Sorry if this has been asked already, but since as you pointed out this colt/filly has a great natural stride, why would you then trim their toes long or put pads/chains on them when they grow up? I ask because I've never seen a picture of a saddlebred with normal length toes. I'm an Icelandic fan myself. Traditional Icelandic riding is abusive in some ways (mostly different ways from other gaited breeds), but the one thing they don't do is put extra equipment on horses that don't need it, even when showing. They advertise those horses as naturally gaited and charge more for them. The most prized horses are the ones that will tolt on a loose rein. My point is that at least they believe mechanically enhancing the gait is a last resort. Saddlebred (and Walker) fans seem to use mechanical enhancements by default.
I can understand liking the breed, because what appeals to us in a horse is not always a conscious thing. But just because you like saddlebreds doesn't mean you need to use traditional training methods on them and support those methods by participating in shows. Same thing for Walker people.
What "traditional" training methods do you mean?
Long toes? Saddlebreds have very different conformation when compared to most other breeds. Keeping their toe longer than other breeds does nothing to enhance their gait - it's just how they have to be trimmed because of the way they're built and the way they naturally move (which is also completely different).
Pads? Look again at the pictures I put in my first post. The Walker has the pads that you automatically think of when you hear the word. The Saddlebred has TINY ones on. The pads Saddlebreds wear are the same as the pads we put on horses with bad feet to help cushion them. How could that possibly be inhumane?
Chains? Again, the chains used by ALL Saddlebreds are extremely light and not used to cause pain. They are used because they help the horse lift his legs higher because he feels like he wants to step out of the chain. They also help him keep his trot balanced. I tried to find a picture of the chains Saddlebreds wear, but I couldn't find one. But they are so light that when compared to the size of the horse, it would be like you wearing a bracelet.
Stretchies? Stretchies are used to build muscle - just like side reins. It's just like lifting weights in the gym. If they are too tight, they break. They are not strong enough to hinder the horse's movement - they just make it a little harder for them.
Here is part of an article about Saddlebreds:
"While the arena in which the horse works is filled with soft cedar shavings and dragged repeatedly with a harrow to insure evenly soft footing, we discuss additional athletic equipment that helps the development of the show horse. The use of developers or stretchers is common in many training barns. Developers consist of two leather straps, covered with thick dense fleece. These padded straps buckle loosely around each front pastern, but not too loose as to fall up past the ankle, or down beneath the heel. These padded straps have a large ring on each, from which rubber tubing, cut to custom size may be snapped. Called "stretchers," because the tubing stretches easily with the horse's motion at the trot, this body building equipment helps the horse to develop his shoulder muscles, thereby freeing his motion in front, and aiding in his naturally even timing. Although stretchers or developers are not applied to the hind legs, the hind legs follow suit and timing is greatly helped behind as well. Developers are exactly like those used by human body builders and Olympic and professional boxers, as well as cross-country athletes. How does the horse feel about resistance, training? Just watch. The colt will either use them or not use them.
Developers offer low-impact resistance training to the equine athlete. The horse stretches them if he so desires, helping to develop muscle tone in his shoulders.
Developers don't force the legs to do anything. They only come into use if the colt chooses to use them. Most times, the colt will playfully react to this new toy, looking down at them, snorting and waving his tail, he stretches the tubing to the max. This is an important early indication of the colt's show horse desires. Sometimes a colt will not use the stretchers at all; rather he will simply trot around straight legged, applying no pressure to the rubber tubing. This colt simply does not reflect the characteristics of the breed. He does not have the athletic ability, nor probably the inclination to be a show horse. He is not a "bad" horse; he is simply not cut out to be a show horse, and no amount of developing is going to force him to be one. This type of colt, therefore, finds another career. While he is probably very attractive and kind, he makes a wonderful pleasure riding horse. For this reason of determining talent and desire from the lack of, developers are a vital aid."
"Tail setting does NOT involve any "breaking" of bone, nor is any ligament cut, as is erroneously assumed. Rather this small lateral muscle is cut, making an incision so small that it looks like a pin hole. While a half-hour is commonly allowed for local anesthesia to take effect, the process of "tail cutting" only takes a few moments. The result is a freed-up tail, which can still move in any and all directions, but is no longer pinned down to the buttocks. Retired horses and broodmares in pasture that have had their tails cut still have full use of their tails and are able to swish a fly away at their choosing. While this process of cutting is extremely minimal, its misconceptions are dramatized by the aesthetic effect that a long, well cared-for tail has in the show ring. Many show horses wear a "tail set", a loose and relaxed fitting light harness which lays on the horse without any pressure put on him anywhere. While the set looks complicated to the newcomer, it is designed not to put pressure on any part of the horse, but merely to keep the crupper in place. The crupper, made of light aluminum, literally sets under the horse's tail, perpendicularly out from the hindquarters, and never straight up. Well padded, the set is removed every day along with the horse's sheet, the horse himself thinking no more of his set than he does of his favorite blanket. It's all just his nightgown to him. And, as we stated before, he's completely capable of telling us when he doesn't like something..."
Honestly, I think docking tails is way more inhumane than cutting them the way Saddlebreds (and Walkers?) do. Neither one causes any pain whatsoever and both can still move their tail in any direction (except the docked tail can't move straight up like the Saddlebreds), but the Saddlebred can swish flies and the horse with the docked tail can't.
Is there anything else about Saddlebreds you think is abusive? Do you still think any of the things I named are abusive?
Oh, and that is all what SOME Walker people do as well.... Not just Saddlebred people.