Although the American Saddlebred is best known today as a show horse, its abilities should not be reduced to the fact that it is beautiful to look at: the horse breed is extremely people-oriented, willing to learn and friendly. These properties make them ideal leisure partners for leisurely cross-country riders, demanding hobby riders or tournament participants.
Because the American Saddlebred wants to learn and does so extremely quickly. With ambition, it always tries to do everything right. The horses often appear spirited and their movements almost effortless. They are not only suitable as leisure horses, but can also achieve sporting achievements. Whether distance, eventing, show jumping or dressage sports, the American Saddlebred has the prerequisites to deliver performance in all disciplines.
The noble horses are also extremely friendly to children. Nevertheless, they are not a horse for everyone: Because the sensitive horses need a friendly and experienced hand. Rough handling unsettles American horses and can cause stress and hectic. American Saddlebreds also find it difficult to understand when people make mistakes, so inexperienced riders should first learn to ride on another breed.
A special feature of Saddlebreds is that they also produce five-gaiters in addition to three-gaiters. In addition to the usual gaits of walk, trot and canter, they can also do slow gait – i.e. slow tölt – and rack, i.e. faster tolt. The American Saddlebreds know how to convince with a lot of expression, manner, and elegance.
History of the American Saddlebred
The American horse breed is descended from the horses brought to America by settlers from Europe during the colonial era. The early relatives of the Saddlebreds were crossed with Thoroughbreds and Morgan horses, which led to refinement. At the same time, however, the genes of gaited horses such as the Galloways were also incorporated into the breed, giving the American Saddlebreds their disposition for unusual gaits – such as a little tölt. The noble horses also got their talent for the different gaits through crossing with the 5-gaited Narragansett Pacer and Canadian Pacer. Because of this breeding history, American Saddlebreds are also predisposed to 4-stroke tölt, slow fait and rack. In the early years, the horse breed was primarily bred in the states of Virginia and Kentucky.
Initially intended as an all-round horse, the American Saddlebred served as a comfortable riding horse thanks to its gaits. But the horse also made itself useful in the fields and proved itself to be a hardworking workhorse for light agricultural work. During the Revolutionary War, the elegant horse breed was also used by the American cavalry. Although originally bred as an all-purpose horse, Saddlebreds are now primarily used as show horses. Especially in the USA you can see the noble horses regularly at various shows. The American horse stands out from the crowd here because of its talent for many gaits.
The American Saddlebred has been officially recognized since 1980. With the founding of the first American breed association in 1981, the American Saddlebred was consolidated as an independent breed. Today they are mainly bred in the USA, Canada and South Africa.
Interesting and worth knowing
Well-known American Saddlebred in film and television
Especially during the “Golden Age of Hollywood”, i.e. between 1920 and 1960, the elegant horse breed conquered the silver screen. For example, a variety of American Saddlebreds can be seen in the classic film Gone with the Wind (1939). Saddlebreds also played important roles in the classics Flicka (1943), Little Girl, Big Heart (1944), and Giant (1956).
The Black Beauty adventure series, shot in the 1970s, had an American Saddlebred as the lead actor. The story is based on the book of the same name by Anna Sewell and shows the fate of working horses in the 19th century. The series follows the adventures of the stud Black Beauty and the girl Vicky Gordon, who was swapped for Jenny Gordon in the second season.
Another series starring an American Saddlebred is Mr. Ed. The comedy series first aired from 1961 to 1966 and centered on architect Wilbur Post and his talking horse Mr. Ed. This is extremely intelligent and thinks only Wilbur is worthy to speak to him. Strictly speaking, the main character of the series – Bamboo Harvester – is not a purebred American Saddlebred, but a mix of a Saddlebred and an Arabian. Bamboo Harvester was born in 1949 and passed away in 1968 due to various illnesses.
The US series Fury revolves around the little orphan boy Joey, who manages to tame the Mustang Fury. No one else could do this before him. The boy starts breaking the stallion and the team has many adventures in the series, which was filmed between 1955 and 1960. The actual Mustang Fury was not embodied by a Mustang, but by an American Saddlebred.
There are also numerous celebrities among the American Saddlebred fans: Actors such as Clark Gable, Will Rogers, Joe Louis and Carson Kressley have owned horses of this elegant breed. William Shatner even breeds the horse breed himself. In Star Trek Generations he is even said to be seen on one of his own American Saddlebreds.
Advice on keeping American Saddlebred
Every horse is unique, no matter what breed it belongs to. And no matter how long or short the pedigree is, every horse has similar needs, such as those for food, exercise, and social contact. These must be satisfied in order to enable a happy horse life. However, depending on what the breed of horse was originally bred for, there are many different characteristics: some are bred to be sport horses and need more exercise than others, and some are more leisurely workhorses. Just remember that the classification into draft, warm-blooded and thoroughbreds is made primarily on the basis of temperament.
With our horses, too, it always depends on the individual creature. Because not all Shire Horses are strong-nerved giants and not every Arabian is a tenacious racer.
Care and nutrition
It doesn’t matter whether you own a large draft horse or a small pony: every horse needs a certain amount of care to stay healthy. The hooves in particular require your special attention. You can read about what you should consider here in the tips for proper horse care.
You also strengthen your bond with your four-legged friend with regular grooming. Finally, nibbling each other’s fur is a common social interaction between horses.