Breed Profile: American Saddlebred Horse

The American Saddlebred stands 15 to just over 16 hands tall and weighs around 450-540 kg. Stallions usually weigh more than mares and mustaches due to their increased muscle mass.

You can recognize this horse by its dense muscles, chiseled appearance, and flowing tail. There is a slender, arching neck over sloping shoulders and well-defined withers, which lead to a level back. The head has a straight profile, and the ears saddle forward, giving an expression of alertness with its bright and inquisitive eyes.

American Saddlebreds are found in a wide range of coat colours, with bay chestnut, brown and black being the most common. Roan, gray, palomino, and pinto are also seen in this breed.

Show and ride American saddle horses

If you are not sure if you see an American saddle, all doubt will be removed as soon as it starts moving. This horse is known for its high, dance-like stride and unique gaits.

Three-pedal saddle horses perform at the walk, trot and canter, with high knee action unmistakable for any other breed. There are also five-gaited horses that display these three gaits as well as a slow, racking gait.

The slow gait and the rack are both four-beat gaits. A slow gait can be a running walk, stride, or fox trot, but most horses today are shown with a staggered pace. In this gait, the lateral pairs of legs leave the ground simultaneously but land at different times, with the hind foot just ahead of the front foot. On the other hand, the stand displays equal intervals of time between each foot.

As might be expected, this breed is often shown in saddle seat classes, and is an American twist on traditional English riding. But the American Saddlebred’s adaptability makes them ideal for a range of other disciplines, including hunting seat competition, fine carriage work, combined driving, dressage, and even three-day racing.

Non-competitive enjoyment of the breed ranges from pulling picnic wagons and farm management to trail riding.

What to expect as an American saddle mail owner

There’s a reason America’s Saddlebridge is so popular with celebrities, from Clark Gable and Will Rogers to William Shatner and Carson Chrisley. This horse is loyal, willing and versatile. But those new to the breed will want to know the specific care requirements for the best health and longest life for their horses.

With its roots in colonial plantations, the American Saddlebred does well with a diet of grass and hay. Some owners add pills for extra energy in the competition.

There are two health problems that appear with this breed. Achilles lameness can result from excessive and repetitive training in some gaits. The breed is also prone to lateral bone and ring bone in the front hooves. The Saddlebred’s natural high stride makes it more of an impact on the feet, which in turn can lead to painful calcium deposits.

Lorde (swinging backwards) is also frequently seen as an inherited trait with American saddles. However, this condition rarely affects a horse’s health or drivability, although it is considered a display fault of the breed.

Be prepared to spend a fair amount of time getting your American saddled. The same stunning pony and tail that makes the breed look so glamorous in the show ring takes extra time to brush and detangle. Carefully braiding the mane and tying the tail in a mud knot when not in competition helps.

As with any horse, it is wise to consider the type of activity you wish to engage in before purchasing an American saddle. Those who want fun horses for trail riding and family fun will be happy to know that they don’t have to spend a fortune to find a camel with the Saddlebred’s classic friendly disposition! Of course, the best show horses go for a little more, so look at bloodlines carefully and, as always, invest in a pre-purchase test from a qualified vet.

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