About American Saddlebreds
The American Saddlebred remains the ultimate show horse, high-stepping and elegant. A show horse is a spectacle of beauty and grace but is also an intense athletic competitor. American Saddlebreds compete in four primary divisions in the show ring: Five-Gaited, Three-Gaited, Fine Harness and Pleasure. Each division has its own "look," and competitors should be groomed to perfection. Five-gaited, fine harness and show pleasure horses are exhibited with full manes and tails. Five-gaited horses are shown with roached, or trimmed, manes to accentuate their long, fine necks.
The common denominator for American Saddlebreds in the show ring is that they should be alert, showing with neck arched, head up and ears forward, projecting an attitude of "Look at me!" They are judged on performance, manners, presence, quality and conformation.
American Saddlebreds come in almost all colors, ranging in height from 14 to 17 hands and weigh 800-1,200 pounds.
The head and eye of the ideal American Saddlebred suggest refinement and intelligence. Long, sloping pasterns give a spring to the stride, making American Saddlebreds very comfortable to ride. High quality, smoothness, and balanced proportions complete an overall picture of symmetry and style.
The characteristics that have contributed to the American Saddlebred’s reputation as the "peacock of the show ring" also make him a versatile horse. Smoothness of gaits, speed coupled with intelligence and powerful muscling enable him to do whatever is asked of him. Saddlebreds have excelled in many non-traditional disciplines such as dressage, eventing, show jumping, combined driving, and endurance, as well as recreational and competitive trail riding. An American Saddlebred is capable of almost any task he is asked to perform and will do it with extraordinary style.
Perhaps the breed's most distinguished trait is its mental acumen. Happy, alert and curious, American Saddlebreds possess that people-oriented quality called personality, endearing them to their owners and admirers.
Before buying an American Saddlebred, you should try to assess your goals. Do you want a show horse? A broodmare? A prospect? A horse to keep in training? At home? How much do you wish to spend? Are you buying as an investment? Strictly for pleasure?
If you wish to ride or drive, evaluate your abilities: Do you have any experience? Is competition a goal? Are you in a lesson program? How much time will be spent with the new horse? Do you have the knowledge and skills to train a horse without assistance? And don’t forget physical characteristics: Are you tall or short? Stocky or lean? The size of the horse should suit the rider.
There are many ways to learn about American Saddlebreds and the people involved with them. A good place to start is the American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA). Once you get serious about owning a Saddlebred, you should join ASHA and have access to its wealth of information; membership is required for those doing business with the American Saddlebred Registry.
Another important resource for the new owner is the ASHA Charter Club, made up of local area American Saddlebred owners. A worldwide network of more than 45 organizations, Charter Clubs conduct many equine and social activities and are happy to help newcomers learn more about the breed. For younger enthusiasts, more than 60 ASHA Youth Clubs offer projects, activities and camaraderie as they absorb the finer points of horsemanship.
Horse shows are excellent places to meet owners, exhibitors, trainers, riding instructors, and breeders. As a show, see firsthand how American Saddlebreds compete, then visit the stabling area and ask questions. Most American Saddlebred people are friendly, helpful and encouraging. one step leads to another, and it’s easy to become acquainted with American Saddlebreds and people of all ages who love them.
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