History of the American Saddlebred The American Saddlebred is famous for its beauty, intelligence, endurance and lofty action. The breed is considered the peacock of the show ring because of its flashy high action gaits, its strikingly long arched neck, and high set tail. As few written records were kept in early US history, little is known of the complete origins. However, through various pieces of information the puzzle of how this remarkable horse was bred has been put together to give some understanding on how this remarkable horse came to be.
The beginning of the American Saddlebred began in 500 1500 A. D. in the British Isles. The Ancient English Pacer, developed in the Middle Ages, became the basic blood foundation for the American Saddlebred. In the northwest coasts of England and Ireland, Vikings used these regions as staging areas for their long journeys. The English Pacer soon were transported by the Vikings to Iceland where they remained as the Icelandic horse.
This breed is known for its speedy rack and pace. Pace in this sense does not refer to the Standard bred movement but as an amble, single foot movement. Colonists to America brought with them the Hobbies and Galloways (all ancestors of the English Pacer) to America in the early 1600 s. These early breeds developed through selective breeding and better nutrition in Rhode Island and Virginia. The idealized Narangansett Pacer, named after the famous Rhode Island coast Narangansett Bay, formed from the Hobbies and Galloways. The breed became very popular because of its smooth gait.
This breed became a commercial product where they were sold to Spanish plantation owners in the West Indies. The horse was also imported into Canada and began to be bred to Thoroughbred Stallions. Eventually the breed died out in the colonies. Paso Fino s, Morgans, and Standardbreds can all attribute their heritage to this breed. It is also thought tha the Narangansett Pacer was ridden by Paul Revere on his famous ride. By the time of the Revolutionary War an American Horse was established.
Also called Kentucky Saddler s they were the evolved from the Narangansett Pacer and Thoroughbred imports They were excellent for frontiersmen traveling through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky because of their smooth gaits and perfect for Kentucky Plantations because of their strength and endurance to pull heavy loads and work for long periods of time. This horse was first documented in a letter from an American Diplomat in France to the Continental Congress in 1776. After the War of 1812 breeders began to improve the breed. Thoroughbred blood continued to be introduced and larger, more attractive horses began to develop.
Horse shows became popular at fairs and the production of finer, prettier horses became a commercial industry in Kentucky and Missouri. In 1839 Denmark was foaled. This horse became the foundation Sire of the American Saddlebred. Most modern Saddlebreds can trace their lineage back to this horse. When the Civil War broke out the American Saddlebred gained in popularity. Kentucky men eager to help out in the war joined the Cavalry usually mounted on Saddlebreds.
In fact famous generals of the Civil War were mounted on Saddlebreds. General Lee was on Traveller, General Grant rode Cincinnati, Sherman was mounted on Lexington, and Stonewall Jackson had Little Sorrel. The latter was of a pacing stock and the other three were of Thoroughbred crosses. Also, General John Hunt Morgan and Nathan Bedford Forest were mounted exclusively on Saddlebreds during the Civil War. In the 1880 s breeders began to call for a registry for this American breed. Charles F.
Mills of Springfield, Illinois compiled pedigrees and started formulating rules for a registry. On April 7, 1891 a call for a meeting to organize a breed association was published in The Farmers Home Journal, a newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky. That day the American Saddlebred was formally established. Famous stallions that have attributed to this breed include the already mentioned Denmark (1839), Copper bottom (import 1812), Davy Crockett (import 1830), Tom Hal 1802 (these three of Canadian Pacer origin), Cockspur (import 1840) of a gaited Thoroughbred lineage, Bell founder (imported 1822) a Hackney, Black Squirrel (import 1830) a Highlander which is a Thoroughbred descended from the Goldophin Barb, Rex McDonald 1890) a black Saddlebred horse that was so famous he was visited by Presidents of the U. S. , Bourbon King (1900 with Denmark blood) who was a famous World Grand Champion Five Gaiter, and Wing Commander also world famous as one of the reigning horses with the most five-gaited championship wins at the World Grand Championship Horse Show in Louisville, Kentucky.
Though, there is a long list of other horses that have attributed to this breed I cannot possibly name them all. A few others that must be mentioned are Gaines Denmark (1851, direct descendant of Denmark, 60% of all Saddlebreds trace their history to Gaines Denmark), Harrison Chief (1872), Pea vine (1863), and Cabell s Lexington (1863 by Tom Hal). One final note, it is said that though the American Saddlebred was established as a breed before Denmark it is said that the Denmark lineage and Harrison Chief lineage are what set the American Saddlebred breed in stone. The American Saddle Horse Association has designated 17 sires as the foundation of the Saddlebred breed. You can find more information about the foundation sires at their website web or at their headquarters in Lexington, KY. Through this intricate and proud history the American Saddlebred has become "The Horse America Made" of today.
Its intelligence, beauty, style, grace and love of people make the horse stunning to behold and from which many other breeds try to immolate. American Saddlebreds became Television as Mr. Ed and Fury were Saddlebred s!