About American Saddlebred
American Saddlebred Characteristics
The American Saddlebred is the epitome of the show horse. He carries
himself with an attitude that eludes description—some
call it "class," presence, quality, style or charm.
This superior air distinguishes his every movement. The ideal
American Saddlebred is well proportioned and presents a beautiful
overall picture. The animal should be in good flesh, with
good muscle tone and a smooth, glossy coat. Masculinity in
stallions and femininity in mares are important and should
be taken into consideration. The average height is 15 to 16
hands and any color is acceptable.
The American Saddlebred is maybe best known for its distinctive
gaits including the slow gait and the rack. The slow gait
was developed from the pace to be a four-beat gait with each
of the four feet striking the ground separately. In the takeoff,
the lateral front and hind feet start almost together, but
the hind foot contacts the ground slightly before its lateral
forefoot. The slow gait is a highly collected gait with most
of the propulsion coming from the hindquarters, while the
forequarters assist in the pull of the final beats. The slow
gait is a restrained four-beat gait, executed slowly but with
true and distinct precision. It is high lofty, brilliant and
restrained, denoting the style, grace and polish of the horse.
The rack is a four-beat gait in which each foot meets the ground
at equal, separate intervals. It is smooth and highly animated,
performed with great action and speed, in a slightly unrestrained
manner. Desired speed and collection are determined by the
maximum rate at which a horse can rack in form. Racking in
form should include the horse remaining with a good set head.
The horse should perform it in an effortless manner from the
slow gait, at which point all strides become equally rapid
American Saddlebred History
In the 1600's British colonists developed the Narragansett
Pacer here in America.
When the Thoroughbreds made their first appearance in North American
during the 1700's the colonists bred them to the Narragansett
Pacer. Through this cross the "American Horse" was
developed into a distinct horse type.
In 1776 the first documentation of the American Horse was found
in a letter to the Continental Congress from an American diplomat
in France who wanted one as a gift for Marie Antoinette.
In the mid 1800's the stallion Gaines' Denmark was born and went
on to establish the Denmark family of American Saddlebreds. More
than 60% of the horses in the first three registry volumes trace
back to Gaines' Denmark.
During the Civil War American Saddlebred type horses were on the forefront.
Lee rode Traveller, Grant was on Cincinnati, Sherman was carried by
Lexington and Stonewall Jackson rode Little Sorrel. Likewise, John
Hunt Morgan and Nathan Bedford Forrest rode American Saddlebreds exclusively.
The 1800's gave birth to the show ring. The first exhibition
of American Saddlebreds was recorded in 1816 and the first national
horse show was at the St. Louis Fair in 1856.
In 1891 the American Saddlebred Horse Association was founded.
It was the first such organization for an American breed of
1893 saw a coal black stallion with great charisma named Rex McDonald
come on to the horse show scene. In his career he was defeated
only three times. He was idolized by the public and visited
by presidents of the United States.
The 1950s were a good decade for American Saddlebreds and found CH The Lemon Drop
Kid gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated. A winning tradition continued
for the American Saddlebred as it made its way through the turn of the century.
In the fine harness division of the World's Grand Championship, CH Radiant
Success won for the third straight year in 2000 and claimed his second Triple
Crown in three years for owners Walter and Jackie Stred and trainer Nelson
Green. Setting a rare record was CH Callaway's Copyright, Fine Harness World's
Grand Champion from 2001 through 2006 with trainer John T. Jones for Fox Grape
Farms, Inc. CH Callaway's Copyright became the first six-time winner of the Fine
Harness World's Grand Championship in the 104-year history of the Kentucky State
Fair World's Championship Horse Show, breaking the record of five consecutive
set by CHColonel Boyle (1960-'64).
The Three-Gaited World's Grand Championship saw Hollywood Excellence win for the
third time in 2000 with amateur owner Elisabeth M. Goth. Sam Stafford and CH Yes
It's True defeated all comers in 2001 for Blythewood Farms. In 2002, CH An Heir
About Her and Chris Reiser dominated, repeating in 2003 and 2004 for Hanes Chevrolet
Company. With her win at three years old in 2002, CH An Heir About Her was the youngest
to win that class since CH Forest Song in 1966. Her three World's Grand Championships
put her in the same echelon as Jonquil, CHAmerica Beautiful, CH Blue Meadow Princess,
CH Bellisima, CH Finisterre's Gift Of Love, CH Sultan's Starina and Hollywood Excellence
(BHF). CH An Heir About Her went on to win the Three-Gaited American Saddlebred Triple
Crown in 2004.
A winning tradition was continued for one notable bloodline in the 2006 Five-Gaited
World’s Grand Championship with winner He’s The Man. His sire, CH Man On The Town,
took home the Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship in 1989 & ’90. CH Man On The
Town’s sire, CH Yorktown, can lay claim to three consecutive Five-Gaited World’s
Grand Championships (1970-’72). And CH Yorktown’s sire is the great CH Wing Commander,
winner of six consecutive Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championships (1948-’53).
More than 100 years of careful development through selective breeding have produced
a horse that is as uniform in its style. A thrilling show horse, a true and loyal
companion and incredibly athletic, the American Saddlebred is the horse for everyone.
With its conformation, personality, and stamina it is well suited to accomplish any
American Saddlebreds have a long a proud history, from the battlefield at Gettysburg
to the bright lights of Madison Square garden and a tremendous legacy of service in
between. The creation of man and nature in concert, the American Saddlebred is truly
"The Horse America Made."
American Saddlebred Classes
The Fine Harness horse should posses all of the elegance and refinement
of the ideal American Saddlebred, and its energy should be
directed toward animation rather than speed.
The Five Gaited horse should posses beauty, brilliance, elegance
and refinement but its energy should be directed toward speed
in an animated form.
The Three Gaited horse should be the epitome of beauty, brilliance,
elegance, refinement and expression. Its gaits are collected
and its energy directed toward animation and precision. It
shown with a shaved mane and tail to accentuate their long,
fine necks and tall, elegant bodies. The Three Gaited horse
is known as the "Peacock" of the show ring.
In the Pleasure division horses are still to show typical American Saddlebred
traits with quality, style, presence and suitable conformation
and prompt, comfortable gaits, and should give the distinct
impression that it is an agreeable mount to ride. Easy, ground-covering
action is desired. Manners are paramount. Special emphasis
is placed on a true, flat walk. Transitions from one gait
to another should be smooth and effortless.
The versatility and athleticism that the American Saddlebred exhibits in
the traditional show ring have translated into success for the breed in
other disciplines as well. The American Saddlebred’s conformation, personality,
durability and willingness to take on any task make him an elegant athlete
for any sport including competitive trail riding, dressage and hunter/jumpers
- just to mention a few.
For more information about the American Saddlebred, please contact the
Breeds and Western Disciplines Department of USEF:
4047 Iron Works Parkway
Lexington, KY 40511