Over at the trot forum--a Saddlebred forum--there are a couple discussions about marketing Saddlebreds to non-traditional, non-saddleseat markets.
For those of you who start and train youngsters, would you consider a Saddlebred? What would influence you one way or the other?
For competitors of all levels, would you consider a Saddlebred? And what would influence you one way or the other?
Let's say the seller has photos and videos and lists the horse as a sport-horse prospect--would you even bother to look, or would you skip over the ad for more acceptable and/or common sport-horse breeds?
Everyone says a good horse is a good horse (just like a good horse is never a bad color) but we all have our preferences. If you have a TB preference, or a warmblood preference, how can we get you to look at our Saddlebreds?
Proud Member of the League of Weenie Eventers
Proud Member of the Courageous Weenie Eventers Clique
We look for phenotypes, not genotypes, so Yeah, we'd consider. We run a lot of non-typical horses. However, there's a REASON that TB's and WB's comprise most of eventing horses, just like there's a REASON that reining horses are mostly 14.2 hand QH's -- they've been bred for the demands, selectively, and unless you have an outstanding outcrop in another breed they're just not going to compete at the top. So, for novice prospect, maybe. For advanced prospect, sorry, no. Doesn't mean they can't, just means there are so many good prospects out there I'll often cull arbitrarily.
That said, we did event a saddlebred 20 years or so. Wonderful family horse, the girls grew up on him and Megan was winning canter classes in double bridle on him when she was 7 years old. He never did like to jump tho, and I suspect a lot of that was the upright neck high on the shoulder and the flat croup (first things I look for in an event prospect are neck, neck set, and a big powerful rounded croup).
Your best bet for non-traditional breeds is to have something that is already going in the discipline to which you want to market. You are unlikely to attract people wanting "prospects" because they tend to go after the kind of horse that traditionally succeeds at whatever they are trying to do.
As someone who has shown Saddlebreds in the 3'6 jumpers, I think they are great horses for lower-level eventing. They are generally calm and easygoing, pick up dressage well as they are light on the forehand and not too hot, and have nice technique. The ones I rode could be strong over fences, but were ratable -- just enthusiastic. That's the kind of horse I like to ride.
The biggest challenge is stride length. IME, the ones I worked with could do the strides, but you have to be going at a much faster clip than most amateurs are comfortable with. TBs often have to be going at a quicker rate than WBs or ISHs to have the same stride, and the Saddlebreds I have experience with need even more pace to have a smooth round. I'm sure there are plenty with nice big strides, but you'll have to prove it to buyers.
That said, I would consider buying one for a keeper horse -- very fun, sweet horses. I would not buy for resale as I prefer to buy traditional (big, bay TBs or WBs) for that purpose.
3 years ago I bought a Saddlebred/ Percheron X as a yearling. As an eventer, my friends thought I'd lost my mind. Saddle breds have a reputation for being kind of flighty and psycho, so I was a little nervous myself
I chose her because she had excellent confirmation for what I want to do (eventing and low level dressage) She has long legs, and nice short back, an amazing hip and a pretty nice shoulder.
The mix doesn't sound good....I am constantly being asked if she was an accidental breeding or a PMU (she is neither) However, she is very smart, quiet and brave. I have heard that the intelligenceis typical of saddlebreds. I wouldn't say she is spooky, but she is inquistive and will shy a little at the unexpected..that is her "big" spook, which is awesome considering that sheis not yet 4!
I think the biggest thing in terms of marketing ASB's to sport horse people is getting us past our preconcieved notions and prejuidices. THe more ASB and ASB X's that do well in eventing and dressage, the easier this will be!
Really, not much would get me to even consider a Saddlebred, especially as a prospect, unless I happened to just see it, it was knocking my socks off, and THEN I found out it was a Saddlebred (and then, I don't know what I would think...). I have dealt with Saddlebreds and SB crosses. They are nice horses, but I think that a SB that would go where I want to go (UL), would be the exception rather than the rule. They aren't bred to be jumpers, they are bred to be saddle horses, and modern day ones are showy, all action, and rather refined and "fragile" looking (I don't know how fragile they really are, but again, without any track record for the breed running and jumping at speed, that would be just another turn off for me). So, they tend to fall in the same category as draft crosses for me...they have their use, and I have no doubt that they can and do perform at the lower levels. However, that's not what I'm looking for.
