American Saddlebred Horse Traits: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re looking for a horse breed that combines elegance, athleticism, and a friendly personality, look no further than the American Saddlebred Horse. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the unique American Saddlebred Horse characteristics, personality, and temperament that make them a favorite among horse enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or just starting out, you’ll discover why the American Saddlebred Horse is a breed worth considering.

American Saddlebred Horse Characteristics

Saddlebred horses together in a dry lot in Western Georgia

Physical Appearance

The American Saddlebred horse boasts a sleek and well-proportioned head and a gracefully arched, elongated neck that seamlessly transitions into a well-defined set of sloping shoulders. As for their physique, this breed features a robust and level back, complemented by flexible ribs and impeccable leg conformation. What sets the Saddlebred apart from other breeds is their high-stepping action, which is especially apparent in five-gaited horses performing the rack gait. This unique attribute adds to the breed’s overall beauty and elegance.

Coat Colors

Saddlebreds can be found in several colors, including bay, black, chestnut, palomino, and gray. The mane and tail of the American Saddlebred can be a different color from the body, adding to their overall elegance and beauty. The presence of these various coat colors showcases the breed’s remarkable diversity.

The American Saddlebred horse is known for its lively, yet gentle disposition. This temperament makes these horses suitable for various activities, such as trail riding, eventing, and both driving and under saddle competitions. Versatile and adaptable, the Saddlebred has become a popular choice for riders of all ages and skill levels.

Gaits and Riding Styles


The American Saddlebred is known for its versatility and elegance in various equestrian activities. One of the primary attractions is the three-gaited type, which includes the walk, trot, and canter. These horses display a natural high-stepping movement and animated performance, which captures spectators’ attention. The walk is energetic and smooth, the trot exudes confidence and grace, and the canter showcases the breed’s agility and athleticism.


Besides the basic three gaits, some American Saddlebreds are classified as five-gaited horses. This means they possess the unique ability to perform two additional gaits: the slow gait and the rack. The slow gait is an elegant, four-beat gait in which each hoof touches the ground individually. This movement is steady and smooth, characterized by perfect balance and control.

The rack, on the other hand, is a faster-paced gait that also follows a four-beat pattern. It is an intricate and high-energy movement that requires both stamina and skill. The horse’s hooves hit the ground sequentially, giving the impression of a graceful yet powerful dance. The combination of these additional gaits with the traditional three makes the five-gaited American Saddlebred an exceptional breed that displays elegance, power, and grace.

Saddle Seat

Saddle seat is a riding style specifically designed to showcase the American Saddlebred’s high-stepping action and elegant presence. It is a discipline that originated in the United States and focuses on posture, balance, and the rider’s ability to communicate with the horse. Saddle seat riders maintain an upright posture with a slightly arched back, allowing for a distinct and polished presence while riding. Saddle seat competitions feature both three-gaited and five-gaited American Saddlebred horses, emphasizing their showmanship and versatility.

Other Show Disciplines

Aside from the traditional saddle seat, the American Saddlebred excels in various other show disciplines. Their natural athleticism, friendly temperament, and eager-to-please personality make them perfect candidates for a range of equestrian activities. Some popular show disciplines include:

  • Driving: Harness classes that showcase the horse’s ability to maintain rhythm and cadence while pulling a cart or buggy.
  • Pleasure riding: Both English and Western pleasure classes, focusing on the horse’s manners, smoothness, and obedience.
  • Trail and versatility: Demonstrating the American Saddlebred’s adaptability and performance in tasks such as navigating obstacles, reining, or jumping.

The American Saddlebred boasts a remarkable combination of characteristics, showcasing their unique gaits and riding styles with grace and elegance. Whether competing in three-gaited, five-gaited, or other show disciplines, this breed captivates audiences with its exceptional movement, animated presence, and high-stepping action, making it a favorite among equestrians and enthusiasts alike.

History and Origins

American Saddlebred mare and colt venturing outdoors on a sunny day

Developing the Breed

The American Saddlebred horse is a unique breed with a rich history and distinct characteristics. It first originated in the 1700s, when American colonists crossed Thoroughbreds with the Narragansett Pacer. This mix of breeds aimed to create a versatile and stylish horse for both riding and driving purposes. The breed continued to evolve as it was further developed in Kentucky, where it was eventually known as the “Kentucky Saddler”.

In addition to the Thoroughbred and Narragansett Pacer, other breeds contributed to the development of the American Saddlebred. These include the Galloway, Morgan, and Canadian Pacer. This mixture of breeds resulted in a horse with a distinct, high-stepping gait and an elegant appearance.

