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Height: 15-16 hands, but can exceed 17 hands
Uses: show, pleasure, saddle, harness
Origin: the American South, early 19th century
Alternative names: American Saddle Horse, American Saddler
The American Saddlebred, originally called the Kentucky Saddler, was developed by plantation owners in the American South in the early 1800's. They were bred to be magnificent and imposing, but still comfortable enough to ride all day through the fields. A big part of the breed's development comes from the plantation owners' need of a strong working horse, and desire of a fancy, impressive animal to take into town to show off. Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, and Stonewall Jackson all rode Saddlebreds in the American Civil War. The breed was commonly used by the military at the time.
The American Saddlebred is traditionally ridden and shown in saddle seat, an American-developed discipline. The saddle seat saddle is often referred to as a Lane Fox saddle, and sets the rider back behind the horse's center of balance. This is very different from other disciplines and entails a unique style of riding. The purpose of the saddle's design is to show off the animal's impressive gaits by positioning the rider farther back and enabling the horse to show greater motion in its front legs. A double bridle is used, allowing the rider to control the horse's headset- lifting the head while tucking the chin back. This kind of bridle features two bits and two sets of reins. The reins are used independently from each other as they serve separate purposes. The double bridle features both a curb bit and a snaffle bit.
The Saddlebred is nicknamed 'the peacock of the show ring' because he always steals the show with his beauty and flamboyance.
Saddlebreds are shown in a number of classes. These can include three-gaited, five-gaited, pleasure, park, or country pleasure, and equitation. For the show ring, artificial aids are used to enhance the horse's appearance and performance. The show horse's tail is kept up in a crupper or bustle, a device that keeps the tail nicked up high when removed. The horse's rector muscles in the tail are partially cut to make this work. The saddlebred's hooves are traditionally grown long in the front and are shod with heavy shoes. For showing purposes, chains and weights are attached at the coronet. When these weights are removed, the animal lifts his feet higher. These and other aids help to produce the image you see in the show ring.
As long as they are used properly, these artificial aids cause the animal no pain or discomfort.
Saddlebreds are very special.
They are gaited horses, meaning they can perform additional gaits.
All horses have three riding gaits:
The walk - a four-beat gait
The trot - a two-beat gait
and the canter - a three-beat gait
Some special breeds can perform additional gaits that are unique to their breed.
The American Saddlebred can perform two unique gaits; the slow gait and the rack.
The slow gait is a four-beat 'prancing' gait. The rack is essentially a high-speed slow gait.
With these gaits, each foot hits the ground independently of the others. They are very smooth and comfortable to ride.
Some Saddlebreds are only trained to perform the basic 3 gaits, and are thus shown in them. A horse must be intelligent and physically strong in order to learn to perform the slow gait and rack. Breeders concentrated on performance, selectively breeding certain bloodlines for stamina, soundness, speed, disposition and loyalty.
Saddlebreds LOVE the show ring. It's where they shine and strut their stuff. They're huge show-offs!
You'll never see another horse move like a Saddlebred. Close bonds of friendship developed between master and horse that gave the Saddlebred an innate desire for human companionship. Like a gifted child, the Saddlebred is intelligent and sensitive, eager to please and easy to train. While beauty and proud bearing have inspired poets and artists, its the Saddlebred stamina , heart, work ethic and versatility that have captured the attention of horsemen through the years.
Being an American breed, Saddlebreds are rather uncommon outside of the U.S.
However, they are also quite popular in South Africa.
Investments for horses-- Weanling -- 3 year old
UPHA Classics (3 year old)
American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA)
American Saddle Horse Breeder Futurity of Wis Inc.
American Saddlebred Association of Wisconsin (ASAW)
Illinois American Saddlebred Pleasure Horse Association (IASPHA)
Mid-America Horse Show Association
USEF United State Equestrian Federation
UPHA United Professional Horseman Association
Wisconsin State Horse Council