The American Saddlebred is the world’s most beautiful horse, at least according to its admirers. So-named on account of its great suitability for riding, it is also famous because of its easy gait and cordial nature. An ideal driving and leisure riding horse, the American Saddlebred has even been been used as a cow, parade, and plantation horse, and as an army officer's charger.
The American Saddlebred owes its wonderful characteristics to its ancestors. From the Narragansett Pacer, the American Saddlebred inherited its distinctive, effortless gait, and its agility and speed, from the Trotters. And from the Morgans, as well as from Canadian horses, the American Saddlebred got its athleticism and endurance. The result is an all-around capable horse that matches beauty with function.
The American Saddlebred has a densely muscled body and good-sized feet, well-proportioned to the rest of its body. Its legs show flat and straight bones, while its back is typically short and muscular. The horse's hips are very strong with a high and level croup (or loin). Its tail is fluid, set high and carried straight, too.
An American Saddlebred's eyes are large, luminous, and set far apart from one another. Its ears, in contrast, are set close together. The neck is long and sloping, smoothly blending on to the head. Its shoulders, meanwhile, are deep and sloping, and its withers -- the area between the shoulder blades -- are prominent and well-defined. The American Saddlebred also has a wide breast and well-sprung ribs.
Typical colors for the breed are bay, black, brown, and chestnut. Its average height is fifteen to sixteen hands (or 60 to 64 inches); its average weight is 1,000 to 1,200 pounds.
The American Saddlebred generally has a calm, friendly temperament. It is amiable to humans and shows an inherent inclination to learn and be trained.
Developed in the 1700s by American colonists, the American Saddlebred first came about by crossing the Narragansett Pacer with the Thoroughbred. After many were used in battle during the Revolutionary War, the crossbreed was brought to Kentucky. There, it took on the name Kentucky Saddler.
In the early 1800s, the Kentucky Saddler worked mainly on plantations because of its comfortable gait and exceptional balance. Morgan and Thoroughbred blood were later added to enhance the breed's already fine characteristics, thus producing the modern American Saddlebred.
Many credit Denmark, a Saddlebred stallion born in 1839, as the progenitor to many of the Saddlebred horses seen today. This stallion even served as General Hunt Morgan's horse during the Civil War. Today, the American Saddlebred is commonly seen in saddle seat style riding competitions in horse shows and in various other disciplines.