Saddlebreds – Versatility in a Single Package

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Celebrating Saddlebreds!!  This month on YourDressage, we are celebrating the graceful Saddlebred and Saddlebred crosses of all kinds. 

Dressage riders who choose Saddlebreds as their mounts are eligible for Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards as the American Saddlebred Horse and Breeders Association is a Participating Organization.

We recently asked our social media followers to share about what makes these horses so special.  Here, a lifelong Saddlebred enthusiast from Region 4 shares how her journey has taught her about the versatility of this intelligent breed, and the joys of discovering dressage with her gelding, Sable.

By Simat Whipp

Note: USDF strongly recommends all riders wear protective headgear when mounted.

I have been passionate about riding for over four decades.  My journey into dressage was kind of a winding road due to my commitment to riding and showing  American Saddlebred horses.  It wasn’t until I audited a Jane Savoie clinic in Auburn, NE over a decade ago, that I realized “my breed” could be ridden in something other than saddleseat.  My eyes were opened, and I was inspired to retrain my horse, Sable, and start my young horses through the methods of dressage. 

I currently have two very young chestnut mares (I Love You More and Fairview’s Harper)  that I am bringing along strictly in the theory of classical dressage.  The focus of this story, however, will zero in on my older gelding, Right On Forty-Third Street (aka: Sable).  I am writing about him because he has been a true partner in versatility. 

I purchased Sable as a yearling from Jerry and Mary Hoff twelve years ago.  My goal at the time was to show him in English Show Pleasure.  I have been his sole rider.  As a three-year-old, he did pretty well in English Show Pleasure, walking out of every class with a ribbon.  I switched to English Country Pleasure when he turned four, because I wanted to get him away from padded shoes and offer him turnout.  Again, he did quite well as a Country Pleasure mount.  Sable had experienced a growth spurt between age five and six, which changed his conformation a little.  It became evident that he would  be much more comfortable stretching down and forward, so I started showing him in breed shows as a hunter, where he really made progress.  During his time as a hunter, he and I also enjoyed competing in a few Western Pleasure classes, where he also consistently found his way into the ribbons.

Sable at the Missouri State Fair

By age 9, I was convinced that this big, smart, Will Shriver grandson needed to work towards dressage.  Oh my gosh!!  He took to it like a fish to water.  His willingness to learn and to engage his body in the dressage way was heartwarming.  He scored a 64.3% in his first dressage test, and we never looked back.  I literally sold all of my saddleseat tack and apparel immediately,  hired a good saddle fitter, and purchased a dressage saddle.  It also became apparent that I needed to find a coach.  I needed to cram as much classical dressage philosophy into my head as I could.  Between books and lessons, I became better at understanding terminology and how to communicate with my horses better through correct aids.

It is my belief that all horses can benefit from work outside of the arena.  Sable IS a dressage horse, but we also enjoy hacking out through fields and an occasional parade.  We even played around with a lariat on a few occasions, roping a calf head stuck in a bale of hay. 

Sable western at Midstates in 2016

This horse is so versatile.  I love that I can compete with him in dressage, trail ride, go through a parade, and anything else that might stimulate his intelligent brain.  My heart will always belong to this breed.  I will soon have three Saddlebreds competing in dressage, but aside from the show venue, their training will follow the principles of classical dressage.  I LOVE THE SPORT, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, I LOVE THE ART.  My horses are happy, and healthy, and together we will take on this exciting and wonderful  journey.

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