All About the American Saddlebred Horse: Breed Profile, History, Characteristics, & Facts


With a high step and elegance, the American Saddlebred Horse is the ultimate show horse. They are known to compete in four disciplines, in which they each have their own “look”. They are judged on performance, manners, presence, quality, and conformation. This regal breed was created primarily for the purpose of being used competitively.

American Saddlebred Horse Breed Profile

History and Origins

The American Saddlebred horse breed was first started in the 1700s. The Galloway pacing horse, brought over by the British in the 1600s, was crossed with Thoroughbreds which resulted in an offspring that was a little taller and had more stamina than its pacer counterparts. In 1788, a Thoroughbred stallion named Messenger was imported and contributed greatly in improving the American Saddlebred’s trotting and animated movement. Popularity with and refining of the American Saddlebred horse continued to the late 1800s, during which time they were used for both the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. In 1891 in Lexington, Kentucky, history would be made as the first horse breed association in the United States, called the American Saddle-Horse Breeders’ Association, would be formed.

American Saddlebred Horse Breed Statistics

Height and Weight

The American Saddlebred horse stands at 14 to 17 hands high and weighs anywhere from 800 to 1,200 pounds. They are a particularly light breed, making them ideal for driving or riding. Mares tend to be lighter, less muscular, and unable to hold or pull as much weight as stallions.

Color and Markings

The American Saddlebred horse can come in almost all colors, but are predominantly the solid colors of chestnut, black, and bay. Occasionally they can be found with pinto coat coloration. It is their white markings that make them individually unique, otherwise they would all look just about the same.

Conformation

One of the most prominent features of the American Saddlebred horse is the swayed back, in which its back is curved downward like a “U” shape. They have a densely muscled body and good-sized feet in proportion to it. American Saddlebreds also have beautifully sculpted, sloping necks, along with high-set tails. Another characteristic that is unique to this breed is the shape of the barrel, which is rounder than what will be found in most light horse breeds. Finally, their necks are well-arched, long, and slender.

Unique Characteristics of the American Saddlebred Horse

The American Saddlebred’s characteristics have made the breed versatile and also gave it the reputation of the “peacock of the show ring”. With its powerful muscles, gait smoothness, and intelligence, this horse of this breed can do whatever its owner may ask of him. When an American Saddlebred is in the show ring, you should always find it to have an arched neck, alert with its ears forward and head up, exuding an attitude that practically says “Look at me!” These horses can also be either three-gaited or five-gaited. 

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American Saddlebred Pinto

American Saddlebred Horse Temperament

The American Saddlebred horse has a friendly and calm temperament, with an inherent inclination to learn. This makes them easy to train. They also have a good amount of personality, as they are curious and alert horses that make them endearing to everyone.

Grooming the American Saddlebred Horse

With long, flowing manes and tails, the American Saddlebred horse requires a bit of attentive care. Regular grooming includes brushing and conditioning to help keep manes and tails knot free and flowing. Tails, with some horses growing them so long they drag on the ground, can be more challenging to care for than manes. Most owners braid or tie up the tail at all times to help keep mud and dirt out, but even then they should be regularly taken out, hand detangled, and conditioned to protect the tailbone and hair.

Nutrition for the American Saddlebred Horse

The American Saddlebred breed generally does well on a diet of grass, feed concentrate, and hay. Show horses may need a slightly more refined diet to help them perform well in the ring. Owners should consider providing such horses with a special grain designed to help them have extra energy for their performances.

Common Health Issues for the American Saddlebred Horse

There are some health issues associated with this breed, and they have to do with the American Saddlebred’s movement. Stifle and hock lameness are such illnesses, in which soreness and lameness occur in the horse’s hind end. Other health issues that may be encountered are ringbone and sidebone, which show up in the front hooves. This happens when extra calcium deposits form due to the American Saddlebred’s concussive high step, which causes lameness and pain.

Lastly, there is a hereditary illness called an inguinal hernia that often can be seen in both American Saddlebred foals and occasionally stallions. This occurs when viscera (the intestines) enter the vaginal cavity or sac because the vaginal ring is too large. Fortunately, the issue usually corrects itself in foals by the time it reaches 3-6 months of age, though the foal should be monitored until then. Sometimes owners will set up a truss to help the issue resolve faster. Occasionally surgery is required if the hernia is too big to correct itself.

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American Saddlebred Horse Common Uses and Talents

The American Saddlebred is a versatile horse, allowing it to be used for various disciplines including driving and riding. These horses can also be used for sport horse disciplines like dressage. American Saddlebred horses is most commonly found being used as hunters and jumpers.

Facts About the American Saddlebred Horse

The American Saddlebred horse is the oldest all-American breed as the American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA) was formed in 1891, making it the oldest horse breed registry. These horses used to be called the “Kentucky Saddlers.” Their temperaments are compared to cats in that they are both curious and energetic. Finally, the American Saddlebred horse is a gaited breed, and can also competitively perform dressage and show jumping.

Famous American Saddlebred Horses

There have been plenty of opportunities for American Saddlebred horses to become famous due to the fact that they are so popular in the equestrian show world. The first horse to win the first World Champion Saddlebred title in 1917 was an American Saddlebred horse by the name of Easter Cloud. Wing Commander was a beast of a horse, competing annually from 1948-1953 in the World Championships and winning five Gaited Winner and six World Grand Champion titles. Another famous horse was one named The Lemon Drop Kid, the only Saddlebred to be featured on the cover page of Sports Illustrated magazine.

Is the American Saddlebred Horse Right for You?

The American Saddlebred is the perfect choice for a variety of riders regardless of their equine experience due to its calm demeanor and temperament. From being successful school horses to flashy show mounts, their intelligence and ability to quickly learn just about any discipline allow them to succeed in all job areas. Another bonus is they can be used for something as simple as going on a trail ride, or as complicated as winning a gaited competition.

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How to Adopt or Buy an American Saddlebred Horse

Being as they are a very popular breed within the United States, it is fairly easy to purchase an American Saddlebred horse. While you can find a kind, sound, and capable riding horse for $10,000, know that top-quality show horses can cost upwards of $100,000. Consider the qualities which you will be looking for in your new horse before venturing out to find one. There are also other avenues in which to find one, such as an equine rescue place.

American Saddlebred Horse FAQs

How much does an American Saddlebred Horse cost?

An American Saddlebred horse can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000, unless you are adopting or rescuing one. 

How big do American Saddlebred Horses get?

American Saddlebred horses are anywhere from 14 – 17 hands tall.

Where do American Saddlebred Horses come from?

The American Saddlebred breed originated right in the state of Kentucky, where it was officially registered in 1891.

Are American Saddlebred Horses good for beginner riders?

Yes, American Saddlebreds are great horses for beginners due to their calm and friendly temperaments. 

How rare is an American Saddlebred Horse?

Due to their popularity in the United States, the American Saddlebred horse breed is not rare at all. You can easily find one yourself through either a breeder or equine rescue.

Can the American Saddlebred horse be “sored”?

The American Saddlebred horse cannot be legally sored since the ASHA started supporting the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act that was introduced to Congress in 2013. It is very easy to spot an American Saddlebred that has been sored as it significantly affects their gait, making it impossible for anyone who wishes to compete to get away with it.

Conclusion 

The American Saddlebred is a wonderful horse for a variety of riders to enjoy. From beginners to experienced show riders, this breed can satisfy its riders needs and preferences with ease. With flowing manes and tails, along with their natural high-step gait, they are a sight to watch in the show ring. There are some health concerns that may occur with your horse, but their versatility and friendly temperaments make them wonderful companions both in the show ring and at home.


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