Sunday, 12 February 2012

Saddlebreds are kind of like mopeds...No, wait. I think I have this joke all wrong

I must admit, I have been holding out on you.  Because the very first horse I looked at ended up being one of my front runners, three months and three visits later (the seller no doubt thought I was the tire kicker extraordinaire).

Late in August, just as I was sending the Platypus off to be sold, I saw the advertisement for this horse.

See, I seriously did draw little lines on my pictures.

Who knows why, but her picture caught my eye.  I thought she seemed lean and athletic, and I liked her hind end - it looked like she would have a hell of a motor.  I was sick of looking at pictures of overfed meatball two year olds with little wimpy stifles and big round asses.  I also kind of liked the look on her face, which I know should not count for anything, but hey, I am only human.

The other thing I did like about her was that her sire was Viva Voltaire, one of the young hot stallions at Charlot Farms - she was from his first crop of foals who were all just rising 3, so who knew if they had any talent...pfft, minor detail.  Viva Voltaire was himself a lame jumper, not a dressage horse in any way, shape or form...errrr... again, minor detail, as long as the bloodlines were in there somewhere.  Right?

WTF...Yes, for shit's sake, I am on about Charlot Farms AGAIN.  I am not too proud to admit, I had a Charlot Farms complex.  I was convinced if only I could afford a horse from Charlot Farms, the birds would sing, heavens would shine down upon me, and I would passage on off to dressage Nirvana.

Well - if I could not afford a REAL Charlot Farms horse - at least I could afford one of their offspring.  NO, she was not a wonderful, all talented Rio Grande baby like El Muddo, but what the hell, still close enough.

There was of course something I really didn't like about her.  The fact that she was part Saddlebred.

I could rationalize away Arab, had a childhood lust for Morgans - but..the Saddlebred thing was hard to swallow.

Why?  Well, there were several factors.

First, I had never met a Saddlebred in real life, so I really had no frame of reference.  I had only seen pictures.  Pictures that looked like this:

Now don't get me wrong, I am not knocking this horse and rider at all. Maybe if you are a Saddlebred person this is a total mouthwateringly georgeous picture, but as someone who knows nothing of the sport - what is good / bad / freaky - it just looks weird.  It also does not look anything like what I envisioned my dressage horse resembling.

Next - Saddlebreds undoubtedly have a reputation as being - uhh - nuts.  I know people think Arabs are nuts too, but I had dealt with Arabs all my life, so I had a pretty good idea of what variety of nut I would be dealing with in an Arab, whereas I had no clue exactly what awaited me in the mind of a Saddlbred.  Brazil - or filbert?  Tree, or ground nut?  Who knew.

But I would say the biggest turnoff with respect to Saddlebreds had to be that the Saddlebred sporthorse industry unfortunately has some total hard-core freaks representing their numbers on the bulletin boards - the thought of being associated with this group in any way was frightening to me. Remember that at this time, I was still regularly visiting COTH and UDBB.  There was a particular poster there who made me want to vomit every time I read her self promoting, bullshit posts on her stupid stallion - who happened to be a "horse of colour" as well.  Coincidence?  I think not.

(You may wonder why I kept reading her posts.  Good question.  They had that irresistible train wreck quality about them that keeps you coming back for more).

I would like to be able to say that the Saddlebred spothorse movement has come a long way since then, but unfortunately, I don't think it has.  One Harry Callahan versus a few very vocal jackasses that keep promoting whacked out bullshit (like thinking that Totilas is actually Kenyan, not American... (no, no, wait, I am confused again) - is actually a Saddlebred descendant, as are all KWPN horses...) make it a really big uphill climb to reach the realm of sanity and well accepted sporthorses.

(And yes, this same nutbar woman still appears to be highly active on UDBB, although lucky for the Saddlebred people, she seems to have new genetics to flog).

So, when faced with a Saddlebred prospect, just like the old joke says - I thought they might be fun to ride, but I wouldn't want my friends to see me on one.

But...I happened to be visiting a friend in the London area, so I figured I would stop by to see her.  What the hell.

Oh - just to be clear - that would be London, Ontario.  Just down the road from Paris, Ontario. I was driving in from the town formerly know as Berlin, Ontario - but now called Kitchener, due to that nasty "we hate Germans" sentiment that cropped after the war.  We aren't very original in these here parts when it comes to naming our towns.

