National Show Horse

National Show Horse
  • HEIGHT: Not specified by breed standard
  • PLACE OF ORIGIN: Arizona
  • SPECIAL QUALITIES: Beauty, presence, brilliance, and stamina
  • BEST SUITED FOR: Showing under saddle and in harness

In 1981 Gene LaCroix, an Arabian horse trainer from Arizona, had the idea to develop a new horse registry and ultimately a new breed that would combine the best qualities of both the Arabian and the American Saddlehorse. Horses that were blends of the two breeds had long been winners in the show ring, but the cross did not have a name of its own. The National Show Horse Registry (NSHR) was established in August 1981.

The ideal horse was to have the Saddlebred’s extremely long neck, high-stepping action, and exceptional show presence combined with the Arabian’s beauty, refinement, and stamina. With LaCroix as the force behind it, and the obvious beauty and sparkle of the horses in the show ring, the breed caught on quickly. The founders of the new registry wisely developed a lucrative system of prize money that provided incentives for exhibitors to show their horses. In its first show, in 1984, the NSHR awarded more than $100,000 in prize money.

Initially the NSHR offered a period of open registration from both breeds in order to develop a set of horses to be used as the foundation for the new breed. Since then the rules have become more restrictive regarding which horses may be used for breeding. Eligibility for registration requires that a foal be sired by an NSHR-nominated sire. A nominated sire must be a registered Arabian, a Saddlebred, or a National Show Horse, and the owners of the stallions must have nominated their horses to the NSHR and received approval prior to breeding.

The pinto pattern, which was passed on to this National Show Horse, comes from the Saddle-bred side of the pedigree.

The horses are most often exhibited in saddleseat classes.

Breeders may use registered mares of any of the three foundation breeds to produce NSH foals when crossed with an NSHR-approved stallion appropriate for that mare. Any combination of the three breeds may be used, as long as the foals produced meet the requirement of having from 25 to 99 percent Arabian blood.


According to the National Show Horse Registry (founded in 1981):

• Currently, 14,760 horses are registered.

• About 350 foals are registered each year.

• National Show Horses are found in all parts of the country.

• The NSHR was the first registry to offer a performance-based scholarship program for its Youth Equitation competitors.

Breed Characteristics

When observed either at rest or in motion, the National Show Horse must exhibit a natural presence, and when in motion show extreme brilliance. The motion is balanced with obvious power flowing from the hindquarters to an elevated front end, with the front legs showing both flexion and extension.


A particular height is not specified by the breed standard, but Arabians range from 14 to 15.2 hands and Saddlebreds from 15 to 17 hands. The National Show Horse has a relatively small, refined head with large eyes; small, well-placed ears; and a straight or slightly concave profile. A Roman nose or convex profile is not desirable. The neck is very long, relatively upright, and set high on the shoulders, with a fine throatlatch. The neck should be well shaped but without a pronounced crest. The withers are pronounced. The shoulders are very deep and well laid back.

The back is proportionately short and closely coupled, with long hips and a relatively level topline. The natural and flowing tail is relatively high set. The legs are correct from all angles, with long forearms and short cannon bones and long and well-angled pasterns. There is refinement of bone but plenty of substance, especially in the chest, girth, shoulders, and hips.


As with height, the NSHR breed standard does not mention color. Registered Arabians may be bay, gray, black, chestnut, or roan with white markings on the face and legs, but no pinto coloring. Saddlebreds, on the other hand, come in all colors, including pinto and palomino.

In this horse, the Arabian side of the family tree is more apparent.

Sometimes the Saddlebred’s long neck, elegant head, and powerful shoulders can be readily seen.

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