There's a reason a reason I choose TBs and TB crosses time and again. They are proven, solid, performers in my sport. They have the jump, the scope, the speed, the endurance, and the movement that I want. I'm always going to look there first for a new horse. It is going to take a lot for me (and I dare say most people who regularly compete at the ULs or with real aspirations to do so), to look at a very non-traditional breed.
I agree w/secretariat. If there happened to be a Saddlebred, Akhal-Teke, Lipizzaner, Fell pony or any other breed that was right for the job I wanted it to do, I'd have a look at it.
However, if I was shopping for an event horse, given the fact that time is limited, I'd probably not make my first stop at a Saddlebred barn.
As to ads stating a horse is a "sport horse prospect", that means precisely NOTHING to me. ALL horses are "prospects". And sellers are inclined to overstate an animal's potential more often than not. If I had a nickel for every "10 mover" I've seen mentioned in an advertisement, I'd be a WHOLE lot richer than if I had a nickel for every ACTUAL "10 mover" I've seen in reality.
To get me to look at a Saddlebred for eventing, the horse should be out walking the walk--competing and doing so successfully at the level I'm interested in. Honest and uncomplicated XC, a good mover, and athletic and enthusiastic about the job. For a young horse, I'd want to know what the parents have done, and I'd want to see the animal move. A lot of action is not necessarily going to be desirable in an event horse, who needs to be efficient and easy on itself. OTOH, an uphill build and a great trot have their place.
My driving prospect (I don't own her yet but have first dibs and I want her really badly!) is part Saddlebred and part Welsh Cob. She's gorgeous, has a wonderful uphill build and lots of action. Maybe not a horse I'd look at and think "eventer" but for combined driving I think she'll be great. I have no qualms about any particular breed, but the horse has to be built for the job.
I've run into a couple of Saddlebreds who were outrageously good jumpers--a bit unorthodox (deer-like) in style, but just full of fun. I've never known a Saddlebred personally, but a friend who rides park seat told me that, compared to park Morgans and Arabs, Saddlebreds really get into their jobs--they enjoy strutting their stuff.
AND the reason I'm posting now is because there is a MAGNIFICENT Saddlebred competing at the FL Horse Park this weekend. Very typey: big, elegant, powerful and with a lovely jump (I only saw it take one jump, but it was nice!).
In showjumping there was one in the la olympics. Met another retired gp sj a few years ago.
I evented one, she was fabulous fabulous fabulous. At novice. She was a 5 gaited one, built like a limo and couldn't conformationally do a real lengthed trot so we stuck with novice. A lady competed 2, prelim and int.
One friend has one going prelim currently.
Look, a few are space cadets but a ton are super smart and willing. Think about it, to put up with all that crap that the saddleseat people do to them and saddleseat isn't the deadliest sport? Horses have to be nice.
I would definitely, hands down, go look at one. If it had boogly eyes, forget it.
Most folks don't admit that they are competing a funky horse. I've been quite a few people that secretly told me they have a pmu horse or an amish reject (to relate to me) and told everyone, including buyers that they were irish or cleveland bay crosses. There is some prejudice out there but if the horse can do it's job, who cares? Just for resale and the horse isn't uber nice, you're going to have a problem or lie.
I've ridden a lot of Saddlebreds, both Saddleseat (english pleasure, never actually rode one of the real park horses), AND I evented one! Some general observations: They tend to have flat croups, like many arabs. Their canters are not their best gait, and can get strung out. They can have, erm, unorthodox jumping styles.
Having said that, the ones I have known have fabulous minds, are smart and willing to learn, and I understand they are purpose-breeding horses that have better croup angles and better canters. I would consider one if one was presented to me. In fact, had I been looking at the time, I would have bought the one I actually evented.
For the record, my objection to them isn't their brains (The ones I've known have been wicked smart, similar to Arabs, and sweet), but it is more the purpose the breed has been developed for over the years. HiJumpGrrl kinda sent it home for me...if a horse doesn't have a nice canter, I'm not going to really give it a second look for an UL prospect.
If the breed assoc. can get them out in the eventing world and they take it by storm, then I'd reconsider, but I'm not going to take a chance on a breed that isn't meant to run and jump.
