History of the
American Saddlebred Horse
History of the breed
The British colonists brought the natural-gaited Galloway and Hobbie horses from the British Isles to North America. These were sturdy horses. They were used as a primary source of transportation in the British Isles.
Breeders in Virginia and Rhode Island improved the quality of their feeding programs and carefully crossed select Galloway and Hobbie horses. The result of those efforts became known as the Narragansett Pacer. The Colonist were said to have preferred the Narragansett Pacer when being given a choice of horse to ride. Thousands of these fine horses were sold to the West Indies and Canada making them a major commercial product.
Thoroughbreds were founded by crossing Barb, Arab and Turkish stallions with Hobby and Galloway mares with the idea of producing a racing horse. Colonists imported Thoroughbreds into America and crossed them with the Narragansetts. Then by the start of the Revolutionary War this cross had developed into a horse known to as “The American Horse.”
“The American Horse” had a pleasant temperament, the size of a Thoroughbred and still retained the ability to learn the easy-riding gaits. These beautiful horses used their strength and stamina to pull carriages and work in the field. Proving to be very versatile they were also a favorite among riders. Breeders selectively continued crossing Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Standardbreds, Hackney and Morgans into this great American Horse who at some point was also known as the “Kentucky Saddlers.”
The Civil War gave these horses a chance to shine. The superiority of the Kentucky Saddler was proven as they traveled great distances and provided an advantage to their riders on the battle field. General Robert E. Lee rode “Traveller”, Sherman rode Lexington, and Grant rode Cincinnati. The Kentucky Saddlers were the only breed some Generals would ride. The great importance of these horses led General Grant to allow the Confederate’s to keep their mounts and not have to surrender them.
So what else can you do with a horse in the 1800’s? Horse shows began to emerge as a public form of entertainment. It was of course the Stylish and talented “Saddlers” who dominated these competitions. Rules for showing “Saddlers” were being written. Then in 1891 the first American Breed organized and became known as the National Saddle Horse Breeders Association who then eight years later changed their name to the American Saddle Horse Breeders Association. Years passed and the organization once again changed names to what they are known today; the American Saddlebred Horse Association.
Many people take great pride and enjoyment in riding a horse that was “Made in America” and developed over the years from a noble warrior to an ultimate show horse. The grace, power and style of the American Saddlebred is a tribute to all those American horse breeders over the years.
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