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WestWorld Arabian Horse Show

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Scottsdale’s Rich History With the Arabian Horse

In the Scottsdale area, names such as McCormick, Gainey, Chauncey and Wrigley are familiar, particularly if your home is in one of the housing communities carrying those same names. The names trace back to the 1940s, when prominent Arabian horse breeders made Scottsdale home. Homes were then built on what was once sprawling pasture land and/or extravagant facilities for horses and their owners.

It all began in 1942, when Anne and Fowler McCormick bought acreage near Scottsdale and Indian Bend roads. This was later referred to as Paradise Park, and the family began raising Arabian horses. Others followed by the mid-1950s, and Scottsdale was well on its way to becoming an Arabian Horse mecca.

The Arizona Biltmore Hotel was built on land formerly owned by the Wrigley family, and became the home of the very first Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show in 1955. This is now an annual event held in February, and considered to be the largest and greatest horse show in the world. The Arabian Horse Association of Arizona (AHAA) was established at that same time with only 12 members, and today boasts more than 500.

The AHAA made the decision to move the annual Scottsdale Show to Paradise Park in 1958, where it remained for 10 years. The McCormick family sold Paradise Park in 1970, and the land became one of the first planned housing communities in Scottsdale.

Rapid urban development continued, and by the late 1970s, the AHAA was looking for another home for its annual horse show. Paradise Park II had been built on Bell Road, where the show moved and remained through 1988 until that land was subsequently sold and developed into another affluent housing development.

Bell Road also became home to a legendary operation, Karho. Established by Dr. Howard Kale in the 1970s, Karho was named for the Kale Arabian Horse family. Dr. Kale became influential in importing and breeding Russian Arabian horses, and was a huge presence in the Arabian horse industry. Today, while the Bell Road farm is a thing of the past, Kale’s granddaughter Joanna remains active in the Arabian horse community.

While the history of Arabian horses seems to have succumbed to urban development, it has become greater and stronger in present day. Located on Cactus Road, Sandspur Ranch remains and is now home to Pegasus Arabians. Internationally respected breeders and exhibitors such as Midwest and Cedar Ridge Arabians, whose home bases are well established in Minnesota, have come to call Scottsdale their second homes. Extravagant facilities have also been built on Arabian Park Drive (just off Shea Boulevard and 112th Street).

Then there is WestWorld of Scottsdale. The massive facility became home to the annual Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show in 1989. With so many breeders and exhibitors in the surrounding area, the show could easily operate as a local event, but today exhibitors from around the world make it a part of their annual competition schedule. More than 2,000 Arabian horses and their owners, trainers, and admirers descend on Westworld in late February, bringing credence to the claim that the show is the largest and greatest on earth.

Longtime Scottsdale resident, Arabian horse owner, and current President of the AHAA, Taryl O’Shea, states, “Arabian horse people love Scottsdale for the weather, restaurants, shopping, resorts—but mostly to see the wonderful collection of Arabians horses."

Looking to the future, O’Shea understands the challenges posed by “the new normal,” and states that in 2021 the show will go on.

“We will try some new promotional ideas to get people to the show and implement some new safety measures to help keep everyone healthy and safe," she says.

1942 – The McCormicks purchased Arabian horse ranch land

1955 – Arabian Horse Show (The Show) at Arizona Biltmore Hotel

1955 – Arizona Arabian Horse Association (AHAA) established 

1958 - 1968 – The Show is at McCormick Ranch

1995 – Karho hosted last Arabian Public Auction 

1989 – The Show is at WestWorld of Scottsdale

  • Karho
  • Rae-Dawn Arabians is one of the most beautiful Arabian farms of today, located on Arabian Park Drive. Owned by Murray and Shirley Popplewell
  • Shirley Popplewell
  • Midwest Training Centre
  • Midwest Training Centre
  • Midwest Training Centre
  • Paradise Park (McCormick Ranch)
  • WestWorld Arabian Horse Show
  • McCormick Ranch
  • McCormick Ranch in the 1950s
  • All Arabian Scottsdale Show in the 1950s, Paradise Park
  • Trainer Bob Battaglia competing in the early 1990s at the All Arabian Scottsdale Show.