top of page

About the Spotted Saddle Horse Breed

Spotted horses have been popular with horseman since time immemorial. Prehistoric man scratched their likeness on the walls of caves and the American Indians, considered to be some of the world’s greatest horsemen, selected spotted ponies as their war mounts.

The Spotted Saddle Horse can trace its roots back to the history of horses that escaped from ships as they crashed on our shorelines. These horses were often spotted, naturally gaited, and possessed the strength and stamina necessary for war use. At the end of the U.S. Civil War, many imported “gaited” types of horses were left in the newly formed United States. Selective mating of these gaited horses resulted in the production of a smooth gaited, colorful horse that came to be known as the Spotted Saddle Horse. This horse performs a smooth, easy gait that is a true pleasure to ride.

Through the years, the Standardbred, Mustang, and many more breeds have played a role in the development of the Spotted Saddle Horse. In more recent years, the Tennessee Walking Horse has been crossed with colorful gaited horses to infuse its smooth gaits into the colorful Spotted Saddle Horse Breed, thus strengthening the genetics needed to preserve the smooth glide ride of this fast growing breed. It is no surprise that Spotted Saddle Horses have become a modern favorite, suitable for any task.

Spotted Saddle Horses are exceptional athletes with a distinctively different coat pattern that sets them apart from all others. This colorful horse is a favorite for field trail events and makes a great family pet. His even temperament and smooth gait makes him a favorite with riders, young and old. His unique coloring provides individual expression, since no two horses are alike.

Breed Characteristics
A Spotted Saddle Horse is a light horse type used mainly for pleasure, utility and show purposes. Its breeding is based upon the bloodline of foundation stock and horses registered in the Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors Association. A desirable type in a saddle horse requires a horse of medium size and weight, generally ranging in height from 14.3 to 16 hands and weighing from 900 to 1100 pounds. This horse has a long sloping hip and shoulder, a fairly short back and a short strong coupling. The bottom line is longer than the top line, allowing a long stride. A Spotted Saddle Horse must possess a white marking above its hocks, other than facial, and must perform a smooth, easy, non-trotting gait to be eligible for registration.

The Spotted Saddle Horse is most easily recognized by its colorful coat. A wide variety of acceptable colors and patterns make each horse unique unto itself. The spectrum of colors range from almost solid color to almost solid white in the two main color patterns, overo and tobiano, and encompasses all of the hues known in the horse world.


The Spotted Saddle Horse performs the show walk, show gait and canter. These three are the gaits for which this breed is famous, with the show gait being an inherited naturally smooth gait unique to this breed. The Spotted Saddle horse is also able to perform the rack, stepping pace, fox-trot, single-foot and other variations of the intermediate gait.

The flat walk is a brisk, long-reaching walk that can cover 4 to 8 miles an hour. This is a four cornered gait with each of the horse’s feet hitting the ground separately at regular intervals.

The show gait is the intermediate gait for the Spotted Saddle Horse. This extra-smooth gliding gait is basically the same as the flat walk with a marked increase in speed. This breed can travel at 10 to 20 miles per hour at this gait. This give the rider a feeling as if he or she were gliding through the air propelled by some powerful but smooth-running machine.

The canter is a forward movement performed in a diagonal manner to the right or to the left. On the right lead, the horse should start the gait in this order: left hind, right hind and left for together – then right fore. The order for the lead is right hind, left hind and right fore, then left fore. When performed in a ring, the animal should lead his canter with the fore leg to the inside of the ring. This is often referred to as the “rocking-chair-gait.”


Breed Organization
The formation and development of the Spotted Saddle Horse Association was a natural response to the rapid growth of the breed. The SSHBEA (Sheeba), a nonprofit, state-charted organization, was established in the fall of 1985 by persons interested in preserving the gait and color of this animal. Operating out of Shelbyville, Tennessee the SSHBEA maintains a registry, develops the rules and regulations governing all aspects of the breed, licensed judges and affiliates shows.

As the official registry of the breed, the SSHBEA records and maintains pedigrees, ownership, transfers, and color information. The SSHBEA keeps list of stallions as well as get, produce and show records. A governing board of five officers and Board of Directors are elected to direct the functions of the breed.

This information was obtained from International Museum of the Horse  10/4/2019

bottom of page