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American Saddlebred - national American pride

Published: 2022-09-12 12:03:59 Categories: Guides Rss feed

Usually chestnut or bay, often moving at a pace or tölt. He is sometimes called the “peacock of the horse world” because of his posture and extraordinary movement, which for many is synonymous with class and style. Nowadays, it is definitely one of the most important races bred in the USA.

American-Saddlebred (1)

American Saddlebred horse - race history

The American Saddlebred race history began in the area of today’s the United States of America. The breed’s ancestors were saddle and carriage horses imported by the villagers. Among the imported steeds, there were also all-purpose horses moving at a pace – i.e. Hobby ponies or Galloways – races from Great Britain. They were crossbred with other races – Folblut, Canadian trotter, Morgan, Hackney, or Narragansett.

The existence of this breed was first documented in a letter from 1776 when an American diplomat wrote to the Continental Congress requesting to send an American Saddlebred horse to France as a gift for Marie Antoinette.

Until the American Revolution, a separate type of saddle horse emerged, which was similar in size and quality to the Folblut but had a gait and durability of a trotter. The best selection was made in Kentucky and Virginia breeding. The bred horses were excellent for carriages, and light works at the farms.

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The founding fathers of the most important line of the American Saddlebred are two steeds – Tom Hale (born in 1810, Narrangansett pacer) and Gaines Denmark (born in 1851, Folblut). The breed had an active part in the civil war as an officer steed.

The official breeding association – Saddle Horse Breeders’ Association - of the race was founded in Louisville, Kentucky in 1891. Currently, breeding besides the US can be found in Canada, RSA, and a few in Europe (mostly Great Britain), and Australia.

American Saddlebred - built and characteristics

Horses of this breed have a dry, average-size head, with small falcate ears. A long and very highly set neck is characteristic, too. The shoulder blades are a bit steep, and the chest is rather wide. The barrel of American Saddlebred is slightly elongated with a strong back and well-built withers that is above the croup’s line. The croup is short and straight.

American-Saddlebred (3)

This breed is often surgically operated on so that their tails are set really high (thus the peacock association). Their limbs are extremely light, dry, and springy with lean joints. Their long fetlocks and hooves optically elongate American Saddlebred’s legs. Interestingly, their unusually long hooves require special shoes.

The mentioned built of this race influences the animals’ movements – it’s soft, springy, “flowing,” and very comfortable for the rider. The horses are predisposed for tölt and pace and it’s hereditary.

Height: 150-160 cm

Body weight: 450-540 kg

Color: usually chestnut or bay, but they sometimes come in other colors, too

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American Saddlebred - use

Currently, American Saddlebreds are used in most equestrian disciplines, not only carriages.

American Saddlebreds are commonly known as show horses, presented under the saddle in various classes – you can see them in the three most popular gaits: walk, trot, canter – but also in classes including slow gait and rack.

Slow gait is a four-beat gait, where the pairs of side legs get off the ground simultaneously but hit the ground at a different time, while the back leg leaves the ground slightly before the front one. During shows of the race, the gait should be performed with precision and restraint.

Rack is also a four-beat gait but with even intervals between every step. During shows of the race, the gait is performed quickly and with high action of the legs, seemingly unencumbered. You may see the difference in the videos below:

American Saddlebreds are used in recreational and western riding, but also disciplines such as jumping, eventing, or dressage.

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American Saddlebred horses: price

The average price of an American Saddlebred horse is between 5 and 10 thousand dollars. As with all other races, the final sum depends on the horse’s training, line, health, and age.


American Saddlebred is undoubtedly the pride of the US. This race is keenly chosen for Hollywood productions (e.g. in 1994, William Shatner – an actor and breeder of this race, mounted one of his own horses – a mare called Great Belles of Fire, while playing the role of James T. Kirk in Star Trek: Generations), especially for dramas and westerns. These horses were the greatest passion of the “King of Hollywood” – Clark Gable.