Saddle Horse Breeding in South Africa

 by Ross Millin  ©



Over 250 years of selective breeding have given us the beautiful, all purpose riding horse called the American Saddle Horse.

The original American Saddle Horse was born out of the necessity on the frontier where riding was the most important form of transportation.

Saddle Horses can trace their roots back to Europe especially to the natural-gaited Galloway and Hobbie horses that survived the treacherous Atlantic passage in the immigration from Great Britain to America in the mid-1600's.

 After a period of selective breeding, a new type of horse was developed from them in the Rhode Island area near Naragansett Bay. They were called Naragansett pacers and soon were found up  and down the eastern seaboard, with a concentration in Virginia.

An easy, animated gait was cultivated and the horses that showed greatest promise in this direction was selected for breeding. Breeders of American Horses first got organized in 1891 under the name of the National Saddle Horse Breeder's Association. In 1899 it was changed to the American Saddle Horse Breeder's Association. At this time, 17 famous mainly Thoroughbred, Standardbred and Morgan stallions were crossed with Naragansett mares and later selected as the foundation sires of the breed. These horses retained the size and beauty of Thoroughbreds, but had the ability to learn the easy riding gaits. These animals quickly became popular in Colonial America for their versatility.They were used for general riding, for work, and for pulling carriages, and were prized for a pleasant temperament, eagerness, strength and stamina.

In 1902 this list was decreased to 10 stallions. Then in 1908 all the names but one were eliminated, and Denmark was designated the sole foundation sire of the breed. The other stallions were given regular registration numbers. Harrison Chief was recognized as the second foundation sire in 1991.


South Africa:

Claude Orpen imported the first American Saddle Horse in 1916 - the Five Gaited Stallion Myer's Kentucky Star 7675. This horse died 18 months later and he imported another American Saddle Horse in 1920 - Red Domino 8313 which also died two years later. The influence of these two stallions were great and together with Fearnot, a South African-bred  five gaited horse, they raised the Avoca Stud to one of the finest in the country.

Stephanus Phillipus Fouche (Fanie) can be seen as the "father" of the American Saddle Horse in South Africa. Practically all the the old champions in the show ring and many of 

today even stem from horses which he bred. The first horse that he imported was in 1933 - the four year old chestnut stallion Peavine Richard Couer de Lion. In 1943 he imported Proud Bourbon O' Goshen. Many of his off-spring fetched record prices.

He imported Edgeview King ( known in the States as Juan Rex/ Edgewood King) in 1947 which sired an large number of great riding horses.

Other role players in South Africa with stallions that played a major role in the South African Saddle Horse industry are :

Godfrey Gird - Cameo's Farewell (imported)

Basjan Steyn - Mr USA (imported)

Bill Sieberhagen-Indiana Ace, Majestic Ensign (both imported)

Fanie Naude – Cameo’s Farewell,  Mr USA (both imported)

Mac  Murdoch – Young America (imported)

Bennie van der Merwe – Vanity’s Highland Chief (imported)

Monty Joubert - High Point Supreme (imported

Gerrit van Schalkwyk – Young Lover (locally bred), Rosemar Highlander (imported) & Shalako (locally bred)

W. van der Merwe - Sparkling Cardinal (imported), General Harmon (imported)

Ron van der Merwe - Supreme Fortune (imported)

Danny Theron – Supreme O’ Lee (imported)

Chris Bischoff - Longstreet

Hennie Louw – Scandal’s Last Tango (locally bred), Hi-Wing (imported)

Bertie van Niekerk - Quaker Town (imported)

Johann Kotze –  Cameo’s Beau Peavine (locally bred), Trojan (locally bred)

Andre Maskell- Yokozuna (locally bred)

Charl Hertzog - Shalako (locally bred), Shalako's O'Kalash (locally bred)

Pieter Jacobs – Scandal’s Last Tango (locally bred), Dominator's Radetsky (locally bred)

Tina de Jager - Sportsman Stonewall (locally bred)

Alec Brett - Fleet Street (locally bred)

Viljoen Hugo - Flinder Street (locally bred)


One should never underestimate the role of the mare in the breeding process -50% of the genetic material comes from her. 

