When you see an American Saddlebred in the show ring, they are tossing their heads, pawing holes in the ring, snorting like dragons and foaming at the mouth. It’s hard to believe that for the most part, the American Saddlebred is a level headed, intelligent animal that loves to be in contact with people. Fortunately, they were not bred just for good looks and a smooth ride, but also were bred for friendliness.
Ready To Adapt
American Saddlebreds (ASBs) are put to use in a wide variety of activities, including being a movie horse, a police horse or a family horse. They can learn to compete in any horse sport and often can be taught to ride and pull a carriage. Unlike some breeds of horses that panic at any break in routine, ASBs seem to welcome the challenge of trying something new.
Instead of flying off the handle when presented with something new, ASBs tend to quietly contemplate the new situation, as if making a through analysis and then mulling over the results. In this way, ASBs tend to live quietly with other horses, other animals and small children (although no small child should be left alone with any horse).
Why are they so fiery in the show ring, then? Basically, because that’s how they’ve been taught to behave in the show ring. A fiery horse tends to bring home the trophies. Since ASBs love to please, they will happily adjust to acting like a lunatic in the ring and then shuffling about like Old Dobbin in the barn.
Also, ASBs are not born being able to do the incredibly exaggerated gaits they perform in the show ring. These steps have to be taught. ASBs can do the normal walk, trot, canter and gallop just as well as other breeds, so you don’t have to worry about an ASB suddenly breaking out into a rack during a three-day event.
Although the American Saddlebred has a more even temperament than many other purebred horse breeds, you do need to be sensible when behaving around them. You should move slowly and deliberately. You shouldn’t startle them when they are fast asleep. You should never walk underneath their bellies or ride them in the barn. Never take their size and strength for granted.
As a general rule, older ASBs are for level-headed and reliable than younger ones. But older ASBs should not be shunned just for their age. They still have a sense of fun, love to be part of the action and can help show the younger horses a thing or two. Some American Saddlebreds have been known to be winning ribbons in all sorts of horse sport classes well into their twenties.
“Storey’s Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America.” Judith Dutson. Storey Publishing, 2005.
“International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.” Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
“The Ultimate Horse Book.” Elwyn Hartley Edwards. Dorling Kindersley; 1991.
Saddlebred Rescue, Inc. “What Is A Saddlebred?” http://www.saddlebredrescue.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=128&Itemid=65