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American Saddlebred - Horse Breed & Info

Characteristics of the American Saddlebred American Saddlebred Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below

The American Saddlebred horse, a beautiful all-purpose breed, is the product of over 250 years of selective breeding. While this breed is extremely valued for its high style, beauty, and athletic performances in the show ring, the breed can and always has performed well in many other specialities.


The origins of the Saddlebred begin with the easy riding and hardy Galloway and Hobbie horses shipped to North America from the United Kingdom. From these early imports, a type of horse was developed in the Rhode Island area near Naragansett Bay, called Naragansett Pacers

The Naragansett Pacer was mass exported to the West Indies and gave rise to the Paso Fino. But in America, Naragansett mares were crossed with English Thoroughbreds and a new American Horse as it was called, had become a recognized type by the time of the American Revolution. This early American Saddlebred combined the Thoroughbred’s size and beauty with the easy riding gaits of the Naragansett and quickly became popular in Colonial America excelling in all the many jobs a new country demanded of a horse: for riding, for work, and for pulling carriages. They carried colonial cavalry to battle with the British and pulled wagons and mobile artillery. After the war they retained their popularity throughout the colonies and carried pioneers west.

There were continual crossing with Thoroughbreds, and in time with Morgans and Standardbreds. Then in the 1800’s when horse shows became popular in Kentucky, Virginia and Missouri, the American Saddlebred was most often judged the winner on the basis of its beauty, style and utility.

By the time of the American Civil war, Saddlebreds were the most popular riding horse in the country. Generals on both sides proudly rode Saddlebreds. This breeds endurance, constant willingness and courage was fully utilized by a country at war. Saddlebreds are depicted as the horse of choice , in most of the sculpture dating from this time. Many of their names are still remembered coupled with their famous riders and outstanding exploits.

After the Civil War, as soldiers returned, the American Saddlebred was soon to be found all across the country, in all states from east to west, from show ring to handling cattle. Today, Saddlebreds are popular in other countries as well -- in Canada, England, Germany, Scandinavia, Holland, Australia, Greece, Japan, to name a few. Saddlebreds in South Africa are now extremely popular, second only to the Thoroughbred race horse and in 1977 a S.A. stallion came to Louisville, Kentucky where the World’s Championships take place each year, and won the World’s Grand Championship Five Gaited title.


The average height of the Saddlebred is 15.3 hands, although 17 hands is not unknown, and there are no color restrictions. According to Modern Breeds of Livestock, The American Saddlebred Horse has a refined head with small ears and a long neck with considerable arch. The withers should be well above the height of the hips. The Saddlebred is of good proportion, presenting a beautiful overall picture. Its conformation enables the breed to perform well in all equine events especially dressage, jumping, carriage and endurance. A distinguishable trait is high intelligence. Alert and curious, Saddlebreds possess personality, making them people-oriented.

The walk, trot and canter are gaits common to all breeds of horses, but Saddlebreds are also born with the ability ability to learn the slow gait (stepping pace) and rack. The American Saddlebred of today is known as the peacock of the show ring world wide, and is known for brilliant show performances.

American Saddlebred Horse shows traditionally offer Three-Gaited, Five-Gaited, Fine Harness, Pleasure and Western classes. Yet Saddlebreds also own the adaptability to compete in dressage and eventing, tackle the obstacles in a Grand Prix jump course, or are elegant hitched to a carriage. They also have the strength and speed for combined driving tests, as well as the stamina to finish an endurance ride or complete a competitive trail ride.

There are many opportunities to enjoy American Saddlebred Horse Shows throughout the USA and Saddlebred shows are now also popular in South Africa, Germany and England.

American Saddlebred Racking Conformation Stance Three Gaited Saddlebred Horse in Harness

A child and horse American Saddlebred Mares 

All Photos on this page copyright Ross Millin Photography - Newline Saddlebred Stud

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