Bottom line - No, I still wasn't jet setting around looking at horses.  Unfortunately.  Sigh.

Mr. Motard visited the Saddlebred Museum on his Kentucky cycling trip


  1. Ooo! The leg markings match! Is this who you ended up with? :)

  2. I almost just fell out of my chair at that last this blog!

  3. I was thinking the same thing as HammersArk! Is this the girl?! :) She's very pretty!

  4. You said final 2... thus far I count 1. What about the other finalist?

  5. I did some scouting at a saddlebred barn once... Straight faced the trainer said, "She only canters on one lead. That sometimes happens when they get older."

    I think the horse was ten... (the cuckoo clock sound or twilight zone take your pick)

    Maybe pull the shoes that are the horse version of the "shaper" sketchers that nobody should wear... Nobody... And after letting her legs heal as best they can... Let her head find a spot somewhere beneath nose bleed and she might be able to canter both ways....

    I have seen some nice SB sport horses though... Just sayin... But to weed through the skeevier side of equestrianism is just to much to ask an old gal like me ;)

    Alas... I have stories about every breed pretty much that has their REALLY??? moments lol

    I cant wait to see how this story ends..... Nerd alert<<<

  6. I didn't realize saddlebreds had a reputation for being crazy. I've ridden one in my entire life and he definitely fit the crazy bill, and he he couldn't canter, out in the field, under saddle, being chased around the arena with a rattle snake, nothing. The trainer told me I needed to aim him at the wall to get him to canter. Huh? Trainer finally told me I couldn't handle his "power."

  7. What I've heard from some non-abusive Saddlebred owners (I have to specify non-abusive, sadly, for a reason) is that as a breed they are actually pretty docile and laid-back, but the saddleseat trainers go to great lengths to constantly scare the shit out of them so they look "animated" in the show ring. I rode a couple who were pretty chill but again, not ever trained for saddleseat.

  8. I had a Saddlebred "on loan" for quite a while. He had never "made it" as a "show" horse (All Saddlebred terms here) so the owner wanted to sell him. It took a little work to get him a really accept the bit contact, but once he did he was a WONDERFUL horse! Lovely disposition, quiet, trainable, and gaits to die for.

    I wasn't quite into dressage fully at the time, so we showed hunters and he actually won a year end "non-Thoroughbred" hunter championship at the end of the show season in a fairly good sized organization. Hunter! On a Saddlebred.

    Dabbled in dressage and I am sure had we done it seriously he would have been an awesome competitor.

    I would not at all hesitate to get one now if I were in the market.

    I do agree with Leslie about the training and atmosphere of the Saddlebred barns, though. They use all kinds of dreadful methods to keep the horses "up" and excited so they show as almost maniacs when you see them.

    Oh, my guy drove too and it was a blast taking him out as he loved it. Wish I had done so much more. We lost him to colic several months after I sold him for his owner. Sad. I was with him in the van when he died.

    The horses were originally bred for the plantation owners to be elegant, but safe mounts. For the most part, I think they are kind and generous creatures. I know my Van certainly was.

  9. Curmudgeon, have you looked at Standardbreds at all? Great power, really reach under themselves well, and way more laid back/common sensical than some of their TB cousins. I volunteered for a fab organization called Sunshine Horses in Syracuse, NY (website: where we started a lot of horses coming out of harness racing under saddle, and we'd get lots of sound, sane and great-moving horses, for whom accepting a rider for the first time was like no big deal.

    Contrary to popular belief, they DO canter, tend to be well-built, and are also super versatile.

    Here's a link to the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society, which has some decent looking horses available for adoption: and here's another site with lots of great links re: adopting and re-training Standardbreds.

    1. Funny you mention it - right around that time, I did help a friend for a day prepping Standardbreds for an auction at London Fairgrounds - it was the first contact I really had with them and I was impressed.

      I always wonder why TB's are the golden children and STB's are the ugly stepchildren. Neither are bred for dressage / collection - at least STB's have DAP and a hell of a trot.

  10. Oops, forgot the last link:

  11. Pretty much any SB I've met is batshit cray cray.

  12. For the love of CHRIST, people - stop telling her what to buy, this is all IN THE PAST, this is all taking place NINE years ago, good GRIEF!!

