Welcome to the American Saddlebred Horse Association and the American Saddlebred Registry, the oldest breed registry in the United States for an American breed of horse!
By the late 1700s, the American Saddlebred was being recognized as a unique and individual horse type, referred to as the "American Horse." With the continued addition of Thoroughbred blood to easy gaited horses, breeders saw they were creating a distinct breed. In the 1880s, breeders of this unique type of horse began to call for the formation of a breed association and registry. Charles F. Mills began compiling pedigrees and formulating rules for a registry.
Shortly thereafter, The Farmers Home Journal, a newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky, called for a meeting on April 7, 1891. Thus, on that day, the American Saddle-Horse Breeders’ Association was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Under the leadership of the first Association President, John B. Castleman, the objectives of collecting, recording and preserving the pedigrees of saddle horses in America began. In 1908, after years of discussion, the Association formally acknowledged Denmark F.S. as the sole Foundation Sire of the American Saddle Horse. However, in 1991, after careful review of bloodlines, Harrison Chief 1606 was also named a Foundation Sire for his contribution to the formation of the breed.
As time went on and the registry grew in numbers of horses and members, the name American Saddle-Horse Breeders’ Association no longer reflected the expanding functions of the Association. Therefore, on April 22, 1980, the registry’s name was changed to American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA).
In 1985, ASHA headquarters moved from Louisville, Kentucky, to the new American Saddle Horse Museum building, located at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. ASHA was the first breed registry to call the Kentucky Horse Park home.
The move in location also brought the establishment of innovative promotional and educational programs for the further development of the American Saddlebred horse.
In 2005, by means of an internal corporate reorganization of the functions of the registry and a companion organization previously named the American Saddlebred Horse Association Foundation, the American Saddlebred Horse Association, a public charity organized under section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, became the breed’s membership organization. All functions of the registry now formally reside in the American Saddlebred Registry, a separate corporation organized under section 501 (c)(5) of the Internal Revenue Code. The 18 directors of the Association, of which 6 are elected each year to 3-year terms, elect the 9 directors of the Registry, each of whom serves an annual term.
Today, there are approximately 7,000 active ASHA members, 50 ASHA Charter Clubs, and 40 ASHA Youth Clubs. ASHA carries out administrative, promotional and educational activities for the benefit of its members and the breed.
- Publications – ASHA publishes an award-winning online magazine, American Saddlebred, four times a year; a Breeders’ Journal of the American Saddlebred, the statistical "textbook" of the breed; a weekly eNews; a youth online newsletter, Junior Junction; and numerous educational brochures and pamphlets, which are available upon request.
- Youth Programs– ASHA has strong and vibrant youth programs offering something for everyone, from kids in the show ring, to those on the trail, to those who don’t even have a horse. Youth Programs include Saddle Time, Academy Awards, ASHA Driving Challenge, Junior Judging, ASHA Youth Scholarships, and the American Saddlebred International Youth Program. ASHA also has an extensive network of Youth Clubs across the nation and holds an annual Youth Conference filled with fun and educational activities.
- Promotion – Some major activities coordinated by ASHA include participation at the Kentucky State Fair World’s Championship Horse Show, American Saddlebred exhibitions and demonstrations, furnishing display booths for members to use in promotional activities and the formation of foreign and domestic charter clubs to promote the breed on a grassroots level.
- Annual Meeting – ASHA holds an Annual Meeting where Association business and elections are conducted. Training and instructional seminars, with an emphasis on education, are offered to attendees. Honors and awards are presented at the convention for outstanding achievements with the breed.
From its beginning in 1891, ASHA has attained its current position of leadership in the horse world because of the individual efforts of its active members. The American Saddlebred may not be the largest breed, but it has often been referred to as "a jewel of a breed." ASHA continually works to keep that precious jewel polished, pure, and shining brightly.