Known as the Peacock of the Show Ring , the American Saddlebred
is a uniquely American breed that is famous for its showy
gaits. They are elegant, stylish, and famously vain, loving
the attention they attract when in the ring. Known variously
over time as the American Horse, the Kentucky Saddler, and
the American Saddle Horse, the American Saddlebred began with
the Galloway and Hobbie horses brought to North America by
British colonists in the 1600's. Through selective breeding,
superior horses were developed in Rhode Island and Virginia
and used throughout the colonies. Called Narragansett Pacers
after Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay, it is thought that
Paul Revere rode one on his famous ride.
The first Thoroughbreds were imported in 1706 and crossed
with Narragansett Pacer stock, but the prolific crossbreeding
of Narragansetts with Thoroughbreds, combined heavy exports
to Spanish colonists in the Caribbean islands, led to the
disappearance of pure Narragansett Pacers. Canadian Pacers
began to be introduced so the bloodlines would not be lost.
By the time of the American Revolution, an all purpose riding
horse called the American Horse was recognized. The American
Horse was first documented in a 1776 letter to the Continental
Congress from an American diplomat in France who wanted one
as a gift for Marie Antoinette. The horses retained the gaits
and stamina of the Narragansetts, but added the Thoroughbred's
size and quality and the Saddlebred type had been established.
The American Horse was further developed in Kentucky in the
19th Century by plantation owners who wanted a good looking
horse that was also comfortable to ride. Originally, these
horses were known as Kentucky Saddlers. Later, they were known
as American Saddle Horses, and eventually the name American
Saddlebred was adopted.
While these horses were originally bred for pleasure riding
and farm inspections, today, they have been successful in
nearly all equine disciplines under both English and Western
tack. From cow horses to jumpers; from dressage to carriage
horses and saddle seat competitions, they can also be seen
as parade mounts, where their graceful gaits are especially
Saddlebreds are large equines, standing 15.0 to 16.2 hands
high. They come in brown, chestnut, bay, gray or black, although
chestnut predominates. Other colors are acceptable, and some
have been especially bred for the palomino and pinto colors.
They have a narrow refined head with large honest eyes, long
upright neck, deeply sloping athletic shoulders, good deep
barrel, and strong muscular hindquarters with a level croup.
The tail and the neck are carried high with good natural poll
flexion, although some people have the neck surgically set
for high carriage.
They are also famous for having long, flowing tails, which
are often kept tied up in the stable so they can grow to incredible
lengths without snagging by being dragged on the ground. Saddlebreds
are usually left unbraided for competition to show off their
streaming manes and tails. However, the breed is often ridden
with their tails “set” with a special piece of harness that
supports the tail, rather than allowing it to flow straight
down naturally. Some people find the look of a set tail aesthetically
pleasing, and some horses are nicked with a surgical procedure
which allows them to carry their tails even higher.
Saddlebreds are either 3 gaited or 5 gaited horses. This
means that in addition to the familiar gaits of walk, trot,
and canter, they are also naturally capable of exhibiting
other gaits. One is a four beat slow gait which is like an
ambling walk and the other is the rack , a fast paced, high
stepping motion off powerful springy hocks which is often
on display in Saddle Seat competitions. In addition to being
flashy, these gaits are also comfortable to sit, because of
the flowing motion of the horse's body. As in the Tennessee
Walking Horse, foot soring (causing pain) to give a more active
foot action is sometimes done to the Saddlebred.
They excel at what ever they are trained for. If conditioned
and trained properly, with kindness and empathy, they are
capable of almost any task they are asked to perform and a
Saddlebred will do his best to do what is asked of him and
will do it with style. They are alert, aware, intelligent,
eager, gentle friendly, good natured, and very adaptable with
a people pleasing attitude and a love of human contact. They
are prized for a pleasant temperament, eagerness, strength
Because of the increased popularity of the Saddlebred, breeders
began to ask for the formation of a breed registry in the
1880's. Charles F. Mills of Springfield, Illinois, began compiling
pedigrees and formulating rules for a registry. A blurb in
a Louisville, Kentucky newspaper called for a meeting on April
7, 1891 to organize the association and the American Saddle
Horse Breeders' Association (ASHBA) was established that same
day. It was the first horse breed association and registry
in the United States for an American breed of horse.
In 1908, after years of discussion, the ASHBA formally acknowledged
Denmark F.S. as the sole Foundation Sire of the American Saddle
Horse. However, after careful review of bloodlines in 1991,
Harrison Chief 1606 was also named a Foundation Sire for his
contribution to the formation of the breed.
As the registry grew, the name no longer reflected the expanding
functions of the Association, so on April 22, 1980, the name
was changed to American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA).
In 1985, when ASHA moved its headquarters, it became the first
breed registry to call the Kentucky Horse Park home.
In 2005, by means of an internal corporate reorganization
of the functions of the registry and a companion organization
previously named the American Saddlebred Horse Association
Foundation, the American Saddlebred Horse Association became
the membership organization, with all functions of the registry
in the American Saddlebred Registry which is a separate corporation.
The American Saddlebred Registry registers approximately
3,000 horses a year and their microfilm archives hold over
80 years of Saddlebred history and records. And there are
now so many Saddlebred farms in Shelby County, Kentucky that
they lay claim to being the Saddle Horse Capital of the World.
As for genetic anomalies, veterinarians do not yet know if
Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis (DSLD) has its roots
in genetics, overuse of affected limbs, hormone fluctuations
(previously sound broodmares may develop symptoms of DSLD
around foaling time), or if it is some combination of these
factors. Although the condition is probably best known in
gaited breeds (American Saddlebreds, Peruvian Pasos, Peruvian
crosses, Standardbreds, and National Show Horses), it has
also been diagnosed in Arabians, Thoroughbreds, and Andalusians.
DSLD is a progressive and rare condition and horses that develop
it show increasing lameness, usually accompanied by physical
changes in their pasterns as their suspensory ligaments lose
their elasticity. Veterinarians caution that symptoms differ
greatly per horse, but early signs might include stiffness
in gait, change in attitude, and a reluctance to work.
The American Saddlebred may not be the largest breed in terms
of numbers but it has often been referred to as a jewel of
a breed . And from the battlefield at Gettysburg to the bright
lights of Madison Square Garden, the American Saddlebred Horse
is truly The Horse that America Made.
Author Resource:-> Crystal writes for http://www.HorseClicks.com,
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