One of the greatest mares that played a role in the South African context is:



Ensign's Kirby x Fair Virginia

Fair Ensign is a full sister to Ensign's Fair Virginia 55305 which appears in the Broodmare Hall of Fame due to the high percentage of KSF ribbon winners, eg Lily Merril ( x Indiana Peavine who is is turn by Indiana Ace) the 1965  Junior Five Gaited World Champion. She was also with Marion Hutchenson (Happy Valley Stables) as the rider the World Champion Junior Exhibition Five Gaited mare in 1968, 1969 and 1970. In 1970 they attained the World Champion Junior Exhibition Five Gaited title as well.

1960 Cameo's Farewell Cameo's Spring Cheer 1971 S.A.Grand Champion Five Gaited  Horse, Dam of Spring Fever, who is the sire of El Nino, who in turn is the sire of Commander in Chief, 1997 World Champion Five Gaited Horse
1962 Cameo's Farewell Cameo's Geisha Girl Dam of S.A.Champions Beau's Madame Spring, Beau's Bedsocks,Majestic Gay Gay, Sayonara and Young Africa
1963 Cameo's Farewell Cameo's Fair Ensign Died at five
1964 Indiana Ace Indiana's Sea Side Lady 1967 S.A.Futurity Weanling
1965 Indiana Ace Indiana's Fair Madame 1968 S.A.Futurity Fine Harness
1966 Cameo's Farewell Cameo's Fairy Lane 1970 S.A.Champion Three Year Fine Harness

1971 S.A. Grand Champion Fine Harness

1967 Cameo's Farewell Cameo's Fair Emblem  
1968 Cameo's Farewell Cameo's Beau Peavine Sire of many S.A. Champions eg. Peavine's Emerald, Peavine's Eye Witness
1969 Cameo's Farewell Cameo's Truly Fair Dam of Yokozuna, sire of numerous S.A. Grand Champion horses eg Tornado, Inferno, Never on a Sunday, Parader's Lady, Mr Yodack,Yoko Rico, Mr America, Barcelona,etc

Other mares out of Cameo's Farewell that bred exceptionally well eg.

Cameo's Rosa Lee - dam of the 1997 World Champion Five Gaited Horse - Commander in Chief and Five Gaited Stallion, Commander's Prince.

Cameo's Rare Jewel - the dam of multiple S.A.Champion Horses eg. Sparkling O'Lee, Pleased to meet You, Sarah Lee, Will Power and Something Rare.

In modern times Supreme O' Lee (Supreme Sultan x The Royal Princess),  Hi-Wing (Wing Commander x Crebilly's Hi-Note) ,Young America ( Mr America x Miss Connie) and Scandal's Last Tango (Vanity Scandal x Gifted Pearl) had an effect as sires of above average broodmares.

Unfortunately mares that were great show horses start to breed at an old age and at the end of their reproductive cycle.  Modern technology with embryo-implantation maybe, can change this to the benefit of the industry. In South Africa this has not been done, but in USA this has been started and a twice World Champion Five Gaited Horse, Garland's Dream, has a couple of foals as embryo transfers in surrogate mares.

In breeding of American Saddle Horses you have more traits to breed for than in any other horse breeds. The horse must have the ideal conformation, attitude, presence, intelligence, personality and animation. To be successful there are no computerized or scientific formula for success. You have to acquire a vast knowledge about the breed characteristics and bloodlines. Knowledge of the show-record (performance) of these horses and bloodlines are essential. To compliment this you also require a gut feel and definitely some good luck!

