The American Saddlebred, originally called the Kentucky Saddler, evolved in the southern states of America in the nineteenth century. It was a practical horse, as well as one of great elegance. It could perform a variety of farm tasks; it could carry a man in great comfort over rough terrain throughout a long, working day; and it could also serve as a smart carriage horse.
The American Saddlebred developed from the Canadian Pacer and the Narragansett Pacer (the work horse of plantation owners of Rhode Island), two naturally gaited breeds. Morgan and Thoroughbred blood was also introduced to produce a distinctive, impressive horse.
The modern Saddlebred, either three or five-gaited, is generally regarded as a brilliant, if artifical, show horse, rather like the English Hackney. It is still shown in harness and, with its hooves trimmed normally, is used as a pleasure and trail-riding hrose. It can also work cattle, jump and compete in dressage tests. Despite its versatility, however, the American Saddlebred Association still describes it as "America's most misunderstood breed" because of the artificial way in which it is produced and its show ring image of a cropped, high-set tail, over-long hooves and the use of somewhat dubious training aids.
The head is full of quality - the eyes set well apart, the ears small and alert, the muzzle well shaped and the nostrils wide and open. The neck is long and arched with no fleshiness in the jowl. It is set in the prominent withers, which give a high head carriage, one of the breed's signature features. The withers are clean, sharp and much higher than those of the pure harness horse. The Saddlebred has a particularly good, sloped shoulder. The scapula blades at the withers are placed fairly close together to give a wonderfully free action. The back is notably short and strong. The quarters are well muscled to the hocks, giving the necessary brilliance of action. The croup should be level and the tail set high. Three-gaited horses are shown with the mane roached and the tail trimmed. The supreme, five-gaited American Saddlebred is shown with full mane and tail. It is customary for the tail to be set high by nicking. The strength of limb, without a heavy appearance, is a feature of the breed. The trunk is reminiscent of the English Hackney but conforms more to the riding requirement. The ribs are particularly well sprung and the outline, even when stood out in the show fashion is elegant. To enhance the action, the hooves are grown unnaturally long and shod with heavy shoes. The pasterns are long and sloping to provide a comfortable, springy ride, which is exceptionally smooth. The height is between 15-16hh, although sometimes it is a little more.
Reference: The Ultimate Horse Book, Elwyn Hartley Edwards, 1991
American Saddlebred Horse Association
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