What is a Sport Horse?
When looking at horses available for sale in the current market, you will likely see many advertised as Sport Horses. But, what exactly is a Sport Horse? By looking at the ads, you will likely see a huge variety of horses with this title, and the number of breeds represented is dizzying.
A Sport Horse is a horse that is suited to performance in the English disciplines. These include the three Olympic disciplines of jumper, dressage and eventing, and the popular hunter division.
Many Sport Horses are bred for the purpose. They may be Warmbloods, Thoroughbreds, or crossbreds bred purely for the purpose of the English performance disciplines. The breeders carefully select the horses in their program, often with a specific discipline in mind as they develop their program.
Other times people will advertise a horse as a Sport Horse, even if it was not bred for the purpose. Usually this just means that the horse is suited to being ridden in the English disciplines.
There are also some breed registries that are planned specifically for producing Sport Horses. Most of the Warmblood registries have the goal of producing Sport Horses, although few actually call the horses that. There are also registries such as the Canadian Sport Horse Association that specifically aim to produce horses who are competitive in the English disciplines.
In order to produce horses that are suited to showing as hunters, jumpers, dressage horses or eventers, the breed registries have evaluation systems that approve appropriate breeding stock and cull those that are not suited to the purpose. Most registries aiming to produce Sport Horses will have inspections for their youngstock, their mares and their stallions. At these inspections the horses are assessed for their conformation and their movement. Many such registries also have a performance standard that breeding stock must achieve before the horse gains its permanent breeding status.
Through these Sport Horse breeding programs breeders seek to improve the quality of their stock, making us more competitive not only in the lower levels of the sport, but also at the World level. Over time the quality of horses has significantly improved, bringing up the level of competition at the international level.
If a horse is advertised as a Sport Horse, it is important to find out why the seller has given it that status. Most Sport Horses are not suited to pleasure riding, being bred specifically to be competition horses. While most are quite trainable, they do not always have the kind of temperament that would suit the average rider. Some are better suited to professionals who know how to train and manage the top level athletes that they become.
However, if you are looking to be competitive in the upper levels, a Sport Horse is the best choice. With generations of select breeding for the purpose, Sport Horses have the conformation and movement to suit their discipline, and have the athletic ability to take them to the top.