The beautiful National Show Horse is the elegant result of combining two very distinctive breeds, bringing the best of stamina, agility and grace to the show ring!

The National Show Horse, also known as NSH, is a breed derived from the crossing of Arabian Horses with Saddlebreds. Bred to bring out the very best qualities of both these breeds has resulted in a premier show horse. An athletic yet graceful riding horse, its elegant high stepping action is truly a crowd pleaser.

This is a very intelligent and versatile breed. The NSH is a relatively hearty breed which can handle and even thrive on plenty of stimulation and hard work. They enjoy the great care that is lavished on the show horse, and look forward to constant grooming and regular training. They are usually used for saddle seat riding but can also be used for dressage, endurance, show jumping, and most western disciplines. They can make comfortable trail horses as well.

Established as a registry in 1981, the National Show Horse Registry has been working to develop this breed to enhance the best qualities of both Arabians and Saddlebeds to produce a premier show Horse that can be enjoyed for their beauty and performance characteristics. The NSH should be refined looking, but not lacking in substance. The character and motion of the horse is considered of the highest importance. The registry states “When observed at rest or in motion, the horse must exhibit a natural presence and, when animated, extreme brilliance. The horse must exhibit high carriage when showing or relaxed.” The National Show Horse registry has some 15,000 registered horses all over the United States.

Scientific Classification

show horse dressage
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Horse Breeds

The National Show Horse or NSH are a light horse breed. Light horse breeds generally weigh under 1,500 pounds. They are typically used as riding horses for leisure and trail riding. Being agile and swift, many are also used on the racetrack, in the show ring, and for work on the ranch.
Light horses are grouped in a couple of different ways, one being the continent or country where they originated from. They are also grouped according to training, classified as either a stock type, hunter type, saddle type, or ‘other’. A body type is generally attributed to each class, with the ‘other’ classification being a bit of an odd ball. It includes those that are color breeds or those that may fit a body type of one of the training classes, but not be used for that type of training. In some cases the ‘other’ types can also include those that may fit into more than one of the type groups.
The horse class the National Show Horse primarily fits into is the ‘saddle’ type class as it is strong in saddle seat riding, but can also be used for dressage, show jumping, endurance, and western horse riding.

Horse Backgrounds

In Arizona in 1981, Gene LaCroix established the National Show Horse Registry (NSHR). He did so in order to establish a new breed of horse. This breed, the National Show Horse, would combine the Saddlebred’s long neck and high step with the beauty and refinement of the Arabian.
LaCroix began with open registration from both breeds. He then restricted the rules for breeding and registration to breed for the desired qualities of the new breed. These qualities included the following:

  • A balanced and animated way of going
  • A long shapely neck with a relatively small head
  • A proportionately short back and long hip
  • A high set tail
  • A natural presence when showing

His new registry immediately developed a system of prize money as incentive to breeders to meet these criteria. Registration now requires the sire be a NSHR nominated Arab, Saddlebred or NSH, and the owners must have nominated the stallion prior to breeding. Mares from any of the three breeds are allowed, as long as foals meet the qualification of having at least 25% Arabian blood.
The NSHR board of directors maintains responsibility for developing and overseeing all programs of the NSHR. These programs include promoting and assisting sanctioned horse shows and the distribution of prize monies and promotional material to these shows.
This successful strategy has given rise to the eye-catching and aristocratic National Show Horse.


The National Show Horse has a high-set, swan-like neck without a pronounced crest. His small, refined head can have a straight or slightly concaved profile, with small ears and large, expressive eyes. His pronounced withers are set atop a deep and well laid back shoulder. His topline should be level, and a moderately sloping croup is allowed, and his tail should be set on high. His proportions should include a relatively short back and a long hip. His legs should have long forearms and short cannon bones and pasterns should be well angled in front and back.

show horse in action
Image Credit: Jim Noetzel, Shutterstock

Horse Care and Feeding

They are usually fairly easy keepers owing to their Arabian ancestry. They do well in a stall or pasture environment as long as plenty of attention and socialization is provided. They are gregarious horses and love having company; they seem to do poorest when kept alone.

Horse Training and Activities

The National Show Horse is most often used for riding saddleseat, although they can make intelligent and comfortable trail horses as well. The NSH has a high-stepping action and when showing, are encouraged to have a very elevated front end. Some are five gaited, displaying walk, trot, canter, slow gait (or single foot) and the rack. They can be very versatile like the Arabian, and have been used for dressage, show jumping, endurance, and most western disciplines.

Common Health Problems

Due to their Arabian ancestry the National Show Horse is an easy keeper. Arabians are known for being a sound breed due to their strong legs and dense bones, and they tend to have a low occurrence of lameness problems.


The National Show Horse is available throughout the country. The National Show Horse Registry maintains a list of breeders of distinction. Most sale horse related websites and periodicals also list horses available for sale. Price will vary widely with respect to bloodlines and training.



Featured Image Credit: mariait, Shutterstock