I do want to say that if I was looking for a lower level horse for one of our kids or ammies and someone had a nice horse doing its job and it happened to be a Saddlebred, I wouldn't think twice to go look at it.
I have a bizarre Saddlebred cross -- he's SB x TB x Belgian -- who hunted for ever and did Prelim to age 19. Excellent, excellent jumper and unbelievably safe. He's long-backed and long-necked and can do a huge trot with his head straight up in the air like an SB. Which did not impress even one dressage judge ever.
Would I look at a Saddlebred? Of course I would. I know some SBs that are just great all-around horses and I've known others that jumped really well. The ones I've met are generally smart and unflappable, which is always a good thing.
Chuck Grant used to recommend the Saddlebred for dressage, IIRC.
I never thought I'd look at a saddlebred for eventing...or a saddlebred for anything, for that matter...but the first horse I bought for myself as an adult was...a saddlebred It happened by chance -- I got into eventing, and ended up falling in with a great group of folks who happened to be eventing saddlebreds, or using them for other sporthorse disciplines. Where I boarded there were 3 full saddlebreds and 2 half-saddlebreds who evented or did dressage. I was impressed by the inteligence and athletic ability of the ASBs, and greatly enjoyed eventing mine...and I was heartbroken when I had to retire him this year after an injury. Would I look at anotherone? Sure...and there are some VERY nice ASB crosses out there (for some nice examples, check out the Flying W Farms website - www.flyingwfarms.com)
There was an article in Practical Horseman a few years ago about Saddlebreds as jumpers. It may have been just commentary by George Morris in Jumping Clinic, but I can't remember for sure. Whoever it was it was an older, highly respected rider/trainer. He said that years ago Saddlebred influence was very prevalent in the jumper world and that he would like to see it return. Before that discussion, I wouldn't have considered one just because I have zero experience with them and I wouldn't know any better.
I had a Saddlebred/TB cross when I was a teenager; took my Pony Club B rating on him (and we were doing the equivalent of Prelim, back in the day: early 70's ), and that boy could jump the moon! He did have a rather "egg-beatery canter" (and had that high headed, hollow tendency), but dang, he had some major scope O/F! The highest I ever jumped him was 5' (you do that crap when you're 15), and he could probably have gone higher; he was very long-backed, and never saw an oxer that he couldn't "step over".
He didn't have the natural endurance of the full TB (was narrow-chested), but back then, we were always working our horses out in the fields (I hunted him as well as did hunter paces and jumper shows, and this was in addition to trail riding, Pony Club lessons, rallies, and some events at Prelim level...he never had an opportunity to be out of shape! )
In dressage he would sometimes get a bit hollow (and had that Saddlebred uphill neck set and "natural poll flexion" that made it LOOK like he was laways on the bit ), but when he was soft and swinging, he was quite nice to ride, and very laterally and longitudinally supple--he did had rather hard sides, though a soft mouth.
He was a flat jumper (had no bascule to speak of), but his knees were always WAY up under his chin--and he never stopped at anything!
I wish I could post pix of him, he was quite something, and convinced me that Saddlebreds and Saddlebred crosses can JUMP, though they are certainly a rather unconventional choice as event horses (and you sure don't see many out there--though I shared a Lucinda Green clinic with a cross last spring; he was unflappable as my old boy had been, and found all the Prelim + level stuff wicked easy!)
"Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."
"It's supposed to be hard...the hard is what makes it great!" (Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own")
I've linked this topic to the discussion over at the Saddlebred forum and, for myself and also on behalf of the folks there, appreciate your comments. Thanks for giving the Saddlebred folks some different points of view to consider!!
FWIW, I'm neither a trainer nor a breeder; I have a Saddlebred that I'm hoping (if life doesn't continue to suck) ( ) to simply do lower levels with. My feeling, from the conversations I've had over the years, is that sport horse trainers probably wouldn't consider youngsters and would go with more traditional breeds, but competitors (lower levels definately, upper levels perhaps) may consider an adult Saddlebred who is out and doing. The key, of course, is the out-and-doing.
Proud Member of the League of Weenie Eventers
Proud Member of the Courageous Weenie Eventers Clique
Actually I adore Saddlebreds, but I was really skeptical in the beginning. My ex's mom had 4 that she did dressage with and Not only could they move, but they could jump the friggin MOON. I keep threatening to steal her latest weanling for eventing.
