The Spotted Saddle Horse is a relatively new breed of naturally gaited horse that is known for having spotted coats of many colors. They are versatile, good natured with strength and stamina. The disposition is typically a gentle one, and they are easy to handle and train.
The Spotted Saddle horse was developed in the United States by crossing Spanish/American-type spotted ponies, such as Mustangs, with other established gaited breeds such as the Tennessee Walking Horse, Standardbred, Missouri Fox Trotter, Peruvian Paso, Paso Fino and the Racking Horse to produced a naturally smooth gaited, colorful horse. However, since the Tennessee Walking Horse was used extensively and has a predominant influence in the breed, the Spotted Saddle Horse more closely resembles a heavier Tennessee Walker than any of the other breeds in its pedigree.
At this time, any horse, regardless of background, may be registered as a Spotted Saddle Horse, provided that the horse is spotted and exhibits a saddle gait, which may be a flat walk, running walk, pace, rack, or a combination of all gaits. As an interesting side note is that the horse cannot trot.
Although many breeds have been used in the Spotted Saddle Horse's development, it closely resembles a smaller, slightly stockier Tennessee Walking Horse. The horse is well muscled and smooth, not bulgy or knotty; not as developed as a Quarter Horse, but more of a heavier build than the Tennessee Walking Horse. The horse is physically balanced, with muscle development of forehand and hindquarter being equal. This is true with most breeds that perform the smooth or easy gaits since they push off with the rear and pull with the front.
The head is of moderate length, refined, with a soft, gentle expression with a profile that is straight to slightly convex. The Spotted Saddle Horse ranges from 13.3 to 15.2 hands with the average horse being 15 hands. While the NSSHA is working towards the larger individual as the breed's ideal, it does not discriminate against any of them simply on the basis of size.
The Spotted Saddle Horse has been gaining in demand and popularity as both a pleasure horse and a show horse. They are currently being trained in the areas of Show, Trail, Field Trial, and purely backyard pleasure. It is shown in a number of different disciplines such as pleasure, in hand, under harness, adult riders & youth riders. Show classes are also divided by gender and/or age of either horse or rider and even further divided by the height of the horses.
The National Spotted Saddle Horse (which is a horse registered with NSSHA) is shown with a bridle of leather featuring either buckstitching, silver, or plain. It is similar to the type used by the Tennessee Walking Horse, but the rhinestones and colored browbands are prohibited. He is shown under a western saddle and the rider's show attire is also western, complete with long-sleeved western shirt, western slacks, western boots, a cowboy hat, bolo tie and optional chaps.
All of the recognized colors of the equine world are accepted as long as they also include white in a spotted pattern with color above the hock, but not counting any facial markings. The horse must possess at least one spot midway between the center of the knee and the floor of the chest and midway between the point of the hock and the center point of the stifle. And a horse must exhibit a spot TWO INCHES OR MORE in diameter with underlying contrast skin in the area described above or in the tail. Facial markings, mixed tails, and/or high stockings alone do not qualify as the required spot.
The Spotted Saddle Horse markings are the same as the standard Pinto and Paint type patterns. The horse can be Tobiano, Sabino, Overo, or Tovero. Many Spotted Saddle Horses have the Tobiano pattern, yet with bald or bonnet faces as found on Overo or Sabino. Some also show ragged edges and isolated "other type" spots on basically Tobiano type patterns. NSSHA insists that all horses show spotted coloration.
But the best part of all is that the Spotted Saddle Horse has an extremely comfortable gait. The required "saddle gait" of the Spotted Saddle Horse includes the stepping pace, fox-trot, single-foot, flat walk, running walk, pace, rack or a combination of all gaits. The Spotted Saddle Horse can also perform a canter, but cannot trot.
Of the 7-plus possible gaits found within the breed, the Spotted Saddle Horse is only shown in three gaits: the Flat Walk, the Show Pleasure, and the Canter. All three gaits must be able to be performed as a four year old. Before the age of 4, the horse must be able to perform at least 2 gaits.
In the Flat Walk, the horse should be striding behind and breaking in front while picking up his feet smartly. The Show Pleasure gait is simply the Flat Walk with a noticeable increase in speed and added "flashiness." When the horse is performing the Canter, he should be under control at all times and should always be on the correct lead.
Additionally, he should be able to do a "Back In Line-Up". This requires that the horse backs up straight at all times and should not throw his head or even open his mouth. However, only keg shod horses can back. A keg shoe is a machine-made horseshoe that is available in various sizes. Most horses wear this type of shoe.
There are several breed registries and with only minor exception, these registries all still allow animals to be registered that exhibit the spotted coat pattern and the smooth intermediate gait.
The National Spotted Saddle Horse Association (NSSHA) that was formed in 1979 serves as the official breed registry for spotted, gaited horses and it keeps accurate records of all spotted saddle horses that have ever been registered with NSSHA. The NSSHA is dedicated to establishing a uniform breed of saddle horse that is naturally gaited and that can perform without the use of punishing training aids or substances.
The Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association (SSHBEA) was established in 1985 to promote the Spotted Saddle Horse and has established official rules for registering and showing of the breed. The SSHBEA closed half of the studbooks in 1999, so it is now a requirement that at least one parent must be registered with SSHBEA in order to register the offspring.
The American Spotted Horse Association (ASHA) was established in 1999 and its registry is based on promoting the sound, gaited western style Spotted Horse.
If you are looking for a colorful, versatile, gentle, flashy gaited horse, you may have just found it in the new Spotted Saddle Horse.