    1. A big old LIKE on anonymous' post. (Anonymous's?)

  13. You mean there's a crazy horse person on the BB's?! ...shocking! ;) LOL OTOH, I've been around many saddlebreds, wonderful horses. Too bad they are so stigmatized, many are lovely for sport and have fab temperments. Can't wait to hear what you finally got!

  14. While I hardly think of myself as a crazy Saddlebred sport horse fanatic, I really do like Saddlebreds a lot. I never really considered them for anything but saddleseat before I ended up w/ my TB/Saddlebred cross. He's lovely, not that I'm biased. After doing opening my mind a bit I think most of the horses that haven't started training for saddleseat disciplines make great candidates for dressage, eventing, etc.

  15. I used to ride a 17.3 saddlebred at my former trainer's barn. Trained to third level with a super nice canter. He had funky conformation, (lonnnnnng neck) but was the sweetest, hardest trying, biggest hearted horse I've ever ridden. He used to hang his head over the stall divider and drink from his neighbors auto waterer, watching from the corner of his eye to make sure that you noticed his trick. Loved that horse.

  16. CFS, that is the CUTEST thing... I can just see Mr. Swan Neck doing his little act. I happen to really, really like SBs, even though I've never ridden one. I once spent a week helping out at an ASB breeding barn and those babies and mommas were the sweetest, loveliest horses. We have a big saddleseat show here every year and I want to tell you, those horses are friendlier than any other show horses that come through. Always at the front of the stall, ears up.. Actually riding one is on my horsey bucket list. DC, is this IS your girl, I bet you're a 25% fan now! ;-)

  17. I have an idea, Curmudgeon. Write a post about how you looked at a donkey but determined in no way were donkeys made for dressage and see how many people come on and tell you you're wrong, donkeys make fantastic dressage mounts and they will share all their personal FEI donkey dressage stories.

    1. Now don't go and ruin the ending for everyone...

  18. I just wanted to comment as a long time saddlebred owner and at one time saddlebred trainer that the idea that this misconception that all saddlebreds are crazy really disappoints me. I have had many over the years and none of which would I consider to be insane in any way. In fact my 19 year old saddlebred, Dusty, was my lesson horse for years and I taught children as young as 4 years old on him on a lunge line with no reins. He is also trained up to third level dressage, he jumps and I even barrel raced him (won two championship saddles) when I was younger. They are an incredibly intelligent and personable breed. This is him as a 6-10 year old. I know that everyone is entitled to their opinions and I am not upset that anyone has said negative things about my favorite breed but I do think that we should all remember that as horse owners we should be promoting and supporting each other, no matter what breed, discipline or skill level you may be at. Unfortunately, as is the case in most situations, the most extreme of all examples are the ones that are talked about the most, so these are the ones that people know about. There is abuse and mistreatment in every breed and discipline and this is horrible in every case. Very few trainers use these horrible methods, as they are sat down and disqualified for doing so. The goal is to teach the horse to use its natural talents to the best of its abilities, not to make it into a freak of nature. As far as dressage saddlebreds go, Harry Callahan is a beautiful creature. I wish you all the best and I hope this post is taken for the positive energy that it was meant to spread.

  19. not mockin anybudy on here, but if you dont know the breed, dont judge, yes "some" sadedebred are nuts, bt im in the saddlebred business an i would not be affraid of puttin a little kid that dont know how to ride on my stallion, its all in the way you train, ride, and care for your horses. And if you ever go to a bran with saddlebred, or any bred of horse, really pay attention on how they ride, how graceful the horse an rider are. And if you really pay attention you'll be able to se the bond that they share for one another

  20. I guess there is a blog for everything. I wondered across this page because of the gorgeous pinto saddlebred, Racing Stripe and found a writer who only speaks of her opinion, without research to saddlebreds. These are a bright breed in general with huge personality and heart. They are strong, big bodied and versatile.. the horse you describe as freaking and weird is in fact a genetic miracle in the way he moves and carries himself. They are now turning up in jumping, show hack, hunt seat and dresage rings everywhere. I'd wager a bet, we all know a few crazy dressage people... best not to generalize.