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American sporthorses?

From: Hal

Thank you for HORSE-SENSE, it's the greatest resource out there, and I've tried them all, trainers, magazines, videos, and on-line information services. You're the best! Now I have a question for you, but you don't have to be in a hurry to answer it because it isn't urgent, more of a point of information. <G>  My wife and I have been studying the development of the various European sporthorses, and we're both fascinated by the idea of breeding specifically for athletic performance. I guess that's what racehorse breeders do, although they're breeding for just one kind of performance: speed. We're also fascinated by all of the European registries that are popping up all over the USA. We in the USA have our own long tradition of riding horses, so why is it that WE never did any breeding for sporthorses? As a nation, I mean. Do you have any insights on this?  Thanks a lot, we'll be looking forward to your answer.  Hal

Hi Hal! Thanks for the kind words. ;-) In fact, I think you could make the argument that there was a significant sporthorse breeding program, or at least "performance horse" breeding program, in the USA. I'm thinking of the cavalry horses and the Remount breeding program. Now that "cavalry" means "air cavalry", it's easy to forget that there were years and years of breeding horses for the specific needs of the cavalry.

Consider the Morgan horse: our original "sporthorse". The military wanted horses that were naturally sound, strong, not too large. It wanted horses that were cooperative, intelligent, able to work hard and perform well under a variety of stressful conditions. After conducting performance trials with horses of several different breeds, the cavalry settled on the Morgan as the ideal mount, and the government began to breed them. Are you familiar with the term "Government Morgan"? The US Government had an official, formal, well-established breeding program at a large breeding farm, set up specifically to produce Morgans for the cavalry. These horses were bred and selected for performance, and horses had to undergo performance testing before they could be accepted as additions to the breeding program. These horses were outstanding in terms of soundness, ability, performance, and temperament. There are still Government Morgans -- horses with a high percentage of this blood -- available, in case you are inspired to look into this particular sort of breeding. ;-)

The US Government also made stallions (select Morgans and Thoroughbreds for the most part) available to farmers and ranchers around the country, so that breeders could create remounts for the military.

So, although it wasn't quite like the breeding programs that produce the European Warmbloods, there was indeed at least one systematic historical USA program of producing performance horses.


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