American Saddlebred: Breed Bio

American Saddlebreds are great for both driving and riding, and they also serve as both competition horses and pleasure mounts. Watching them in motion can be fascinating, thanks to their high-stepping action and animated style. Saddlebreds have sculpted sloping necks and friendly, calm temperaments.

American Saddlebred Origin and History

Having originated from Kentucky in the eighteenth century, Saddlebreds are a true American horse breed. To develop this breed, American colonists crossed the Narragansett Pacer with the Thoroughbreds, and the offspring horses became very popular. Saddlebreds were the preferred mounts for several generals (William Sherman, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Ulysses S. Grant) during the American Civil War.

But the Saddlebred’s calling wasn’t just to serve as an army mount. In the nineteenth century, the breed served in plantations, and eventually, breeders began to cross them with Thoroughbreds and Morgans, which significantly improved the horse breed. Today, the American Saddlebred is a famous show mount, both when ridden and under saddle.

Markings and Colors

American Saddlebreds come in several color coat varieties, such as black, grey, chestnut, and bay. Other less common coat colors in the breed include pinto and palomino.

An woman riding an American Saddlebred

American Saddlebred Size

American Saddlebreds are lightweight and suited for driving or riding. The breed stands about 15 to 16 hands high and weighs about 1,000 to 1,200 pounds. Stallions have more muscled and larger bodies. They’re weightier than geldings and mares, which are smaller. The life expectancy of Saddlebreds is between 25 and 30 years.

Nutrition and Diet

All individual horses have their specific nutrition needs. However, Saddlebreds generally feed on a diet comprising hay, grass, and feed concentrate. Show mounts usually need more grain consumption to provide the energy required to put up excellent performances in show rings.

Uses and Breeding

The American Saddlebreds are highly versatile, and you can find them everywhere from the trails to the show ring. They’re a stunning breed to watch, and they perform excellently in saddle seat shows, but they’re also great mounts for three-day eventing shows and hunt seat. The breed also performs incredibly well in a harness.

Distinct Features of the Saddlebred

A Saddlebred can be five-gaited or three-gaited (can perform the canter, trot, and walk). Three-gaited horses also display an animated appearance and high knee action. Five-gaited horses can perform the same three gaits, as well as a rack and slow gait. The rack and slow gait are four-beat gaits that display the Saddlebred’s elegance and power along with the comfortability it offers its rider.

A man riding an American Saddlebred into the sea

Common Behavior and Health Problems

American Saddlebreds are famous for their friendly and calm temperaments, which makes them very easy to train. However, they’re prone to a few health issues.

Sidebone and Ringbone

These conditions often occur in the horse’s front hooves. Additional calcium deposits may form due to the concussive nature of the horse’s high step, resulting in pain and lameness.

Hock and Stifle Lameness

While their movement is stunning to watch, it can lead to a hind-end lameness condition, such as hock and stifle soreness and lameness.


Most American Saddlebreds have long, flowing tails and manes. While they’re beautiful to behold, both the tail and mane require regular grooming and attentive care to keep them clean and healthy. Proper conditioning and brushing of the mane using a spray conditioner help to prevent tangles and knots, allowing a free-flow of the mane.

Maintaining and grooming the Saddlebred’s tail can be quite challenging, as some tails grow so long that they touch the ground. To keep the tail out of mud and dirt, some owners regularly tie it up or braid it. Note that these two options require regular removal to avoid damaging the tailbone and the hair. To maintain the horse’s tail, use lots of conditioner, and detangle its tail by hand.

An American Saddlebred

Why Should You Choose the American Saddlebred?

The American Saddlebred is versatile, and its friendly nature and calm temperament make it an excellent mount for various riders. These horses can be flashy show horses, and they can also be magnificent school horses. They’re quick to learn and intelligent, so whether you need a horse for driving or riding, the saddlebred might be the ideal breed for you.

Celebrity and Champion American Saddlebreds

There are several famous American Saddlebreds, due to the horse breed’s popularity for being a show mount. Here are some of them:

Wing Commander

It participated in the annual World Championships from 1948 to 1953 and took home five Gaited Winner and six World Grand Champion titles.

Easter Cloud

It was the first Saddlebred to win the breed’s first World Champion title in 1917.

How to Purchase or Adopt an American Saddlebred

Due to the breed’s popularity, finding an American Saddlebred in the US is relatively easy. If you’re looking to purchase a horse from a private seller or a sale barn, understand that different horses may be sold at different prices. You may find a kind, capable, and sound riding horse for less than $10,000, while a top show horse with an excellent bloodline may be as high as $100,000. You need to note your desired qualities in a new horse, such as show ring experience, training, and age, to determine the kind of budget required.

Another option is to get an American Saddlebred through equine rescues. The horses often come up for rescue, so with enough patience, you might get to adopt an American Saddlebred without spending as much as you would if you bought one outright.

If you’re determined to adopt through an equine rescue, ensure to work with a reputable organization. Verify that it has a registered 501(c)(3) status. Ask a lot of questions about the Saddlebred’s training, temperament, history, and how suitable it’ll be for your needs. Ensure to also carefully go through the adoption agreement to enable you to understand your rights with the horse.

Whether you adopt or purchase a new American Saddlebred, consider getting a vet to evaluate your horse’s soundness and health before bringing it home. Your vet can spot any potential issue you previously missed, so you’ll know the horse’s limitations and health condition when buying or adopting it.

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