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Spotted Saddle horse

Spotted Saddle Horse
Spotted Saddle Horse at work
Country of origin: United States
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)

The Spotted Saddle horse is a relatively new breed of horse that was developed by crossing Spanish-American type pinto horses with gaited horse breeds (such as the Tennessee Walking Horse) to produce a colorful horse that was smooth gaited and possessed strength and stamina. The breed has a reputation for being gentle and easy to handle, surefooted and agile, good on steep and rough trails.


Registration of the Spotted Saddle Horse

In order to qualify for Spotted Saddle Horse registration, horses must have a pinto coat pattern that shows white behind the head and above the hocks, beyond basic face and lower leg markings. The underlying coat color can include any found in the equine world.


There are two breed registries for the Spotted Saddle horse:

  • The Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders And Exhibitors Association (SSHBEA) which is an organization established in 1985 to promote the Spotted Saddle Horse. To accomplish this, SSHBEA has instituted a program for affiliating horse shows, licensing Judges, and approving Designated Qualified Persons, and has established official rules for registering and showing of the Spotted Saddle Horse.
  • The National Spotted Saddle Horse Association (NSSHA) was formed in 1979, NSSHA is dedicated to establishing a uniform breed saddle horse that is naturally gaited and performs without the use of punishing training aids or substances.


Spotted Saddle horses resemble Tennessee Walking Horses the most because of that breed's strong influence. Other breeds were introduced into the Spotted Saddle horse, including Standardbreds, Mustangs, Missouri Fox Trotters, Peruvian Pasos, Paso Finos, and Racking horses. Standardbreds contributed size, speed and lateral gaits. Mustangs added more color and hardiness. Missouri Fox Trotters and Racking Horses, which share a common ancestry with Walking Horses, have influenced type and gait. Even Peruvian Pasos and Paso Finos have contributed in recent years. Consequently, horses registered as "Spotted Saddle Horses" vary significantly from one another, both in body type and gait.

Most Spotted Saddle horses are about 15 hands high, though they can range from 13.3-15.2 hands high. A Spotted Saddle horse's head is of moderate length, refined, with a straight to slightly convex profile. The eyes are wide set, with a soft expression. Ears are moderately long, set well up on the head, and carried alertly. The neck is very slightly arched, muscular but trim, of moderate length, carried high, and with a good head carriage. The chest is of moderate width, and well muscled. Long, sloping hips and shoulders, common to smooth-gaited horses, are preferred, as is a fairly short back. The top line should appear shorter than the bottom line as this contributes to a long, smooth stride. The hindquarters are broad and well muscled.

Some lines reveal pony-type origins in a short-coupled, compact, sturdy body, with a somewhat coarse head and legs, while others exhibit more refined characteristics. Breed fanciers are split between the "true" old-type Spotted Saddle Horse, that generally didn't stand much over 14 hands versus a trend towards a Walking Horse build and gait. As a result, there are several different breed associations devoted to pinto-colored gaited horses, each with a slightly different slant.


The Spotted Saddle Horse performs the flat walk, running walk, and canter. These are the three gaits for which this breed is famous, with the intermediate speed gait being a naturally inherited smooth four-beat, lateral ambling gait unique to this breed.

The flat walk, called a show walk by the National Spotted Saddle Horse Association (NSSHA) is a brisk, long-reaching walk that can cover 4 to 8 miles an hour. This is a four-beat gait with each of the horse's feet hitting the ground sindividually at regular intervals.

The running walk, called "show pleasure" by the NSSHA and "show gait" by the Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders and Exhibitor's Association (SSHBEA), is the intermediate gait of the Spotted Saddle Horse. This extra-smooth ambling gait has the same footfall sequence as the flat walk with a marked increase in speed. This breed can travel at 10 to 20 miles per hour at this gait, which is very smooth.

The canter is a three-beat gait. One nickname for it within the Spotted Saddle Horse community is the "rocking-chair-gait."

In addition, the horse must perform a faster four beat "saddle gait", such as the fox trot, rack, stepping pace, or one of the Paso gaits.

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