American Saddlebred

Breed Name: American Saddlebred

Origin: America

Physical Description:

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 and regular.


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 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 Saddlebreds exclusively.

The 1800’s gave birth to the show ring. The first exhibition of 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 horse.

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 task requested.

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.”

Saddlebred Classes:

The Fine Harness horse should possess 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 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 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.

Primary Uses:

The Saddlebreds’ conformation, personality, durability and willingness to take on any task make them elegant athletes for any sport, including competitive trail riding, dressage and hunter/jumpers. They excel in Fine Harness, Five-Gaited, and Pleasure divisions as well.

Famous Horses:

Traveller was the well-known Saddlebred ridden by General Lee during the Civil War.

CHWing Commander was a decorated show horse, winning the Five-Gaited World?s Grand Championship every year from 1948-1953.

Breed Association: ASHA, American Saddlebred Horse Association

(Information provided by the U.S. Equestrian Federation)

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