Early Days

Saddlebreds as Sport Horses

Having grown up showing American Saddlebreds in the discipline of saddleseat, my transition to eventing definitely has been an adjustment! (Part me is still sure that chains and bungees could benefit dressage and jumping…but I digress). Especially in southern California, I have been sad although not surprised by the utter lack of American Saddlebreds out in the eventing field. I haven’t run across even one, though I’ve run into a few look-alikes and asked the owners if their horses are full or part saddlebred. They laugh at me and say they are thoroughbreds. Ha ha. 

I think that American Saddlebreds have many amazing qualities and could be very suitable in all the sport horse disciplines. There are several successful sporthorse Saddlebreds out there to prove it – Harry Callahan is the most well known, competing in Dressage at Grand Prix level. Unfortunately there aren’t very many out in California, at least not that I’ve come across (and believe me, I’m always on the look out). 
Harry Callahan – the first American Saddlebred to grace the cover of USDF Connection  magazine.
I’d like to applaud a program that just completed its inaugural year – the American Saddlebred Registry’s Sport Horse Incentive Program recognizing and rewarding full or half Saddlebred horses competing in the FEI disciplines (Distance, Dressage, Driving, Eventing, Hunter/Jumper, In-Hand). Congratulations to the first batch of winners, found here!  The only thing I dislike about the program is that it requires the horses to be registered, meaning that non-papered horses such as rescues are excluded. For example: Mikey, the rescue who went on to compete at some east coast HTs after recovering from serious neglect and malnutrition. 
Mikey at his first Horse Trials.
A special shout out to the only Eventer on the winner’s list – Ms. Lisa Bauman on her full American Saddlebred named Arvo (Giving You The Business). I’ve watched videos of them on YouTube before, and I look forward to following her adventures at her blog, Austin Eventing, which she just recently started. Here’s a link to their  Video Page as well. CONGRATS! Here’s a video of them competing Training level:
Why do I think Saddlebreds are good sport horses? Well if the above photo and video evidence doesn’t convince you (after all – that’s only 3 horses representing an entire breed here), let me list the top 5 qualities of American Saddlebreds (yes, these are generalizations) that lend well to Eventing and other sport horse disciplines:
  1. Intelligence
  2. Eagerness to please
  3. Grace
  4. Upward build + neck extending up (not out) from chest
  5. Athleticism
So those are my reasons. There’s exceptions of course, but most Saddlebreds I’ve met have these qualities. 
Another discussion I will have to save for a different day is a comparison of the off-the-track Thoroughbred (OTTB) programs against the currently non-existent off-the-saddleseat-show-circuit Saddlebred programs. Not to mention how Saddlebred breeding has been going in a certain direction in the last few decades – one that does not focus on sport horse suitability. This is strongly tied to the emerging cross breeding phenomenon: Georgian Grandes, National Show Horses, and the pretty recent Warmblood crossing. Pretty fascinating to the Cultural Anthropology researcher in me. =) 

5 comments on “Saddlebreds as Sport Horses

  1. Yay! Glad to see another “off-breed” getting some recognition :) Kudos to their riders for being able to break out of the “mold”. Sometimes it gets hard to try to defend your choice to others (you bought a WHAT???), but all the more rewarding when you are successful.


  2. Erin Halley's Redford is 1/2 Saddlebred (I believe the other 1/2 is Oldenburg), competing at Training level here in Area VI :)


  3. Thanks for the hot Saddlebred tip – I'll keep an eye out for them!


  4. I am Harry Callahan's former owner. He is now in Washington state and is owned by Wendi Montgomery. This past weekend, he just earned Catherine Reid, his trainer, the 2 scores at Grand Prix that she needed to receive her USDF Gold Medal. This was Catherines first time showing Grand Prix. He is a wonderful example of what an ASB with good training can do in the sport horse arena.



  5. Hi Linda,
    Thanks so much for sharing the Harry Callahan update, and for all of your efforts with him which have helped to promote the versatility of the ASB! Glad to hear that he is still going strong at Grand Prix level!


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