Racing History of the American Saddlebred

Although most people know that the American Saddlebred horse was developed in Missouri, most people don`t realize that this breed can trace its roots to horses from the United Kingdom.

The American Saddlebred horse is descended from the Galloway and Hobby horses that once lived in the British Isles. In the old literature from Chaucer`s time period, these agile, ambling horses were often referred to as palfreys.

The Hobbies and Galloways were natural pacers and small enough and comfortable enough to ride long distances over rough terrains. The British immigrants brought their horses with them to America and the hardy little horses thrived in their new environment.

In the 1600s, breeders in the Narragansett Bay region of Rhode Island began selectively breeding these horses, eventually developing a new line called Narragansett Pacers. The Narragansett Pacers were extremely surefooted, needed little food and could run long distances quickly without becoming fatigued.

This breed proved to be an invaluable mount for soldiers of the Revolutionary War. Paul Revere is rumored to have ridden a Narragansett Pacer when he made his famous ride to warn the Americans that the British were coming.

The Narragansetts made their way across the rest of the colonies, including Kentucky, where they called the breed the Kentucky Saddler. But once the American colonies became more settled and roads were created, Americans turned to carriage horses and the hardy Narragansett Pacer diminished in popularity.

During the early 1700s, horse breeders started crossing the Narragansett breed with the thoroughbreds coming over from England. The thoroughbred line was developed by crossing Hobby and Galloway mares with stallions bred in the Middle East. This new breed was simply called “the American Horse.”

The American Horse retained the stamina, quick learning ability and the easy gait of the Narragansett Pacer. Its thoroughbred ancestors contributed enhanced beauty and increased size.

People rode the American Horse and used it to work on plantations and to pull carriages. This breed was valued for its beauty, stamina, strength and temperament.

By the time the Mexican War occurred in 1846, the breed was called the American Saddlebred. Entire companies of American Southerners rode these horses to fight Mexican soldiers.

This breed gained fame during the American Civil War, serving as mounts for various famous generals, including Lee, Grant, Sherman and Stonewall. The Confederate horses were mostly privately owned and General Grant allowed the Rebels to keep their horses once General Lee surrendered.

Grant`s action is believed to have saved the breed. The Confederate Army veterans took their prized Saddlebreds back home and the breed continued to grow in popularity. These horses were officially declared a breed in 1891 with the establishment of the American Saddlebred Horse Association.

Today`s American Saddlebred horses are perhaps best known for being the ultimate show horse. Members of this breed have beauty, style and elegance as they perform the different gaits.

These horses also excel outside of the traditional show arena. American Saddlebreds succeed in a wide range of equine disciplines, including dressage, barrel racing, endurance and jumping. They also make excellent cattle horses, carriage horses and even trail horses because of their comfortable, easy gait and even temperament.

The breed has even made its mark in Hollywood, being favored by many stars during the golden age of television. A few of the most famous American Saddlebreds include Mr. Ed of talking horse fame, Roy Roger`s horse, Trigger and the Lone Ranger`s horse, Silver.

Some American Saddlebred horses are also fast enough to do well on the racing circuit.

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The research for this article was provided by Free Racing Tips. Keep an eye on how your favorite racehorse is doing at