American Sport Horse History

Above is Diana, an American sport horse born in 1907, a half-TB, she can stand as an example of the enduring American tradition of breeding the finest overall sport horses in the world since our colonial days. This lovely mare was a champion field hunter and a winner in steeplechase. Seen here with her owner Mr. Stevenson, the Master of the Hounds on Long Island, NY. At the time of this photo the American Thoroughbred, Standardbred and Hunter Horse had been competing and winning internationally in England, Ireland and France in all manner of horse sport for fifty years. Photo from Thoroughbred Types 1926.

Is there such a thing as a historical American Sport Horse? If you listen or read the industry wisdom, then the answer is NO! Instead you are repeatedly told by the WBFSH and their member breeds that America is new to sport horse breeding. They also publish that we rarely breed sport horses, that we can't really breed sport horses because we are 'uncultured' and also that being a materialistic people we simply buy what we want from the countries that do actually have centuries of sport horse breeding behind them--meaning them, the Europeans (statements published in the WBFSH trade journal "Breeding News for Sport Horses" 4/2003).

Poor us! We are pathetic aren't we? And it is so nice that the Europeans came here to our country---out of the goodness of their hearts--to teach us how to breed sport horses.

The above, statements which are proclaimed continuously, are believed not only by their originators but now by our own equestrians. The truth however is so contrary to this published dogma it is astounding that it grew feet here in the States. But it did, and now the average American equestrian believes the lies, and like a well-trained dog they just follow their new master.

Let me put some FACTS out there for you:

1. America has ALWAYS bred sport horses

2. In the 1600s America already had perfected a multi-talented and potent sport horse breed that excelled at racing, hunting and saddle

3. Our original sport horse breed still existed into the early 20th century--so it existed for 300 years, and all those years were before the Europeans ever got around to breeding their own

4. America's original sport horse breed is the genetic base of our THREE racehorse breeds of Quarter Horse, Standardbred and American Thoroughbred (genetically different from every other TB population), plus the Morgan Horse, the Saddlebred, the Tennesssee Walker, the Missouri Fox Trotter and our own Hunter Horse---the same breed we use today for Olympic style sport

5. America has competed INTERNATIONALLY on our American Hunters (sport horses) and won since the mid-1800s

6. America has the highest rated racehorse breeds and the greatest distance racing genes in the world

I must be kidding, right? No, I am not--the above list are all historical facts, and the shame is that you and I didn't know and celebrate our history, our superior sport horse or even recognize our true position in international sport.

You can read the results of the DNA studies on origins here and an historical outline of our sport horse origin and development for you immediate information. For further study on the development of our sport horses, and the important bloodlines for our use  in our programs, I have written books with documentation, pictures, notations and full bibliography so you can pursue your own study. (Because the misconceptions and false information have been out there so long in our industry it will take the careful and methodical presentation of the evidence to correct the record and that is only possible in book form as opposed to the web page.)

For an example of how far we have traveled down the wrong road in this and how much we need to do a 'reset' on our own history and the quality of sport genetics found in our breeds, let me tell you of a communication I had with an American industry spokesperson just the other day. This woman is highly intelligent and thoughtful, and she publishes a respected warmblood trade journal. But as well informed as she is, she confidently told me that show jumping only came about in the 20th century, from its military roots, and was only converted then to sport. She believes this so strongly that she said anyone who says differently is 'inaccurate'.

Yet my own research has discovered, that even here in this new country we regularly held jumping contests in our Hunt Clubs which stretched across our country beginning in the late 1700s, whose grounds had jumping rings and provided riding rings, race tracks and cross country courses, all to test and compete our very popular Hunter Horses and keep them fit for the hunt season. Hunting on horse back and horse racing were American passions that began in the 1600s, and the horses bred for those sports were the pride of the populace. Further, by the late 1800s, we regularly had Hunter Horses competing in England, France and Ireland in jumping contests. Why don't we know this? And why don't we celebrate our heritage?

This complete lack of knowledge of our own sport history is tragic. After decades of study and running down records and archives, I have now done my best to provide you with our glorious North American sport horse account; so that you too can stand proud that you are part of tradition that started at the dawn of our nation. Americans have always bred sport horses, some of the greatest the world has ever seen.

We are dealing internationally with breeds that are government owned and operated, which proclaim continually that it is they that have the centuries of sport horse breeding experience, while in contrast our government does not and has not controlled our sport horse breeding, or sport horse development. In Europe it was their royal personages or overall government that has managed the horse breeding--it is a state run enterprise then and now, whereas 'we the people' have carried out our horse breeding as a free enterprise in America. This is their experience: their rulers told them what to breed and oversaw the process and provided the infrastructure, and contrary to the propaganda spread far and wide, what they bred for centuries was a DRAFT HORSE, a plow horse--not a sport horse. The draft horse is the performance opposite of the sport horse. It was only in the mid-1800s that they began adjusting their breeding goals, first by importing the fabulous coach horse, hunters and Thoroughbreds of the British Isles to lighten up and refine their heavy draft horses for coach and carriage work, and to make their cavalry horse (East Prussian) more like a English Thoroughbred. Comically, some of our Running Horses, Trotters and later on some of our new Thoroughbred and Standardbred entered their genes pools in this period as well, via the English imports.

