American Saddlebred Bloodlines for Sport Horse Disciplines
by Julie Lynn Andrew
It is undoubtedly the highest goal a breeder of American Saddlebreds can aspire to: raising a foal that grows up to wear the roses on the green shavings of Louisville- the World’s Championships. Sport Horse breeders aspire to win at the World’s Championships also. However, these competitions really are open to the entire horse world, and are held only once every four years. They are the Olympics. Think the Saddlebred isn’t suited for this work? Think again. The Saddlebred, through the Army Remounts, and private purchase, was the one of the breeds of choice for the American teams starting at the turn of the century, until Imported Warmbloods replaced him. Today, the breed remains an amazing resource waiting for re-discovery. The Dutch, German, and Swedish breeders, amongst others, have imported American Saddlebreds, some from the very lines that do wear those roses, for inclusion into their genepools. The time has come to look again at a true athlete; the American Saddlebred sport horse.
When we think of the gifts that the Saddlebred is blessed with that are traditionally considered as show horse qualities, we look for motion (use of the shoulders, as well as the lower leg), hocks (use of the hindquarters), gameness (toughness and drive), a horse that “thinks right” (a great attitude, and more) wears themselves right (sets up correctly in a bridle) wears their ears right (bright attitude). All of these are also the attributes of a competitive quality sport horse or show horse: they are the traits of an athlete. The older type of European Warmbloods, those enormous “stump pullers” of the Olympics of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s are disappearing. In their place is a lighter warmblood type- an amateur or ladies mount, if you will. The American Saddlebred, with his ancestry partly in Thoroughbred lines, shares this influence with the updated models of European Warmblood. The majority of those horses competing successfully at the National and International level horses are at least fifty percent- or more- Thoroughbred blood.
Sport horse owners typically work their horses on their own; either shipping in for a lesson or clinic, or boarding at a facility where they can takes lessons as needed or desired. Having a horse that works with you, as a Saddlebred will, naturally lends itself to this work. As they progress up through the hierarchy of a competitive discipline, instructors and horses commensurate with the level of the competition are necessary for success. Progress of improving one competitive level a year is the standard, and in most disciplines, there are many tiers to the levels. These are partnerships that learn and grow together. Thus, sport horse owners tend to offer long term, high quality homes to these horses. Many owners are content to achieve lower level competence, and just enjoy their horses’ versatility- cross-country hacks and occasional competition. For sport horse work any tendency toward a more upright hoof capsule, or lordosis, is considered a negative. While there are always niches that a good minded, but less than talented, show horse prospect can fill, such as pleasure riding and driving, the caliber of partner required by these competitors is more stringent. A horse that can successfully complete the enormous obstacles in a stadium jumping competition, a cross country driving course, an endurance test, or the show the brilliance necessary to pursue FEI level dressage cannot have any shortage of gameness, athleticism.
What types of horses can do sport horse work? Essentially, any horse can do Dressage work. However, just as there are many horses that can perform five gaits, not all of them are going to be truly competitive at it. For the most part, the conformation and movement that we tend to associate with the horses most suited to being five gaited prospects mirror the image that is best suited to Sport Horse disciplines. A bigger horse (averaging sixteen hands or a bit more), with quality of feet, bone, and joints is helpful. Useful, yet strong, angles in their hindquarters and longer movement across the ground, is desired, as opposed to being the more hingey and park trotting walk-trot and harness types. A stride with motion and suspension or “hang time” is extremely desirable, especially in the competitive and lucrative Dressage prospect market. These Sport Horses must be able to work “long and low”; stretch their head and neck down and lift their backs. Ideally, these horses are what Saddlebred trainers refer to as slightly “forward headed” which should not be confused with “straight necked”; a more extreme and low neckset. What Sport Horse aficionados refer to as a horse being built “uphill” (higher in their withers than the point of their croup) is almost a conformational constant for the Saddlebred- in other words the ASB’s “forward headed” is the Sport Horse worlds’ ideal. It is always possible that horses that are more upheaded or extremely forward headed may develop into quality dressage, event, or jumpers- and always can make fabulous using horses for many other pursuits- but as with a young show horse- it is easier to start closer to the ideal. Just as with American Saddlebred show horses- a better understanding of bloodlines helps in the search for the best quality prospects.