Famous Saddlebreds

Throughout its history, the American Saddlebred has been the mount of choice for many notable individuals and events. During the Civil War, for instance, it was commonly used by generals due to its reliability and elegant appearance.

Some famous Saddlebreds that have made their mark on history include Easter Cloud and Wing Commander. Easter Cloud was a renowned horse known for its high-stepping gait and ability to perform the fifth gait, the rack. Wing Commander, on the other hand, was a champion show horse that earned numerous titles in the show ring.

American Saddlebred Characteristics, Personality & Temperament

saddlebred horse on a clear day

The physical appearance of the American Saddlebred is striking and elegant. They are characterized by a short, strong back, a round barrel, a long and slender well-arched neck, smoothly blending into well-shaped shoulders, and a long, almost level croup. These physical features are further complemented by their high front action and exaggerated movement, setting them apart from other horse breeds.

When it comes to personality, the American Saddlebred is known for its intelligence, friendliness, and willingness to please. They are a versatile breed, able to perform various tasks such as harness driving, saddle seat riding, and jumping. Their curious, eager nature makes them easy to train and enjoyable to work with. Though they are an energetic breed, Saddlebred horses are also gentle and patient, making them suitable for riders of all ages and experience levels.

In terms of temperament, the American Saddlebred horse is often described as spirited, yet calm and trustworthy. Their natural elegance and grace make them a highly sought-after breed for show and pleasure riding alike.

Personality and Temperament

Calm Nature

The American Saddlebred Horse is known for its calm and friendly temperament, making it a popular choice for riders of all experience levels. These horses are patient and gentle, which makes them excellent school horses for beginners. They are also known for their animated movement, especially in the show ring, where they exhibit grace and elegance in both English and Western disciplines.


In addition to their calm demeanor, American Saddlebred Horses are highly intelligent creatures. They have a natural inclination to learn, making them easy to train and handle. This intelligence, combined with their curious and alert nature, makes them endearing to people who work with them. As riding companions, their keen intellect allows them to adapt quickly to new situations and riders.


Versatility is another notable characteristic of the American Saddlebred Horse. These horses excel in a variety of disciplines, from pleasure riding to high-level competition. The breed performs well in both English and Western styles of riding, including dressage, jumping, and trail riding. Their smooth gaits, such as the slow gait and rack, give riders a comfortable experience in the saddle.

Their animated and elegant movement, combined with their calm temperament and intelligence, makes the American Saddlebred Horse an excellent all-around horse, suitable for a variety of equestrian activities.

Care and Maintenance

Beautiful Saddlebred horses graze in open grassy field

Diet and Nutrition

American Saddlebred horses require a well-balanced diet to maintain their health and performance. Their diet mainly consists of hay and grass, which provide the essential nutrients and fiber needed for proper digestion. To ensure the horse maintains a proper weight, it is important to gauge their individual dietary needs based on factors such as age, activity level, and the horse’s overall condition. In some cases, they might require additional feed concentrate to meet their unique energy and nutritional requirements.


Regular grooming is essential for the well-being of American Saddlebred horses. This includes brushing their coat, mane, and tail, as well as cleaning their hooves regularly to prevent infections and maintain general hoof health. Proper grooming not only keeps the horse looking and feeling great but also helps in early detection of any potential health issues or parasites.

Health Issues and Concerns

American Saddlebred horses tend to be a generally healthy breed; however, they can be prone to specific health concerns that owners should be aware of. One common issue among these horses is stifle and hock lameness, which may occur due to improperly fitting saddles or insufficient warm-up before exercise. Early recognition and treatment are essential to reduce the risk of long-term injury.

Another concern that can affect the breed is ringbone and sidebone, which are bony formations around the joints in the hoof. These can result in lameness and discomfort, and may need to be managed with proper shoeing and care of the hooves. Regular veterinarian check-ups can help identify these issues in their early stages, allowing for proper treatment and prevention.

In conclusion, proper care and maintenance are crucial to ensure the overall health and well-being of American Saddlebred horses. This involves providing them with a balanced diet, regular grooming, and addressing any health concerns early on to ensure they enjoy a long, healthy life.

American Saddlebred in Competition and Sport

Show Ring Champions

In the show ring, the American Saddlebred is a true champion, showcasing its grace, elegance, and athleticism. Its unique gaits, coupled with its exquisite conformation and natural aptitude for performance, make the Saddlebred a perfect show mount. The breed has excelled in numerous show horse competitions, both national and regional, with breed registry organizations promoting and supporting these events.

Dressage and Show Jumping

American Saddlebreds have proven their versatility in disciplines such as dressage and show jumping as well. In dressage, the Saddlebred’s fluid movement and natural balance allow it to perform a range of intricate movements with ease. Their intelligence and trainability have also made them a popular choice for show jumping, where they can be seen demonstrating impressive athleticism and agility.