Without the Anglo breeds (and ours) that are based on a true sport horse, the European horses would not be able to perform in sport at all--they would still be pulling plows. But don't take my word for it, go ahead and extend the pedigrees of their star performers and you will discover by the time you get to the late and mid-1800s all the lines you will find recorded are Norfolk Trotter, Anglo-Norman, Thoroughbred (English, French and American), Irish Hunter, Yorkshire Coach Horse, Cleveland Bay, plus American Trotter. Many of those lines came into the continent via the Mecklenburg Stud which was assigned to improve the coach horse of the continent--and it imported vast amounts of Thoroughbred, Norfolk Trotter, Yorkshire Coach and Irish Hunters to accomplish their task. Follow those lines back--you will find the rest of the pedigrees are blank, non-recorded. Where are the centuries of European breeding? Well, they must be in the blank areas because the recorded background lineage are all Anglo sport based breeds. Plus in their modern successful performers I have yet to discover a viable old draft horse bloodline in dominance, instead it is the Anglo coaching-hunting or racing stock, with later repeated infusions of racing Trotter and Thoroughbred, (See Donnerhall Revisted or the example of Duellant HA on the Dressage page or the update of old web page analysis of Loretto  were I address the Holstein claim of 700 years of continuous selective breeding), or look below where I present the Dutch Warmblood foundation  sire Gambo OL.

They claim one and all that they have for centuries used their lauded inspection system to perfect their stock, some say  two-hundred years (isroldenburg.org) some say four-hundred years (Hanoverian), some say seven-hundred years (Holstein), and that they carefully bred up their stock, inspected and recorded it as well. Yet isn't strange that we can't find any evidence of this super sport horse in their lineages? I ask you, if there was indeed a true horse inspection system wouldn't at least the horse's name be recorded, along with its ancestry or comments? When you extend their sport star pedigrees, the European developed lines vanish, and the recorded background lines are all Anglo sport horse based breeds. Where is the centuries old product of their inspection system? I can't find it.

For a perspective let's take a look at a prime example of the European  'centuries' old breed. Here is Gambo OL 1927,  born twenty years after the American Sport Horse Diana (1907) shown at the start of this article. Gambo OL is found in multiples in the  background of the Dutch warmblood, so here we have a product of their 'inspection'  process,  a European  bred typesetter. I must admit he is cute, but what is he? He looks to me like the modern day Percheron  or Belgian draft horse we see in this country. He is labeled Oldenburg, but looks more draft then coach, so maybe we have a viable  line here that goes back to the 'centuries old' European inspected breed. You may visit his page on Sporthorse-data site here (click on Gambo OL 1927), and check out his breeding yourself,  and you will be able to extend his lines to see where the lines end up. He has some strong dominances, he is 3x4 Rubico OL 1877, 4x5 Emigrant OL1875, his dam is inbred 4x4 also to Young Othello OL 1876 and his sire to Kimme OL 4x3, so he has tight potency, which we expect in a powerful typesetter. But when you click  on their names and extend their pedigrees we find the same old story. Rubico OL is half Anglo-Norman and his dam is a daughter of Furst Bismark OL, whose recorded lineage is mostly Yorkshire Coach--but the majority of his lineage is unknown--the European draft component  is not recorded. Emigrant's recorded lines are largely Yorkshire--TB, as are those of Young Othello OL and Kimme OL...but  you can see for yourself the majority of their bloodlines are unrecorded or listed as unknown. Also you will run into breed labels that are confusing such as 'Traber' which is not a name but a generic breed label--it means  'trotter', which means it was imported as well. Seeing this is 2017, and the lines bred in Europe evaporate by the late or mid-1800s with huge unknown sources combined with Anglo lineages, then we have to conclude once again, that the centuries old inspection  system and the centuries old breed  are myths invented by the WBFSH and its member stud books. If this is not so, then where are the carefully inspected stock they produced? Remember, they continually proclaim it is they that have the centuries old breeds and centuries old inspection  system.  For example it was only a few years ago we were treated to an article published in  a North American warmblood trade  journal by the good Dr. Englehard ' from Germany' where we were taught that Germany had a 500 year old inspection system. So where are those horses?

And what was America producing when Gambo's  European ancestors were grade plow horses of unknown antecedents? America already had 200 years of sport horse breeding then and was competing in England, Ireland and France in racing, steeplechasing, hunting and show jumping with our truly centuries old sport horse breeds and dramatically dominating those sport. England, Ireland and new America actually have hundreds of years of sport horse heritage.

Aren't you tired of being misled? If you want to learn your true history, the American  contribution to sport and what our breeds are made of, I suggest you pick up my books and take a look. The correct sport bloodlines will be identified for you, including my recent discovery of the source of the jumping trait, which powers all modern jumping horses, including the European horses. When you find where true sport genetics come from you will be able to use that knowledge to identify the potent carriers of today. Then maybe you can breed American and be proud to do so.