First, we know that the American Saddlebred represents one of the most diverse and phenotypically (physical type) prepotent genepools in existence. The influence of stallions such as Kalarama Rex, Anacacho Demark, Edna May’s King, Stonewall King, American Ace, Bourbon Genius, Captain Courageous, Rex Peavine, Sun Beau, and through them, sons and daughters make the breed what it is today. We look to each of these families for particular qualities, even though generations have crossed and modified the essence of these great horses. Traditionally, savvy breeders consider the mare to impart as much as seventy-percent of the outcome in the creation of a foals’ makeup. Hence, we must strongly consider great maternal lines when we evaluate a pedigree. With the understanding that it is always, at the end of the day, the individual that makes the difference, lets look at some of the most popular show horse lines to see what their influence offers for sport horse work.
For quality of bone, athleticism, size, gameness, and type of movement Wing Commander is hard to beat in a sport horse pedigree. Through sons and grandsons such as Yorktown, Wing’s Fleet Admiral, High Rank, Center Ring, Flight Time, Mr. Magic Man, Callaway’s Johnny Gillen and New Yorker, Jamestown, Courageous Admiral, Will Shriver and Grape Tree’s Fox, his presence continues to be felt. Whether on the top or bottom side of the mix, his is undoubtedly the most welcome addition to find for the sport horse disciplines. When doubled up, and close up in the pedigree, these bloodlines express themselves more vividly, and individuals with enormous potential can result. Therefore, broodmare sires of these lines with high percentages of WC producing daughters to their credit are worth noting. Thirty-eight percent of the daughters of Wing himself produced World Champions. From New Yorker, an astonishing forty-six percent, Mr. Magic Man, (31%), Jamestown, (27%), Flight Time (15%), Grape Tree’s Fox, (19%), and Buck and Wing, (24%), Yorktown daughters tie the old man (38%).
These descendants each offer something a little different in a pedigree. For example Courageous Admiral may have been on the smaller side, but his beauty and proportion, and ability to “trot in a high class fashion” can still be seen in his get and descendants. While Flight Time, in his day, sired as many horses as any stallion out there, only a handful of show horses regarded as being truly great resulted. Yet, as a broodmare sire, his presence is of importance. Chief of Greystone- a big horse, yet low backed, sired the brilliant five gaited stallion, Attache, who is perhaps, not the least volatile horse to find in the family. Sunset Commander, at sixteen hands, was bred to the purple, and brought a lot of heart to his babies. Of course, Mr. Magic Man, a big horse of great beauty, offers high quality on either top or bottom of your horses’ papers. Buck and Wing has been described as short and punchy, however, crossed on today’s larger stretchier types, much can be made with the Wing Commander connection. Yorktown has blessed many of his sons and daughters with quality of underpinnings, bone and size, and the ability to transmit these qualities to their offspring.
From Anacacho Denmark, come descendants of great influence on the breed. While Anacacho Denmark’s record as a broodmare sire is not impressive, as a sire of broodmare sires, he is phenomenal. Remarkable stallions such as Oman’s Desdamona Denmark, Denmark’s Bourbon Genius, and Americus Denmark, and Hideaway’s Wild Country have produced a legacy of greatness; through both their male and female descendants. Produce of the daughters of these three horses have produced respectively, 28%, 23%, 20%, and 20%. Their records as sires of performance horses are no less impressive. The presence of these horses in a set of papers for a sport horse offers the opportunity for diversifying a pedigree, while maintaining brilliance.
The King’s Genius great-grandson Valley View Supreme offers beauty, ridability, and refinement through his son, Supreme Sultan, and his grandsons like Status Symbol, The Rambler, and Champagne Fizz. The same magic cross- Wing Commander on Sultan or vice versa- that has given us so many World Champion show horses lends itself well to this arena. The strength that these horses have in the bases of their necks, as well as in the loins area makes them fabulous for show horse work, but can be awkward for Sport Horse work. In these disciplines, it is necessary for the horse to pick up the base of their neck, and loin, and be flexible in these areas. One cross to Sultan in these pedigrees can be helpful; more, perhaps less so. However, with the Saddlebreds’ desire to please and inherent trainability, very few obstacles deter him. The Status Symbol horses have a reputation for being almost too easy to bring along, and we have The Rambler who was “game as the devil” and harder to find in today’s breeding, Supreme Spirit, out of the brilliant Wing Commander sister, Dream Waltz, offers gameness and athleticism. Other horses from the King’s Genius line, Shoreacre’s Anacacho Genius, Greenway Commander, and Mountain Highland Memories, bring size, gameness, and talent to any pedigree, and no less to this work.
