Today, the American Saddlebred is still the ultimate show horse, high-stepping and elegant. A show horse is a spectacle of beauty and grace, but it is also an intense athletic competitor. In the show ring, American Saddlebreds compete in five primary divisions: Five-Gaited, Three-Gaited, Fine Harness, Park and Pleasure. Each division has its own "look" and desired traits; however, all strive to meet the model of an ideal American Saddlebred. They are judged on performance, manners, presence, quality and conformation.
Each of the following divisions offers "open" classes in which entries may be shown by professionals or amateurs. There are other classes within the division that are specifically for amateurs, ladies, gentlemen and juvenile riders. In larger shows, these designations may be subdivided into competitions for stallions, mares or geldings, or by the size of the horse or age of the rider.
- Five-Gaited – Horses competing in the Five-Gaited division display beauty, brilliance, elegance and refinement. The horses perform at speed in an animated form. Horses are shown with a full mane and tail. Protective boots may be worn on the front feet. The horses are judged at the animated walk, trot, slow gait, rack and canter.
- Three-Gaited – Horses competing in the Three-Gaited division are the epitome of beauty, brilliance, elegance, refinement and expression. The horses perform in an animated and precise manner. To accentuate the refinement of horses in this division, they are shown with a roached mane and tail. Horses are judged at the animated walk, park trot and canter.
- Fine Harness – Horses competing in the Fine Harness division should posses all of the elegance and refinement of the ideal American Saddlebred. As opposed to the Five-Gaited horses, entries in this division work toward animation rather than speed. The horses are shown with a full mane and tail. Protective boots may be worn on the front feet. The horses are judged at the animated walk, park trot and "show your horse."
- Park – Horses competing in the Park division should be stylish with finish and quality and be well-mannered. The horses perform with animated and graceful gaits. Classes may be offered for horses with a roached mane and tail or horses with a full mane and tail. The Park division holds five-gaited, three-gaited and driving classes.
- Pleasure – The Pleasure division has been broken down into two sections – Show Pleasure and Country Pleasure. All horses competing in the Pleasure division conform to the typical Saddlebred type. They perform their gaits promptly and in a comfortable manner, giving the distinct impression of an enjoyable ride. Manners are emphasized in this division, and all horses must perform a true, flat walk.
- Show Pleasure – Horses competing in Show Pleasure should be alert and responsive to their environment and rider. Generally these horses display less animation than the Three-Gaited, Five-Gaited and Fine Harness Performance horses. Horses are shown with a full mane and tail. The Show Pleasure division offers three-gaited, five-gaited, western and driving classes.
- Country Pleasure – Horses in the Country Pleasure division are typically less showy than the Show Pleasure horse and demonstrate easy, ground-covering action. The Country Pleasure horse is shown with a full mane and tail and must be plain shod, suitable for trail riding. A multitude of classes are offered in the Country Pleasure division, including three-gaited, five-gaited, driving, western and hunter classes.