Here is what I would recommend to ASB folk if they want to have their horses appeal to a wider audience:
No tail sets. I'm not going to take it in the ring if it's tail has been cut, sorry. The best way to get them more popular is to have a fantastic ride and have someone ask "Wow what breed??" rather than having a bias, no matter how slight, and the tail is a dead giveaway.
Conformation - general sporthorse type must still apply. This does nothing for me as an eventer; this one could be worth a look. The flat croup doesn't do it for me either, but if everything else is good I would still take a look.
Lastly, if trying to market to a sport horse crowd, use pictures that we can relate to - regular confo shots (not parked out), normal movement, and freejumping if it's any good. These shouldn't be too hard to acquire. Even better is under saddle with a rider in an un-saddlebreddy manner.
As with any breed, there are Saddlebreds built for the job, and there are Saddlebreds that aren't. Often you have to look PAST the parked out, jazzed up, head jacked up in the air, wild-eyed look that the photos portray, and realize that the horses are made to look that way - that's what Saddleseat people want to see in a photo. Unfortunately when you park out a horse, it invariably makes the croup look flat, often flatter than it actually is.
You have to look at angles and substance and bone, not how the horse is being stood up. An uphill build and neckset are a good thing - a hollow back and a weak loin are not.
And there are many ASBs that don't jump like electrified stags..
This is my 15.1hh (on her tippy toes) Saddlebred mare casually free-jumping a 4'4" oxer. She was out of shape and out of work at this point - her first foal had just been weaned a few months before this photo was taken. http://pets.webshots.com/photo/14945...46770113RvfPlR
My barn owner owns 3 saddlebreds. She has had them in the past and her old guy who lived 36 years was a great all-around horse. He jumped, did the gaited thing and also was driven.
The one mare she is schooling now she will use for dressage and eventing. Of the other 2, one is missing a tool in her tool box and is un-rideable because you never know when she's going to freak out. And I mean FREAK. Not just spook but just checks out of this world completely.
BO has her because the breeders she bought her gelding from threw her in as a package deal for free. Vet thinks this mare, who has very good breeding never fully matured either physically or mentally. The gelding is quite a high-drama horse. Now, at 12, he FINALLY seems to be coming into his own and is acting like a mature horse. The fussing and rearing in the stall when other horses go out has finally come to an end.
The mare that my BO is working with has a full sister also in the barn who is also quite a nice mover and jumper.
If I can get my act together I will try to pull the video of us from our jumping lesson yesterday and link to it. The horse is 8 or 9 and has really only been at work for a couple of years now.
I used to jump a SB/paint cross when I was in high school and it was fun, like cantering on a big couch.
My BO's mare is a lovely mover and is learning to jump. Very particular about where her feet go and the mare likes to be "just right". I think she'll make a lovely lower level eventer and probably a 1st-2nd level dressage horse, which is what my BO wants. She's built well enough she might go higher in dressage, but time will tell.
I think if breeders are looking to market outside of the gaited horse world then they should decide not to start the horses for it. I think the horses can do the job, but in dressage you are wanting the exact opposite, no excitement. So that is something to overcome. I guess if I was going to look at one, that would be a deal breaker for me because I would not want to deal with that re-training.
I think if you breed a horse that is built level or uphill at the withers, has a good temperament and nice movement it should be marketable. I do think they are quite lovely when doing dressage. Just as in any breed, some will do better than others so I would never rule out a horse because of it's breeding.
Find a trainer or learn classical dressage to start them and I think you'd be good to go.
Oh yeah, my sb did halter as a baby. Some champion or something or other. Anyway, I got started in dr with her, through victim of circumstance in So. CA. And I was about to go to my first real dr show. My trainer had me walk out the test myself in the ring and everything. I got the test memorized and we had a lesson to learn how to ride the test.
Come down centerline, hit x, halt, park out ... wait! what? stop that! no parking out!
Needless to say, we had to work on that.
I sold her to be a lesson horse and broodmare. The place tried their darnest to get her to do saddleseat but she wouldn't. She liked that long and low stuff. So a mother/daughter bought her and called me up. Very happy ending for her!