American Saddlebreds were originally bred to carry their plantation-owing riders through the fields and into town with style and comfort. They were one of the most popular breeds in America before the invention of the car. Ever since cars supplanted the horse for everyday transportation, the use of the American Saddlebred has changed some for the better and some for the worse.
Show Ring Prima Donnas
The main goal of many current American Saddlebred breeders is to get their horses winning ribbons and trophies in the show ring. In order to catch the eye of the judge, these very clever horses have learned some spectacular behaviors that was probably never seen in American Saddlebreds one hundred and fifty years ago. It is highly doubtful that the eye-rolling, foaming at the mouth prima donnas seen in today’s horse shows could have been of much practical use on a farm or plantation.
They also have had their prancing action exaggerated thorough methods both natural and artificial. Although docking tails is no longer practiced, American Saddlebred show horses often have their tails set in set through surgery or are allowed to wear a “wig” on their tails.
Amish Buggy Horses
Popularity of American Saddlebreds seems to come in cycles. The last time this breed was hot was when Captain Kirk was shown riding one in the hit movie “Star Trek Generations” (1994). The actor William Shatner insisted on riding one of his own horses in the movie and chose a bay American Saddlebred.
When any horse breed goes out of favor, breeding and training farms collapse and the horses wind up homeless. Many wind up going overseas for meat, but others wind up pulling Amish buggies, where they excel at such a task.
Improving Other Breeds
For the last couple of centuries, American Saddlebreds were used to help strengthen other American breeds and give them a bit of flash and common sense. Although Saddlebreds look like monsters in the show ring, they are often extremely gentle outside of the show ring, sometimes following people around like they are big puppies.
American Saddlebreds have had a tremendous influence on the Morgan horse breed, nearly transforming it completely, especially through one Morgan sire named Upwey Ben Don, which combined Morgan and American Saddlebred characteristics. This is only fair, since the Morgan was one of the breeds used to create the Saddlebred in the first place, especially Black Hawk, a grandson of Justin Morgan (Figure) himself.
American Saddlebreds, along with Arabians, formed the nucleus of the relatively new breed, the National Show Horse. This is a spectacularly charismatic breed of horse that looks more like sculptures of horses as opposed to real horses.
Although the show ring Saddlebreds get most of the limelight, the average American Sadddlebred is a great all-around horse that is highly intelligent, friendly and responsive to training by positive reinforce. There are Saddlebreds used as the family horse, as school horses or police horses. Just how far can a Saddlebred go? Perhaps to Canada dark colored American Saddlebreds are often recruited for the Royal Canadian Mountied Police.
“International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.” Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press; 1995.
“Storey’s Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America.” Judith Dutson. Storey Publishing; 2005.
De Novo Morgans Heritage. “Upway Ben Don.” http://www.welcomeranch.com/bendon.html
American Saddlebred.com. “The American Saddlebred as a Sport Horse.” http://www.american-saddlebred.com/protean/asbsport.htm
Foundation Morgan Horse.com “Those Old Style Morgans are Still Around.” http://foundationmorganhorse.com/images/FMHflier.pdf