Standardbred horses are well-muscled. They have a body that is longer than average, a bit heavier than a Thoroughbred in comparison, and powerful shoulders that are supported by solid legs. It’s best known for its abilities in harness racing, since the Standardbred is effective at trotting or pacing.
It’s also a relatively new breed. The first Standardbred can trace its lineage to a Thoroughbred named Messenger, who was foaled in 1780. This means the breed is about as old as the United States, making it a truly American breed of horse. The name originated because the first registrations required the new breed to trot a full mile in a specific amount of time.
The 1-mile distance is the standard distance covered in a harness race. That’s why it is a Standardbred. Here are some more facts about this American horse breed so you can get to know it a little bit better.
#1. The Standardbred is a patient horse.
Standardbreds tend to be much more tolerant of mistakes than other breeds. They’re used to standing in cross ties, sometimes for several hours at a time, without making a complaint. Most owners do not need to worry about stall behavioral issues with this breed either. It makes the Standardbred an excellent trail horse because it is so even-tempered.
#2. This breed is incredibly durable.
Another reason why the Standardbred is an excellent trail horse is because of its stamina. This breed can cover several miles of trails without putting in much effort. They do tend to prefer being in harness, but some of the horses in this breed can be quite spirited and prefer to be more on their own. This durable nature does not affect their speed at all. It is, in fact, often considered to be the world’s fastest harness horse.
#3. Habits are difficult to form with the Standardbred.
This is a good news/bad news scenario for owners. The Standardbred won’t pick up the bad habits when under the saddle, but they also struggle to pick up good habits. This breed tends to listen to direction from its handler, so the only bad habits that do occur tend to be because of something that the rider is asking the horse to do.
#4. Standardbreds are not a big fan of the saddle.
Even when a Standardbred has adapted to the harness, most horses in this breed will struggle to accept a saddle for the first time. They are independent thinkers, so they generally disapprove of having someone on their back or taking the bit. Owners can help this process along by taking a gentle, slow approach. Have the first rides focus on bitting sessions for a better transition.
#5. Once adapted to riding, Standardbreds are quite responsive.
Most horses in this breed will quickly respond to verbal commands during a ride. Leg pressure can help to reinforce a command which doesn’t receive the appropriate response. A quick tap is often the worst-case scenario in this situation. The Standardbred loves a good adventure, so most of the time it’s willing to go explore with you.
#6. The Standardbred loves its food.
You won’t get much trouble out of a Standardbred unless you aren’t feeding the horse as much as it wants. The breed is hardy when evaluated in its entirety, but behavioral issues can come up if a horse feels like it deserves more feed. Providing that feed will generally reduce the difficulty of maintenance.
#7. It is a consistent horse.
Once the Standardbred adapts to the saddle, the riding experience will be consistent throughout the life of the animal. It doesn’t matter if you ride daily, once per month, or once per decade: the horse is going to respond in the same way as it did during the last ride. This makes it a particularly attractive horse to own for households with children who are interested in horses.
#8. The Standardbred can learn to canter with enough training.
Although trotting and pacing is what this breed is known for, it does have the ability to learn a canter with enough work.
#9. This breed is above average in height.
Most Standardbreds are about 15-16 hands in height. This makes them a little smaller than the Thoroughbred, but above average compared to other breeds. Some Standardbreds have been measured at 17+ hands. The head on this horse is typically larger than average as well, with many of them sporting a variation of the Roman nose. As for weight, the Standardbred meets breed definitions at 900 pounds, though some can exceed 1,200 pounds.
#10. Standardbreds are going through a breed revolution.
Breeders of the Standardbred are attempting to change the overall look of the breed so that it has a more refined definition. The goal is to make the breed become more Thoroughbred-looking, with prominence being given to the horses that are black, brown, or bay in color. Under the current definition, however, a Standardbred can appear in a wide variety of colors and still meet the breed standard.
#11. There is an official adoption program for Standardbreds in the United States.
The Standardbred Equine Program was established by the USTA in 1996. The goal of the program was to begin working with horse adoption groups so that people who were interested in this breed could potentially provide a loving home – especially for retired horses. This program offers retraining tips, racing competitions, children’s programming, and even help with horse identification. You can get involved with this program by contacting the program at (614) 224-2291 ext. 3260 if you’re interested in pursuing an adoption.
#12. Standardbreds are so dependable that they are often used as police horses.
This is because they can present as stoic when being used on the job. Their durability allows a law enforcement official to have confidence in the animal’s ability to perform at a moment’s notice. Their 1-mile speed is difficult to beat when in a pursuit situation. This breed also tends to adapt pretty easily to any riding discipline, so the willingness to be helpful makes a police officer’s job a lot easier.
#13. Many believe that the Standardbred learns its pacing or trotting from its mother.
Some trainers may try to use hobbles in order to learn the pacing from the trotting, which is a controversial method at best. Yet some foals are able to mimic their mothers when they are pacing, so it may be a learned trait, an inherent trait, or perhaps a combination of both.
The Standardbred is one of the most beloved horse breeds in the world today, even if it is relatively new to the horse scene. They are loving, intelligent, and willing to explore the trail with you – or put down some speed for a great race, which makes it a wonderful breed to own.