The Versatile Saddlebred – The Horse for All Reasons

So arresting and sensational is the ability and persona of the Saddlebred Show Horse that it is easy to overlook the skills of the Saddlebred Sport Horse. The Saddlebred has been nurtured for generations as an energetic, supple, athletic performer in the show rings, and these inherent talents combined with his inbuilt stamina and commonsense, make him a superlative choice for any sporting discipline. He has made showing his own sport with his tremendous animated performance in all divisions. However, for some strange reason this pearl of equine excellence has not been generally harvested by the sport horse world.

Saddlebreds have proved themselves over and over at all the regular sport horse traditions. They have represented the USA in dressage, show jumping, eventing, driving and endurance. The world champion Endurance horse for three consecutive years was a pure bred gelding. They have shown themselves worthy participants in polo and hunting and because of their amenable and human-loving temperaments can be relied upon as a family back-yard horse.

Many have found careers in the world of show business and have become household names in that capacity. Flicka, Mr Ed, the original Fury, and many other characters were Saddlebreds. They have appeared in such movies as Gone With The Wind; Gettysburg; Star Trek–Generations, where William Shatner rides his own Great Belles of Fire. Buffalo Bill’s favourite trick horse in his Wild West Show was Saddlebred Columbus, who earlier had been in the legendary training hands of Tom Bass.

“They are like beautiful Warmbloods,” said Heike Bean, a world class combined driving competitor. Deb Bennet, PhD, in analysing various breed conformations, reported: “For more than 100 years American Saddlebreds have been produced for the purpose of carrying a rider’s weight comfortably and efficiently … I have never seen any Saddlebred horse (or part bred) who did not readily perform the passage … Most have incredibly comfortable and coordinated canters as well .. I think they are the most neglected of all breeds suitable for dressage. ….. gorgeous shoulders, long, cleanly contoured and well set off from the base of the neck … they offer a delightful rubbery feel under the saddle … neck structured beautifully and carried correctly, set at the very top of the shoulder .. loin coiling and engagement easy … the world’s most highly adapted riding horse.”

The athleticism and brain-power that a Saddlebred brings to his relationship with his owner allows him to learn any task required of him. He is not a ‘one job’ horse. After all, a breed that has the mental capability to manage his flying hooves in the exacting speedy high-motioned rack can be relied upon to have the same innate ability whatever the sport; likewise, his sense and eager outlook make him ready to learn and be interested in any task. He loves interaction with people and a stimulating life-style.

There can be little doubt that the qualities that make this breed the unique stars of the showring, are the very same qualities that can carry them into the annals of sporting history too. It is important that future breeders, trainers and riders do not allow their precious identities to be lost among the throng of other achievers – don’t pass them off as Warmbloods; don’t let them be thought of as Thoroughbreds. Proudly proclaim, “This sport horse is my special American Saddlebred.”