The Standardbred

The Standardbred originated when Messenger, an English Thoroughbred, foaled in 1780, and  exported to the United States in 1788. Along with the English Thoroughbred: Morgans, Narragansett Pacers, Hackneys and Clays (an extinct early-American breed which descended from a Barb stallion), as well as other breeds, contributed to the Standardbred, making it a true American breed. The term "Standardbred" was coined because the early trotters (pacers would not come into the picture until much later) were required to reach a certain standard for a one mile distance to qualify to be registered as part of the new breed. The mile is still the standard distance covered in nearly every harness race. 

Plum Rum Peanuts, owned by Keith and Debbie WilleyThe Standardbred is one of the most populous breeds in North America, but, outside harness racing, is barely known. It all started as friendly competitions between neighbors, and grew into a celebrated sport of athleticism and skill. It began with harnessed horses of all shapes, sizes and bloodlines, and developed into a breed of its own: one known for its durability, intelligence, versatility and speed. For years, the Standardbred has been a  breed ignored by the pleasure and competitive riding scenes. The truth is that the breed possesses a  great deal of versatility and has much to offer beyond the confines of the racetrack.

Standardbred racing is contested on two gaits the trot and the pace. 

Trotters move with a diagonal gait: the left front and right rear legs move in unison, as to the right front and left rear. It requires much skill by the trainer to get a trotter to move perfectly at high speeds, even though the trotting gait is a natural one in the animal world, But horsemen and fans agree that there are few things more beautiful than a trotting horse in full stride. 

Pacers, on the other hand , move the legs on one side of their body in tandem: left front and rear, and right front and rear. This action shows why pacers are often called  “side wheelers”. Pacers, which account for about 80% percent of the performers in harness racing, are aided in maintaining their gait by plastic hobbles, which keep their legs moving in synchronization. Due to the surness of their action pacers are usually several seconds faster than trotters. 

The Standardbred  is the world’s fastest horse in harness: but the Standardbred also excels in a multitude of other equine disciplines. Members of this great breeds are able to face every task put before them with gentleness, patience, and a heart that knows no limits. 

Standardbreds are making the successful transition to lives and careers that are far re-moved from the racetrack.  "Retired" racehorses can be any age from 2 years old up to 15 years old. The horses range between 14.1h to 17h in height. Standardbreds are usually bay, chestnut or brown
with the occassional grey, black or strawberry roan horses are found, as well.

Peanuts, 31 years young, with rider TiffanyThe Standardbred’s personality is much different than you might expect from a racing athlete. When competing, he may appear somewhat fierce in his pursuit of victory, but the Standardbred is good natured, friendly, a quick learner and is known for having a calm disposition. 

Standardbreds have become athletic dressage and eventing competitors. Western or hunt seat pleasure prospects. Courageous hunters, jumpers, trail horses, barrel racers, and endurance mounts. Cutting and gymkhanna horses. Racking and saddle seat enthusiasts. Police and drill team mounts. He can compete in any sport - endurance, combined driving and 3-day eventing, jumping or  reining - and excels as a working horse in movies, police work, pulling a plow or cannon, and rounding up cattle.

Tolerant, intelligent and willing, these horses take on new lifestyles and expectations with ease. Many individuals and organizations are helping Standardbreds find loving homes away from the racetrack. 

Standardbred Equestrian Program:Promotes the Standardbred horse in all traditional and non-traditional roles, including racing under saddle, pleasure riding, youth participation,  horse shows and other equestrian events.
The California Historical Artillery Society  Standardbreds in action!
USTA - United States Trotting Organization Equestrian Program
Racing Under Saddle Owners and Riders Association

BACK to List of Articles