As a broodmare sire, sons of Valley View Supreme are, of course, exceptional. Sultan, (30%), Santana (10%), Longview Supreme, (30%), Supreme Spirit (33%), Status Symbol, (18%), Sandalwood Supreme (14%), the linebred Sovereign Path (16%), The Supreme Look (13%), The Great One (16%), are excellent examples. As mentioned earlier, these horses work best when found in conjunction with Wing Commander descendants. Horses such as Supreme Spirit, and The Rambler offer brilliant crosses of the King’s Genius lines. Preferred Property get offer beauty, athleticism and gameness to the top or bottom of a sport horses’ papers. Daughters of Preferred Property (13%) and The Rambler (27%) also bring brilliance to a pedigree. The big beautiful Royal Rambler is also a marvelous broodmare sire (21%).
Stonewall Kings’ influence is dramatic; either on the top or bottom of a set of papers. As the patriarch of sires of unbelievable producers and performance horses, he is as important to the show horse legacy as he is to sport horses. These horses mirror the imported warmbloods in that they are late bloomers, and can be great performers for a long time. Their quality of bone, and durability, make them especially desirable for sport horse disciplines. Many have a reputation for being horses that do not tolerate force happily; they require patience. While many of the Kalu horses are known for their inconsistency and sometimes difficult temperaments, they can also be game and useful in a pedigree. From this line, Captive Spirit, brings size and gameness to his get. Stonewall Supreme, the big bay horse who was blind in one eye, was a very game big horse, and many of his descendants show these qualities. Mountjoys Premier Starheart, a big horse at 17 hands, and linebred to Stonewall King, has proven himself a “premier” broodmare sire (17%), Mountjoys Big Hit, also a big horse, has thrown talent and size. Stonewall’s Main Event (13%), a big stout pretty son of Starheart Stonewall (11%), earned a reputation for throwing quality, however, for gameness and a more ground covering trot, a balance needs to be established in the breeding. As an example of the quality of these horses as broodmare sires, Stonewall’s Magnificent Genius (17%), Stonewall’s Beau Peavine, (21%), Stonewall Supreme (24%), and Stonewall’s Crescendo, at eighteen percent, bear out the strength of the family’s influence.
The descendants of Diamond Denmark, most particularly through the half thoroughbred, Montrose, offer great stamina, wonderful movement, strong hocks, and quality bone. The full brothers, Beau Fortune, and Beau Gallant, have each, in their own right, founded dynasties. It is through Gallant Guy O’ Goshen (21%), the pretty, game and prepotent sire, that their line is probably best represented in sport horse breeding.
Finally, the Rex Peavine line, most prominently through Kalarama Rex, offers sport horse breeders horses of great beauty and substance. Society Rex, noted as a handsome and refined horse of his day, reigns as a brilliant sire of sires. Through the get of his sons, Night of Folly, Society Mastermind, and Special Society, horses of athleticism, size, and beauty are available. Through Vanity’s Sensation (15%), Broadland’s Kilarney (11%), and Spring Valley’s Deliverance (10%), this line is carried through to today.
This outline of bloodlines only touches on the great horses of the past, and their influence on the show horses and sport horses of the present, and future. The illusive “X” factor; that indefinable quality that some horses have that defines them and sets them apart for greatness can appear in any of the multitude of combinations of these lines. The individual, as stated before, is always the deciding factor. The great horses of the past showed immense durability and versatility. From the earliest American Saddlebreds who proudly and courageously carried their officers into battle, come our beautiful Saddlebreds of today- still ready and willing to meet any challenge we ask of them. Perhaps we should challenge ourselves as well, to find each and every one of the 2500 horses registered each year a high quality, caring, long-term home. No breed rivals these horses for attitude, athleticism and beauty the sport horse disciplines offer the perfect marketing outlet for these horses. For more information, please visit www.americansaddlebredsporthorse.net, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information and help with this article was provided by David Mountjoy, Patricia Last, Longshadows Farm, and Dr. Steven Passman. Thank You !