World Grand Championship Horse Show 1996 in Louisville
The World Grand Championship Horse Show is the biggest competition
in the world for the American Saddlebred horse. It is held every summer during the
Kentucky State Fair, running for 2 weeks.
Riders and horses from all over compete during the year to qualify and prepare for the World
Championship show. To reach this level, the horse must have presence, grace,
beauty, and he must be "game". When a trainer or rider say a horse is "game", they mean he seems to
really enjoy showing - and showing off! Here is a photo from the "2 Year Old 5-Gaited
Stake". Five gaited horses perform the walk, trot, canter,
slow-gait, and rack. The slow-gait is a 2-beat gait, and the rack is a 4-beat gait; both are learned gaits
taught to the horse by the rider/trainer. These gaits are comfortable to ride, and require a
talented horse with a particular conformation to learn and perform them well.
Here is an example of a racking horse - download our video to see the rack.
When young, many 5-gaited horses have a small incision made in their tail to allow the upright tail carriage
that identifies them as a "performance" horse. This procedure is similar to those performed
on show dogs to maintain the traditions of certain breeds.
There are plenty of classes for saddlebreds that don't do the slow-gait
and rack. Three-gaited horses perform at the walk, trot, and canter. They
may not have the talent or conformation to perform a brilliant slow-gait and rack,
or they may just have the qualities desired in an equitation or pleasure mount,
including refinement and graceful calm. Here is the winner of the "Adult Show Pleasure
Championship", and a competitor in the "Jr. 3-Gaited Show Pleasure Championship" - now that's a
very small girl on a very big horse!
American Saddlebreds are also driven in competition - here is a competitor in
the "3 Year Old Fine Harness Championship" - you can see that American Saddlebreds
do come painted! The "Roadster to Bike" class is fast and furious, and reminds
one of a Standardbred harness race. Here is a "roadster" headed toward the show ring.
The smallest ponies are all shown in harness, and they look just as proud and
refined as the horses. The judge of the pony classes is a specialist who only judges the ponies.
Below is a video that we had to squeeze in here to illustrate the elevation
of the canter in some of these show horses - they must be very exciting to ride!
The shoes worn by the American Saddlebred show horse are unique, and require
a specialist farrier to maintain. The shoes tend to be heavier, and the pads
thicker than those worn by other competition breeds, but the shoeing
principles followed by the farrier are the same. Each horse must have
shoes and pads that contribute positively to the horse's balance and soundness.
The farrier can adjust the weight and angles of the shoe/pad combination to make
the horse's gaits appear more graceful, therefore increasing the chances of winning
Another member of the winning team is the groom who is shown here working
overtime on the long flowing tail that is a trademark characteristic of the
American Saddlebred. Even as they walk toward the show ring, the grooms are making sure the tail
and everything else about the rider and horse turnout is perfect.