Both the American Saddlebred and Standardbred horses developed in North America. The American Saddlebred is the traditional saddleseat pleasure horse of the south, while the Standardbred is a pleasure and competition harness racing horse. Both horses are found worldwide, although predominantly in the United States.
Both breeds originated in North America, but at different times, in different places, and from different bloodlines. American Saddlebreds developed from various strains of gaited horses and Thoroughbreds were brought to America by the British colonists. The first true gaited Saddlebred was born around 1840 in Kentucky. The Standardbred traces its origins to a horse named Messenger, brought to the United States from England in 1788 and owned by the Astor family. His bloodlines included many trotting horses bred to race at the trot, a popular sport in both England and the United States.
Saddlebreds and Standardbreds differ in appearances. Standardbreds are called the 'peacocks of the show ring' for their flamboyant, high arched neck and flowing manes and tails. They stand between 15 and 17 hands and may any color. Saddlebreds tend to be high spirited horses. Standardbreds look more like heavier Thoroughbreds, and many, especially the pleasure-bred Standardbreds, have calm temperaments. Standardbreds are between 14 and 17 hands, and most are brown or bay colored. Black, gray and chestnut Standardbreds are also found.
Standardbreds and Saddlebred perform the walk, trot and canter. But Saddlebreds are born with the ability to perform two additional four-beat gaits, a four beat ambling walk and the rack, a high stepping quick gait the horses are known for in the show ring. Standardbreds race at the typical trotting gait they share with most other horse breeds; but some pace a two-beat gait in which the legs on the same side move in unison.
The American Saddlebred is primarily a pleasure horse ridden under saddle and for light pleasure driving. Standardbreds are used for harness racing at both the trot and the pace. Many retired Standardbreds are often retrained for pleasure riding or find new work as Amish carriage horses or driving horses for cab rides.
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Jeanne Grunert has been a writer since 1990. Covering business, marketing, gardening and health topics, her work has appeared in the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books, "Horse Illustrated" and many national publications. Grunert earned her Master of Arts in writing from Queens College and a Master of Science in direct and interactive marketing from New York University.