Some of the greatest horses were born not because of breeder's involvement but because some mares decided that they want to go for that particular stallion and not the one the breeder has picked for her. A good modern example is the 1997 World Champion Five Gaited Horse, Commander in Chief. Cameo's Rosa Lee was brought to Jubilee Commander. She however had another idea. A relatively unknown stallion El Nino was her choice and without known human interference the foal was conceived and Commander in Chief was born. Only later when DNA testing was performed to export the horse, it was revealed that El Nino, and not Jubilee Commander was the sire!


Ideal Saddlehorse breed characteristics:



Perfect Timing

Well-shaped with large, wide set, expressive eyes, gracefully hooked ears set close together on top of the head

and carried alertly; a straight face line with a relatively fine muzzle,large nostrils and a clean smooth jaw line.


Perfect Timing


Long arched and well flexed at the poll, with a fine, clean throatlatch.


Deep and sloping.


Well defined and prominent.


Strong and level, with well-sprung ribs.


Level, with the tail coming out high.


The front leg should be set well forward under the shoulder. The line of the hind leg, in a natural stance, should be vertical from the point of the buttock to the back edge of the cannon bone. The fore and hindquarters are well muscled to the knees and hocks. Legs are straight with broad flat bones, sharply defined tendons and sloping pasterns.


Good and sound, open at the heel, neither toed-in nor toed-out.


The horse breeder has three bases upon which to select animals for breeding purposes.


Individuality and Performance:

Most breeders try to select stallions and mares with good conformation, quality, soundness, breed character, and animation. Outstanding show saddle horses produce more high quality foals than plain saddle horses do.




If a stallion has been sired by a good horse from a good broodmare, which consistently have produced quality offspring, he is more likely to sire good foals himself than is a horse from poor parents. It must be remembered that inheritance is from the ancestry through the parents to the progeny.



The inheritance hour glass






The real test of the value of a breeding stallion and brood mares is the level of excellence that is found in their progeny. This is the best single basis for choosing breeding stock. Brood mare owners who want to improve their stock go to the best stallion available for their mare, not to the nearest or the cheapest stallion. If you are guilty of the latter you cannot be classified as a breeder but rather as a horse producer!  If a mare's first three foals have been disappointing, it is unlikely that any future foals will prove to be more satisfactory.


When young fillies are bought as prospective broodmares or when colts are bought as future sires, they have to be selected on their individuality, performance, and pedigree. On the other hand, when mature horses are selected, their progeny offer the best basis for selection or rejection.


Breeding definitions:


Prepotency :

Most often used in reference to stallions, prepotency means the ability of an animal to transmit well defined characteristics uniformly to his off-spring.



Inbreeding may be defined as the mating of animals that are more closely related than the average of the population from which they are selected.

Inbreeding purifies the genetic make-up of the horses. The result may be good or bad. Therefore, desireable as well as undesireable animals may be produced by this method of mating. Offspring from inbred parents, more often than off-spring of non-related parents, are likely to receive the same hereditary factors from their sire and dam. As a result, animals from an inbred line can be expected to produce off-spring more uniform in their breeding ability than non-inbred stock. This has been quite successfully done in the Thoroughbred industry.



Linebreeding is a mild form of inbreeding in which an attempt is made to keep the animals closely related to an outstanding ancestor in the pedigree. This is a form of inbreeding used in the Saddle Horse industry with great success.


See example of the stallion - Perfect Timing:






Stonewall Starfire










Grey Tango










Cameo's Farewell




Cameo's Truly Fair



Yoko's Tornado



Fair Ensign










Supreme Sultan




Supreme O' Lee






The Royal Princess



Sarah Lee







Cameo's Farewell




Cameo's Rare Jewel






Jodie's Crown Jewel










Supreme Sultan




Supreme O'Lee






The Royal Princess



Sparkling O' Lee







Cameo's Farewell




Cameo's Rare Jewel






Jodie's Crown Jewel










Sparkling Waters




Sparkling Cardinal






Ky Cardinal Belle










General Harmon




Air Line