Driving and Combined Driving

Another discipline where the American Saddlebred shines is driving. They have a rich history in driving competitions, tracing back to their ancestors like Canadian Pacers, Hackney, and Morgans, which contributed to their refinement and style when hitched to a carriage. Their strength, endurance, and precision enable them to excel in both pleasure driving and combined driving events, which include dressage, marathon, and cone driving phases. Their bold presence, animated gaits, and fluid motion make them an ideal breed for this sport.

In conclusion, the American Saddlebred is a versatile, elegant, and athletic horse breed capable of adapting to various disciplines. Its unique characteristics, temperament, and rich history contribute to its success in the show ring and other competitive horse sports. Saddlebreds continue to be a popular choice for riders and trainers who appreciate the breed’s beauty, intelligence, and athleticism.

Buying and Adopting

Two Masculine Saddlebred horses communicating

When looking to buy or adopt an American Saddlebred Horse, it is essential to consider their unique characteristics, personality, and temperament. This breed is known for its elegant appearance, arching neck, and versatility.

Selecting the Right Horse

When choosing an American Saddlebred Horse, it is crucial to assess the individual horse’s suitability for your needs. These horses can be found in a variety of colors and sizes, typically standing between 14 to 17 hands high and weighing between 800 to 1,200 pounds. They are a light breed, well-suited for driving or riding, with mares often being lighter and less muscular than stallions.

American Saddlebreds are known for their highly animated and elegant gaits, with the ability to be either three-gaited or five-gaited, which includes the standard gaits, as well as the slow gait and rack. These horses are well suited for various activities such as driving, under-saddle competition, trail riding, and eventing.

In terms of personality and temperament, American Saddlebreds are often described as friendly, intelligent, gentle, and easy to handle. It’s essential to visit and encounter potential horses in person to assess their compatibility with your preferences and requirements.

American Saddlebred Horse Association

The American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA) is a valuable resource for potential buyers and adopters. The ASHA provides information and support for individuals looking to buy, adopt, or learn more about the breed. They host events, provide programs, and offer a National Select Series, which culminates in a National Championship in Indianapolis. This program aims to promote the breed and encourage participation in various disciplines.

In addition to domestic resources, the American Saddlebred has also gained popularity in other countries, such as South Africa, where breed enthusiasts promote these versatile horses. Connecting with organizations like the ASHA can provide invaluable guidance, support, and network opportunities to ensure you make the right decision when buying or adopting an American Saddlebred Horse.

Careful consideration, research, and seeking expert advice will better prepare you as you embark on your journey to buy or adopt an American Saddlebred Horse. Understanding their unique characteristics, versatile abilities, and engaging personality will enable you to select the perfect horse to suit your needs and enjoy a rewarding relationship with this elegant breed.

American Saddlebred Horse Characteristics, Personality & Temperament

The American Saddlebred is a versatile and elegant breed, known for its friendly and calm temperament. These horses possess a unique combination of traits that make them popular for both riding and driving, as well as serving as pleasure mounts and competition horses.

This warm blooded breed originated in the United States, specifically in Kentucky, and is characterized by its high front action and exaggerated movement. American Saddlebreds stand at an average height of 15 to 16 hands (about 60 to 64 inches, or 152 to 163 cm) and weigh between 1,000 to 1,200 pounds. They have a short, strong back and a rounder barrel compared to most light breeds. The long, slender, and well-arched neck of the Saddlebred blends smoothly into a well-defined shoulder, giving the breed a sculpted and sloping appearance.

These horses are easily distinguishable by their expressive eyes and small, refined heads. Their overall appearance exudes elegance and refinement, which is further highlighted by their high-stepping action and graceful movement.

Saddlebreds are known for their ability to learn and perform the fifth gait known as the rack and are often shown in competition in divisions such as Five-Gaited, Three-Gaited, Fine Harness, and Pleasure. Grooming for competition includes full manes and tails, showcasing the breed’s natural beauty and elegance.

In terms of temperament, American Saddlebreds are friendly and gentle, making them ideal companions for riders of all skill levels. They are intelligent and willing to learn, which contributes to their popularity in both pleasure riding and competitive disciplines.


In conclusion, the American Saddlebred is a captivating breed with a combination of characteristics that make them well-suited for various equine disciplines. Their elegance, grace, and powerful movement are testaments to the breed’s refined conformation, while their gentle and friendly nature makes them ideal partners for riders of all levels. Whether used for pleasure riding or in the show ring, the American Saddlebred never fails to demonstrate its versatility and charm, solidifying its place as a beloved breed in the world of horses.