The American Saddlebred Horse

The American Saddlebred Horse is a distinct breed, tracing its ancestry to the English thoroughbred stallion, Hedgeford, brought to Kentucky in 1832. He was the sire of the stallion Denmark, considered one of the foundation sires of the breed. The maternal side of the pedigree traces back to the Canadian Pacer and to the Morgan breed.

The American Saddlebred originated in Kentucky at a time when there were no roads, only footpaths. Equally at home, whether plowing the fields, carrying the children to school, pulling the family carriage to church on Sunday or carrying the gentleman farmer, he was truly a family horse. From these humble beginnings, the American Saddlebred is considered today to be the epitome of the word "Show Horse" throughout the world.

It has taken many years to develop the natural presence and brilliance which exemplify this breed. The high action is a result of considerable hind quarter propulsion. Double bridles are always used. The lifting action of the snaffle with the tucking action of the curb results in the high arched neck and head position.

Major Magazines that cater to Saddle Horse enthusiasts

Bluegrass Horseman
     PO Box 385, Lexington, KY  40588
Horse World
     730 Madison Street, Shelbyville, TN  37160
National Horseman
     16101 N. 82nd Street, Suite 10, Scottsdale, AZ  85260
Saddle & Bridle
     375 North Jackson Street, St. Louis, MO  63130
Saddle Horse Report
     730 Madison Street, Shelbyville, TN  37160

The Gaits

The walk and canter are ridden with a maintenance of animation, which calls for ever present collection. The show walk may be slightly prancing. The canter is slow and high, never dispirited.

The trot is a two beat gait with opposing legs operating in unison. Presence, animation and brilliance are the characteristics to be achieved at the trot, together with high action in front and equally high action of the hocks.

The two trainer-taught gaits are the slow gait and the rack. These are speed and action versions of the walk pattern. The gaits have 4 beats and are smooth with no bouncing of the horses back as in the trot. In the 5 gaited classes, the trot and rack are very fast, but form must not be sacrificed for speed. The slow gait is more restrained, but high and showy.

World Champion Fine Harness Horse

This is a victory pass of Radiant Success, the World Champion Fine Harness Horse, driven by Nelson Green and owned by Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Wheeler at the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The fine harness horse is shown with a natural mane and tail. It is shown in a four wheeled buggy at an animated walk, and a brisk, showy park trot. Quarter boots may be worn to protect the front feet from being struck by the back feet. Brilliance and manners are the important considerations in judging.


Three Gaited Champion

Dena Tanner-Lopez is shown here riding her three gaited horse to his victory pass at the Santa Barbara National Horse Show at Santa Barbara, California. The three gaited horse is shown with a shaved mane to differentiate him from the 5 gaited horse. He is asked to show at the walk, an animated two beat trot, and collected canter.


Five Gaited Champion

This is a photo of Prize Contender, the five gaited champion shown at the slow gait during his victory pass at The National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Prize Contender was shown by Don Harris and owned by the William Sledge family. Note that the 5 gaited horse has a full mane and wears boots on his front legs to protect them from being struck by the rear legs at the extended gaits. The 5 gaited horse executes the normal walk, trot and canter of the three gaited horse, but also is asked to do the slow gait and rack, which are trainer-made gaits.


Equitation -- "Good Hands" National Champion

This is a victory pass of the Good Hands National Champion winner, Lauren Murrell after her win at the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Lauren is on her horse Callaway's Will Gillen and is trained by Lillian Shiveley.

Equitation is judged on the rider with the horse moving in his natural gaits: walk, trot and canter. The riders hands are held approximately at waist height to maintain the horse's front elevation, with sensitive restraint coupled with steady leg pressure to engage the horse's hindquarters. Seat is firmly down with heels dropped to almost the riders center of gravity. Body is erect with head high and uplifted, with a slight tilt from the hip.

During the class, the judges ask all the riders that have won a medal in their respective areas to work on the rail and then to perform a selected pattern, after which they select the National Champion.

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