Spotted Saddle Horse: Breed Profile

Training, Grooming, and Care Tips

spotted saddle horse

Jean / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

There’s something absolutely breathtaking about a pinto horse, and the Spotted Saddle Horse was created to embody the beauty of the pinto and the smooth ride of a gaited horse. Closely resembling a compact Tennessee Walking Horse, this breed is ideal for many purposes, from trail riding to showing. The Spotted Saddle Horse has many other traits, like its sure-footedness and its calm nature, that make it a popular choice among many riders today.

Breed Overview

Weight: 900 to 1,000 pounds

Height: 14.3 to 16 hands

Body Type: Refined, lighter-weight horses with short backs and muscular chests

Best For: Trail riding, pleasure riding, and competing

Life Expectancy: 25 to 30 years

Spotted Saddle Horse History and Origins

This eye-catching breed’s origins begin in central Tennessee. Breeders crossed Tennessee Walking Horses and Missouri Fox Trotters with pinto horses, resulting in gaited horses with beautiful pinto coloring. These horses were bred primarily for pleasure and trail riding. Additional breeds, including Standardbreds, mustangs, Paso Finos, and Peruvian Pasos were later added to further refine the breed. Through the Spotted Saddle Horse’s development, there has always been a focus on preserving the breed’s natural gaits while also producing horses with pinto coats that are well-suited for riding.

The Tennessee Walking Horse still heavily influences the Spotted Saddle Horse today, and many of these horses are double-registered as Tennessee Walking Horses and Spotted Saddle Horses.

Spotted Saddle Horse Size

These horses have a lighter stature, making them ideal for riding. They typically stand between 14.3 and 16 hands high, and most horses weigh between 900 and 1,100 pounds. Ideal horses have a shorter back, a muscular chest, and a refined head.

Breeding and Uses

Today, the Spotted Saddle Horse makes a popular show mount. You may find these horses competing in a variety of classes, including pleasure classes, in-hand classes, and driving classes. These horses have an impressive presence in the show ring, but their comfortable gaits also make them ideal for pleasure and trail riding.

Purebred horses can be registered in two breed registries. The National Spotted Saddle Horse Association was founded in 1979 and prioritizes the use of only humane training and showing techniques. This registry bans trainers, owners, and riders from using devices like stacked shoes, weighted shoes, and pastern chains. The Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association was formed in 1985 and also functions as a breed registry. To be registered with the Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association, horses must have white markings above their hocks, not including facial markings.

Colors and Markings

The Spotted Saddle Horse is an eye-catching, colorful breed. These horses can be found in any base color paired with pinto markings, and overo and tobiano coat patterns are highly common. Solid coated horses who are bred from a registered sire and dam can receive an identification registration, meaning that the horse could go on to produce spotted offspring that could then be registered as Spotted Saddle Horses.

Unique Characteristics of the Spotted Saddle Horse

The Spotted Saddle Horse is known not only for its beautiful color, but also for its gaits. This breed can perform an ambling gait that is more comfortable than the trot, since one foot is always on the ground and there’s no suspension in the gait. These horses also perform a traditional four-beat walk that is free and ground-covering, as well as a canter. Some are also able to perform the rack, fox-trot, stepping pace, and other ambling gaits that provide a smooth ride for the rider.

This breed is also known for having a great temperament. These horses tend to be calm, people-friendly, and trustworthy. They’re surefooted and calm, and are able to navigate challenging terrain on the trails.

Diet and Nutrition

The Spotted Saddle Horse generally needs a diet consisting of quality hay and grain, plus pasture if available. Some of these horses may be easy keepers, requiring fewer calories to maintain their body weight. A horse’s diet will also depend on the amount and type of physical activity it’s performing; horses being ridden long distances on demanding trails may need more hay and more grain to replenish the calories they burn.

Common Health and Behavior Problems

The Spotted Saddle Horse tends to be fairly healthy. It’s important to be aware that, since the breed is heavily influenced by breeds like the Tennessee Walking Horse and Missouri Fox Trotter, Spotted Saddle Horses may be at a higher than average risk of developing Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis (DSLD) than some other breeds. DSLD is an incurable hereditary condition that causes painful deterioration of the ligaments and tendons in the legs. Gaited horses are frequently affected by this condition, which usually requires that horses be retired from riding and eventually euthanized as the condition progresses.

In terms of behavior, this breed is known for being friendly, well-mannered, and willing. Spotted Saddle Horses tend to be calm, an ideal trait in a trail horse. They’re also known for having great stamina and being easy to work with.


Because these horses feature white coat markings, owners face some grooming challenges in getting their coats completely clean. When preparing a horse for a show, a bath is a must to get white coat areas clean. Spot-treating with a stain removal spray can help to remove minor marks and stains, too. White legs tend to get stained easily, even with meticulous grooming and care. Owners may choose to use whitening shampoo on these areas, and many riders will use whitening enhancers or chalks to get white legs to shine in the show ring.

  • Smooth, comfortable gaits

  • Calm temperament

  • Beautiful, flashy appearance

  • May be prone to developing DSLD

  • Somewhat rare, so you may have to travel to buy a Spotted Saddle Horse

Champion and Celebrity Spotted Saddle Horses

The Spotted Saddle Horse continues to grow in popularity, and the National Spotted Saddle Horse Association regularly crowns champions. There are no celebrity Spotted Saddle Horses at this time.

Is the Spotted Saddle Horse Right for You?

The Spotted Saddle Horse is an ideal mount for many riders, thanks to its smooth gaits and calm nature. If you’re looking for a trustworthy trail horse, a horse that’s comfortable to ride, or a beautiful horse that is sure to turn heads in the show ring, then this breed might be just right for you. These horses range in size up to 16 hands, so they’re great mounts for taller riders, too.

How to Adopt or Buy a Spotted Saddle Horse

If you’re ready to buy a Spotted Saddle Horse, you may be able to find one for sale near you. These horses are popular throughout the country, and they’re relatively affordable, too. Younger horses with some training start around $4,000, though prices will vary depending on your location and the bloodlines, training, and show record of the horse that you’re considering. Consider contacting your local trail riding and gaited horse groups, since they may be able to connect you with a reputable breeder or trainer with these horses for sale.

Spotted Saddle Horses may also become available through local horse rescues. Whether you’re planning to adopt or buy a horse, it’s important to bring a knowledgeable trainer with you to help ensure the horse is the right fit for your needs. Consider investing in a pre-purchase examination to identify any current health issues that might affect the horse’s suitability.

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