Saddlebred Dressage at Devon

For most American Saddlebred owners, Devon means a fabulous week long Spring show with divisions for Saddlebreds, Hackneys, Coaching, Hunters, Jumpers, and the like. For Sport Horse aficionados, Devon is Dressage at Devon- held in the fall, and offering both Breeding and Performance divisions. Dressage at Devon is the largest breed show of its kind in the world. The news this year, the 25th Anniversary of the show- is that the American Saddlebreds are back. Sponsored on behalf of the American Saddlebred Horse Association, the Individual Breed Class (IBC) made up for a shortage in entries with tremendous interest from trainers and spectators alike in the American Saddlebred as a Sport Horse.

Melanie Sloyer, Chair of the Breed Show, and an owner of Saddlebreds herself enthused, “It was great to have the Saddlebreds back at Devon. The quality of these classes (IBC) has increased each year, and these are wonderful representatives of their breed.” Melanie noted that, “the judges comments included praise for the quality of movement the horses displayed. She was especially impressed with the winning horses’ elegant type’”.

Breed show entries are judged by one of an international panel of judges on conformation, temperament, and movement, with numerical scores awarded for each phase. Upon entering the ring, each horse is judged on conformation, then first walked, then trotted clockwise around the “triangles”; sets of markers arranged for the purpose. Judges look for a clean, non-pacey, four beat walk, with a substantial overtrack, and a trot with impulsion, suspension, and more and more- believe it or not- what Saddlehorse folks call motion ! The ability to elevate is considered indicative of the horse offering flambouyant extensions, and expressive passage and piaffe in later training.

Love in Blue (Callaway’s Blue Norther- Lovely Heirloom, by Supreme Heir), a nine-year old chestnut mare, and Infuriating (Sultan’s Night Music- Spirit’s China Rose, by Storm’s Fury; registered as Two Socks) a five-year old bay gelding, both owned by Bryn Dewines Farm, soaked up the attention, and rose to the occasion of the show. As they left the ring, dressage enthusiasts were waiting to meet them, and ask questions about their breeding and background. Infuriating represented the American Saddlebreds in the Parade of Breeds, a presentation of the winners of the IBC classes. A spectator, impressed enough to lean over the rail of the Dixon Oval, inquired as to the breed of “that gorgeous horse”.

Several dressage trainers offered great stories about their encounters with the American Saddlebred as a dressage horse. The consensus was, regardless of the horses level of training or ability at the beginning of work, the horses shared the characteristic generosity of spirit, the ability to learn quickly and retain their lessons, and the desire to go forward. Spectators with no prior exposure to Saddlebreds commented on their beauty, movement, and great dispositions. A five year sponsorship commitment has been made for the class, to ensure its continuation. If you have an American Saddlebred you feel has potential as a dressage horse, please contact us through Susan Vestal, Editorial Director of the American Saddlebred magazine (email-, and we’ll be happy to help you explore your horses potential ! Consider bringing your Saddlebred to DAD 2001- the more the merrier !

On another positive note for the diversity of our breed, a consummate professional horseman, and former Olympian, Champ Hough, was recently quoted in Practical Horseman magazine. He expounded upon the advantages of high front-end carriage, “in the 50’s and 60’s, nearly all our open jumpers were Saddlebreds. I’d be very interested in going back and doing some crossbreeding to Saddlebreds for today’s jumper ring.” Should we tell him that the purebreds still jump like stags ?

In an effort to help the most important segment of the Saddlebred folks- the breeders- a volunteer effort is underway to provide a website with easily downloaded, and printable, information delineating ideal conformation and movement for sporthorse prospects. In addition, free advertising on the net, with links to webpages and sites will, hopefully, help to grow this market. We hope to bridge the gap in understanding between the Show Horse and Sporthorse disciplines within our breed, and help to build a market for high quality prospects. An early Spring launch is planned. Please contact us for additional information. The email address is

If you have a registered American Saddlebred or halfbred, that you are presently participating in a Sporthorse discipline with, let us know ! We’d love to hear about your experiences. Remember, there is something bigger than Louisville. They call it the Olympics. American Saddlebreds have been there before, and they can do it again. The horse that America made has no rivals- our only obstacles are our own. It is an amazing and exciting world that the American Saddlebred show horse reigns supreme over. There is nothing quite like the feeling of watching a great class of American Saddlebred showhorses at displaying their incredible ability. Even more amazing is their ability to excel at whatever they are asked to do. Carry Generals to war. Rack on ! Jump an enormous course of fences. Halt at X, salute.