What Do American Saddlebred Horses Eat: A Comprehensive Guide

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on “What Do American Saddlebred Horses Eat”. As a horse owner, it’s crucial to ensure your horse’s diet is healthy and balanced. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the dietary requirements of American Saddlebred horses and provide you with all the information you need to keep your horse healthy and happy. So, let’s dive in!

American Saddlebred Horse Overview

A saddlebred horse grazing in the pasture with a vivid blue sky in the background

Breed History

The American Saddlebred horse is an all-American breed with roots dating back to the earliest days of the United States. The breed developed in Kentucky, where it was originally known as the “Kentucky Saddler.” Its ancestors include the thoroughbred, the Narragansett Pacer, the Canadian Pacer, and the Galloway, a now-extinct Scottish breed. The breed played a significant role in American history, used by both sides during the Civil War and by early settlers during the American Revolution.

Breed Characteristics

An American Saddlebred horse typically has elegant, stylish features that are prized by the riding and driving communities. With a wide range of coat colors, including bay, black, chestnut, gray, and pinto, these horses are known for their beauty and grace. As for their height, Saddlebreds usually stand between 15 and 17 hands, showcasing their long legs and arched, high-set necks.

Their head and tail carriage express attitude and confidence, while a prominent and well-rounded croup further accentuates their distinctive appearance. Although primarily known as show horses, they have gentle and versatile temperaments, making them suitable for both pleasure riding and performance sports.

Gaits and Performance

American Saddlebred horses are a unique breed of gaited horses that boast additional, smooth gaits beyond the typical walk, trot, and canter. These additional gaits include the slow gait and rack, which are both highly impressive to witness. The slow gait is a four-beat gait that requires the horse to be highly collected, resulting in exaggerated suspension between footfalls. Meanwhile, the rack is a rapid and high-stepping four-beat gait that showcases the horse’s impressive speed, style, and action.

In the show ring, American Saddlebred horses often compete in saddle seat, riding, driving, and pleasure classes. They can be three-gaited or five-gaited, referring to the number of performed gaits. Their class, elegance, and athleticism make them a popular choice in both English and Western disciplines.

American Saddlebreds are well known for their performances in saddle seat riding, a style of English riding that focuses on showcasing the horse’s gaits, beauty, and high-stepping action. Riders often wear traditional English-style attire, and the horses are groomed with particular attention to their mane, tail, and coat. Additionally, the breed has been popular in other disciplines such as pleasure driving, a style that involves the horse and driver performing together in a carriage or cart.

The adaptable nature of the American Saddlebred has made it a versatile breed, able to excel in many equestrian disciplines. They are a prominent part of the equestrian community and have even captured the attention of celebrities, showcased on the big screen during Hollywood’s golden age.

As for the American Saddlebred’s diet, the breed generally thrives on a combination of grass, hay, and a feed concentrate appropriate for their activity level source. Proper nutrition is essential in maintaining their health, performance, and overall well-being.

Feeding and Nutrition

Beautiful saddlebred horses graze in open grassy field

Diet and Feed Concentrate

American Saddlebred horses require a balanced and nutritious diet to maintain their health and perform well. The primary ingredients in their diet include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Feed concentrates, which are often provided by commercial feed companies, are designed to meet the nutritional needs of these horses source. It’s essential to ensure that the chosen feed concentrate aligns with the specific needs of the individual horse, taking into account factors like age, activity level, and health status.

Hay and Grass

Hay and grass make up the majority of an American Saddlebred horse’s diet. These sources of forage provide essential nutrients such as protein, energy, vitamins, minerals, and fiber source. Offering a variety of high-quality hay and access to grass pastures can help ensure that these horses receive the necessary nutrients for optimal health and performance. It is crucial to monitor the quality and amount of hay and grass consumed, as too little can lead to nutritional deficiencies, while too much can cause obesity or other health issues.

Vitamins and Supplements

In addition to a balanced diet consisting of feed concentrates, hay, and grass, some American Saddlebred horses may require additional vitamins and supplements to maintain optimal health. These can be particularly useful in addressing specific nutritional needs or supporting overall health, such as joint health and digestive support source. It’s essential to consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to determine the appropriate vitamins and supplements for each individual horse.

When feeding an American Saddlebred horse, it’s crucial to consider their unique dietary requirements and individual needs. By providing a balanced diet consisting of feed concentrate, hay, and grass, along with any necessary vitamins and supplements, owners can ensure their horses maintain optimal health and perform at their highest potential.

Training and Horse Care

Saddlebred horse enjoying sun outdoors

Training Techniques

American Saddlebred horses are known for their high-stepping action and captivating presence. Training techniques for these horses focus on enhancing their natural abilities and conformation. School horses are often used to help young or inexperienced riders learn proper riding techniques. A well-structured training program includes groundwork, lunging, and riding exercises, while always keeping the horse’s temperament and individual needs in mind.

