- Written by Roseanne Staab Roseanne Staab
- Created: 18 September 2017 18 September 2017
...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.
The American Saddlebred horse was developed in Kentucky by pioneers who needed a good utility horse, one who could plow a field during the week and the take the family to church on Sunday.
It was originally called the Kentucky Saddle Bred.
The breed traces back to natural English pacers, ones who moved smoothly as a matter of breed.
Other ancestors included Galloway Horses and Hobbie Horses. (1)
The Saddlebred developed from the inter-breeding of Thoroughbreds, Morgans and Narragansett Pacers and Trotters, and was used for riding, driving and plowing.
The foundation stallion was Denmark F.S., a Thoroughbred, foaled in 1839.
Although much of the development of the breed came before Denmark F.S., it was his pairing to “the Stevenson Mare” that produced Gaines Denmark, and it is to this stallion that most Saddlebreds are traced.
There were nine other foundation stallions who were important to the development of the breed, and in 1910, they were placed into a record of “Noted Deceased Sires.” (2)
Other books say there were as many as seventeen foundation stallions. (3)
In 1891, a group of breeders met in Louisville, KY, to form the National Saddle Horse Breeders Association, which later changed to the American Saddle Horse Breeders Association in 1899.
In 1908, all of the stallions except Denmark were eliminated from the registry, essentially giving him credit for the entire breed. (4)
Fifty-five percent of all entries in the Saddle Horse Registry, Volume I, can be traced directly back to him.
Most of the best Saddlebred show horses are traced to Denmark, along with another Thoroughbred stallion, named “Chief.”
The average height of today’s Saddlebred is 16HH, with an average weight of 1,200 pounds.
They have long backs with flat croups and high tailsets, sloping shoulders at a 45 degree angle, long, arched necks, and long pasterns.
The American Saddlebred is a very versatile horse and can be seen riding, driving, jumping, fox hunting, and showing in parades and horse shows.
They are exceptional show horses of fine quality and have several gaits to their notoriety.
Saddlebreds have flashy, high-stepping strides, accentuated by long hooves and weighted shoes, in what’s known as a “show package.”
The three-gaited horses must perform at the walk, trot, and canter, while the five-gaited horses also perform the slow gait, stepping pace, and the rack. The rack is a single-foot, four-beat gait.
The animals are judged on the stepping action, conformation, quality of breeding, manners, animation, performance, and soundness.
Saddlebreds also perform in fine harness, pulling small, four- wheeled buggies in the show ring.
The fine harness horse is shown at two gaits, the walk and park trot.
The three-gaited horses are shown with a shaved, “roached” mane and part of the dock of the tail is also shaved, while the five gaited horse is shown with full mane and tail; the fine harness horses carries the full mane and tail, also.
“Country Pleasure” horses are shown with a full mane and tail.
There are also “Roadsters,” which are shown pulling a “road bike” cart, and they travel at trot and “speed.”
Ribbons are braided into the forelock and mane, and the tails are set, to keep them lifted high.
The depressor muscles at the base of the horse’s tail are cut and a tail set or “bustle” is used to keep it in place while the horse is stabled.
Wigs or switches may be added to the tails, for an extra flourish.
The horse shows where Saddlebreds perform are very exciting; the riders wear derbies and suits with tails, and the horses put on extraordinary, flashy performances.
Trainers and fans scream from the rail in a fast-paced range of colors and fine-quality animals.
The most common colors for the Saddlebred are bay, black, chestnut, palomino, and pinto.
The January/February 1994 issue of The American Saddlebred Magazine featured actor William Shatner on the cover, riding western.
Shatner shows and breeds Saddlebreds, and even rode his own Saddlebred mare, named “Great Belles of Fire,” in the movie “Star Trek Generations.”
Actors Will Rogers and Clark Gable also rode and showed Saddlebreds, as did boxer, Joe Louis.
Notable movie horses in leading roles that were Saddlebreds included, “National Velvet,” and, “My Friend Flicka,” and “Fury.”
The famous talking horse, Mr. Ed, was allegedly a half-Saddlebred.
I like those high-steppers and the excitement at the show ring when they are performing.
The riders look nice in their saddle suits, with the derbies and tails.
Enjoy the rest of your summer, it looks to be fading into autumn’s hues of red and gold.
Leaving you once again with the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”
1,2: “Horses: A Guide to Selection, Care and Enjoyment,” By J. Warren Evans
3,4: “A Horse Around the House,” by Patricia Jacobson and Marcia Hayes.