New book pays homage to famous American Saddlebred show horse


A homage to one of the greatest American Saddlebred horses to grace the show ring has just been published by the University of Kentucky.

Sky Watch: Chasing an American Saddlebred Story is the debut novel by writer Emma Hudelson.

Horse shows used to draw crowds by the thousands to state fairs and venues such as Madison Square Garden. In the 1980s, no performance horse filled more arena seats than the five-gaited American Saddlebred Sky Watch (1977-2001). He was originally supposed to be a fine harness show horse, but he didn’t take to being driven and was soon switched to showing under saddle.

Sky Watch pushed the saddle seat industry to a peak that hasn’t been seen since. The stallion dominated the sport with the same power and intensity as a Kentucky Derby winner. With unmatched talent, his career was one for the history books, earning four World Grand Championships and 12 World titles overall.

Years after he finished competing, videos of Sky Watch’s legacy in the ring captured the heart of Hudelson, an author and lifelong horsewoman. Her fascination with the unstoppable stallion sent her on a journey to discover how a horse becomes a legend, convinced that if she could capture the magic behind the greatest show horse of all time, maybe she could understand her own obsession with Saddlebreds.

Sky Watch: Chasing an American Saddlebred Story, by Emma Hudelson.
Sky Watch: Chasing an American Saddlebred Story, by Emma Hudelson.

Sky Watch: Chasing an American Saddlebred Story is not only the tale of a remarkable horse, but of the American Saddlebred breed. Tracking the path of Sky Watch’s success, Hudelson’s book is a deeply personal homage to one of the sport’s greatest show horses and the indelible impression he left on the breed and in the hearts of those who loved him.

Sky Watch was a son of Flight Time, by the five-gaited World Grand Champion Wing Commander. (The five gaits are walk, trot, canter, slow gait, and rack.) Sky Watch was bred in Kentucky and after his show career stood at stud in California. He returned to his state of birth and lived at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Hall of Champions, from November 1998 to April 2001.

In a review Susanna Forrest, author of The Age of the Horse and If Wishes Were Horses, said: “Sky Watch‘s constellation of tales is plotted with great skill and energy by Hudelson, giving us a compelling insight into an esoteric world where the high-stepping American Saddlebred is king.”

Sky Watch: Chasing an American Saddlebred Story
Hardcover, 280pp RRP $32.95.
ISBN: 9780813199108
It is available from the University Press of Kentucky or from Amazon.

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