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23 February 2019   
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Breeds of Horse - A to Z

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American Saddlebred - (American Saddlehorse)

Developed in the nineteenth century in the Southern States of the USA, in particular Kentucky (originally known as the Kentucky Saddle Horse), as an extremely comfortable, well-mannered mount for the estate owners to ride around their huge plantations, though it was equally well suited to pulling a carriage. Selective cross breeding of Canadian and Narraganset pacer - a speedy little horse known for its gaits, toughness, even temperament and sure-footedness (taking its name from the Narraganset Bay of Rhode Island the aristocratic centre of colonial horse breeding) along with Morgans, Arabs and Thoroughbreds to produce more size and quality, has resulted in an exceptionally talented horse. The Canadian pacer Tom Hall was a famous sire, though the English thoroughbred, Denmark, imported in 1839, was selected as the official breed sire. A group of leading breeders formed the National Saddle Horse Breeders Association on April 7, 1891 (In 1899 the name was changed to the American Saddle-Horse Breeders Association and to the American Saddlebred Horse Association in 1980.)

The popularity of the breed has spread across the colonies through America and has been exported into Australia, firstly by Mr & Mrs Besaw of Sutton Farm, new South Wales. The Australian Saddlebred Association was formed in 1977 and classes for the breed are held at many of the major shows in Australia.

Today's American Saddlebred retains the classic good looks, substance, strength, versatility and gait; it has the most amiable disposition, intelligence, speed and natural balance. It stands at between 15.2 and 16 h.h. the average height being about 15.3h.h. It has a well-shaped quality head with large eyes set fairly wide apart, small alert ears and wide nostrils; an elegantly high head carriage; a high-set, arched neck (accentuated by a long flowing mane on Five-Gaited horses, three gaited horses are often shown with a hogged mane); a good sloping shoulder with high withers; a short strong fairly level back and croup with a high-set, long, flowing tail (the set of the tail is not natural and is achieved through an operation and maintained by keeping the tail in a device when the horse is rested, this practice is illegal in Great Britain); Well muscled hindquarters; straight strong limbs with long, sloping, pasterns; good, sound hooves open at the heal. (Unfortunately the practice of growing the feet unnaturally long and using heavy shoes is sometimes adopted for showing purposes to accentuate the action)

Chestnuts are common, but Saddlebreds come in all colours and patterns, except Appaloosa. Palominos and pintos are popular. In the show ring, ridden Saddlebreds are classified as either three gaited or five gaited. The three gaited are shown at walk trot and canter. The five gaited show these three paces plus two others; the slow gait and the rack. Smooth, four-beat saddle gaits were critical in the development of the breed and early horses had to gait for registration. There are now two saddle gaits, both of which are evenly timed, four-beat gaits. The slow gait is restrained and while collected, can hit speeds of 16 m.p.h., whereas the rack, essentially the same gait, is fast and flashy, often topping 25 m.p.h. though correct form and execution are not to be sacrificed for speed, each foot strikes the ground at equal intervals and is free from lateral movement.

Outside the show ring the Saddlebred makes a good all round horse, it is easy to train, is quick with plenty of stamina and jumps well. It will work equally as well under saddle or in harness. A very versatile horse that can be used for many different purposes including working with cattle.