas, barns transformed by carpenters, landscapers, florists and caterers, a trade show with over 300 vendors, herds of stunning horses and hordes of "civilian" spectators who each ponied up $10 for admission (some 250,000 of them over 10 days), the show offered more to see and do than a person could take in over a single day. Add Arizona's glorious February weather, and you have plenty of reasons why the Scottsdale Arabian Show is as different from the typical horse show as the Arabian horse is from most other equines.
If you've ever thought about a winter visit to Scottsdale, take my advice: Go in February, when the Arabian show is held. And tape down your socks. Otherwise, you stand a good chance of having them be blown off.