Ah yes. Those dreaded evil show horse breeders, trainers, owners supporters. Yes, the breed has changed in the last 200 years. Yes the breed has changed in the last 50 years. Yes, the breed has changed in the last 20 years. 10 years even. The influence of circumstances will change the breed. As horses were phased out of being necessities for farming and transportation, so their jobs were altered. As time progresses, there will be yet more changes to the breed in appearance, abilty, form, and function. Some lines are still true to form, and not these dainty little whisps. If you study the stallions available today(check out futurity auctions this coming spring) you can find many a horse of substance and still be appealing to modern show peoples.
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You're hard pressed to find a great many naturally gaited Saddlebreds (most are taught) and finding some with a cannon bone greater than 7.5" is an even tougher job. That's the reason I own a cross. I knew the odds of getting a gaited one was slim to none, but at least I have 9.5" cannon bones that will be 10+" before I start to ride long distances. Won't be as smooth, but as gaited, but that's my body's problem. At least they'll hold up for thousands of miles and might even manage 300 miles in a week.
Far easier to find a strong cross that still has the Saddlebred heart than the old style Saddlebred. I've seen some, but they are few and far between and the few who own them know what they have and are in no hurry to part with them.
30 years ago in AZ I rode a wonderful Saddlebred gelding that was such a horse and the mount of a very happy soldier at Ft Huachuca who rode him with the local Cav unit. He was the most robust, strong and easy gaited Saddlebred I've ever ridden (although he may have been pacing....didin't matter to me, since he wasn't in shows).
Yes, for those who want to do shows it doen't matter that the strong, robust Saddlebred is replaced by a prancing peacock. They don't need the Saddlebred of old and the functions for which the old Saddlebred was so prized are not in demand. Of course the Saddlebred isn't alone in this. TWH and other popular show breed have suffered to some degree from the same desire to produce horses with show traits above those traits that made them so popular to begin with.
But who knows. With the bad press that show horse training has been getting perhaps in time the pendulum will swing back the other way. Not in time for me to see the difference in my lifetime. I watched it continue to swing in one direction. Doubtful that I'd live long enough to see it reach the opposite site
even if it starts in my lifetime.
No matter. People use cross breeding to make the improvements. Just wish someone could make a cross that could bring back the natural gaiting with a high degree of regularity.