Grooming and Hoof Care

Grooming is an essential aspect of caring for an American Saddlebred horse. Regular brushing and conditioning of the mane and tail help prevent knots and tangles, keeping the hair free-flowing and healthy. Hoof care is equally important, as their hooves play a vital role in their high-stepping action. Routine trimming, cleaning, and maintaining proper moisture balance ensures the horse’s hooves remain in good condition.

Health Issues and Prevention

American Saddlebred horses can be prone to certain health issues, such as stifle and hock lameness. Preventative measures, including regular exercise, appropriate nutrition, and close monitoring, can help minimize the risk of these health issues. A balanced diet for American Saddlebred horses should include water, energy (fats and carbohydrates), protein, vitamins, and minerals, as well as providing them with ample forage from sources such as hay or grass.

In conclusion, with proper training, grooming, and care, American Saddlebred horses can reach their full potential as captivating, high-stepping performers. By understanding the unique needs of these horses, owners and trainers can provide the necessary support to ensure these horses remain happy, healthy, and thriving.

American Saddlebred Horse Uses

A saddleberd horse herd grazing in the meadow on the farm

Show and Competition

American Saddlebred horses are versatile and excel in various show and competition settings. One of the most notable aspects of this breed is their ability to perform as a five-gaited horse, showcasing unique gaits beyond the typical walk, trot, and canter. Their elegance and athleticism make them ideal for the show ring.

These horses often compete in English riding disciplines, such as Fine Harness and Park classes. Exhibiting an elevated trot and bold canter, they capture the attention of spectators and judges alike. American Saddlebreds are also used in combined driving, a type of carriage driving competition that tests the horse’s stamina, obedience, and athleticism.

Pleasure and Recreational Riding

Despite their animated and competitive nature, American Saddlebreds are well-suited for pleasure and recreational riding. Their smooth gaits and gentle disposition make them a popular choice for riders of all levels. Moreover, they excel in both English and Western riding styles, showcasing their versatility.

In addition to pleasure riding, these horses often participate in jumping and dressage events. As agile and strong athletes, American Saddlebreds are capable of performing gracefully in these disciplines, highlighting their diverse skillset.

Crossbreeding and Popular Offspring

Crossbreeding American Saddlebreds with other horse breeds has led to the development of popular offspring that inherit the best traits of their parent breeds. Historically, the breed was developed by crossing Thoroughbreds with the now-extinct Narragansett Pacer.

Today, crossbreeding American Saddlebreds with Arabian horses is common. This pairing results in a graceful and athletic horse well-suited for a range of disciplines. Similarly, crossing an American Saddlebred with a Morgan horse produces offspring known for their excellent movement, strength, and versatility.

The American Saddlebred Horse Association promotes the breed and supports responsible breeding programs. This organization encourages breeders to maintain the breed’s characteristics while exploring opportunities for improvement by selectively crossbreeding with other breeds. This process has contributed to the development of various offspring that showcase the desirable traits of their lineage.

What Do American Saddlebred Horses Like to Eat

A saddleberd mare grazing at the round bale feeder

American Saddlebred horses, a breed developed from a combination of native American horse breeds such as the Morgan, Thoroughbred, and Standardbred, require a nutritious diet to maintain their vigor, style, and overall health. These horses are primarily used for riding and driving, making it essential for them to receive the right nutrients to support their activities.

A balanced diet for an American Saddlebred typically consists of forage, such as hay or grass, and concentrated feeds. Hay or grass should make up the majority of their diet, constituting about 1-2% of their body weight daily. Hay should be clean and free from mold or dust to ensure its quality and safety. Additionally, supplementing their diet with alfalfa hay can provide them with valuable protein and essential vitamins and minerals.

Grains and concentrates are equally important, providing horses with energy and enhancing their performance. Common sources include oats, barley, corn, and pelleted feeds. These should be given in smaller amounts than forage, as excess amounts can lead to obesity and other health problems. It is essential to adjust the amount of concentrates according to the horse’s work intensity and needs.

Adding supplements to an American Saddlebred’s diet can help maintain their overall health and well-being. Some common supplements include vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes. It is crucial to consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist before providing any supplements to ensure they are necessary and safe for the horse.

Like all horses, American Saddlebreds must have access to clean, fresh water at all times. They can consume up to 10 gallons of water per day, and it is essential to monitor their water intake closely to ensure they are staying hydrated.


In conclusion, a healthy and balanced diet is crucial for American Saddlebred horses to maintain their energy, performance, and overall health. Their diet should primarily consist of high-quality forage, appropriate amounts of concentrated feeds, and supplements deemed necessary by an equine professional. Moreover, providing constant access to clean water is essential to keep these horses hydrated and healthy. By ensuring that American Saddlebreds receive proper nutrition, owners and caretakers can promote their well-being and enable them to excel in various equestrian activities.