Standardbreds are great breeds for riding because of their pleasant temperament and ideal conformation. The breed is increasing in popularity because they are seen to be versatile for riding. Despite that, there are still specific characteristics that the breed possesses that should be looked into when they are trained, retrained or managed.
Standardbreds are commonly bred and used for harness racing. Because they are also great for riding, the breed is found to be easy to handle and train for driving. Even a Standardbred that is used to harness racing can easily be transitioned to a riding horse. However, introducing the Standardbred to the transition may not be a good option if you are looking to own the horse. Still, seasoned riders can put up with the patience of retraining the racing horse. This makes the breed suitable for just about any kind of sport.
History and Origins
The founding ancestor of many Standardbreds today was a grey Thoroughbred, named Messenger, which was brought to America in 1788. Though a Thoroughbred and was mated to many Thoroughbred mares, his offspring was found to have a great ability when trotting. As the sport harness racing gained popularity, there had been a demand for selective breeding to produce horses that trot faster with harnesses.
The Standardbred is so called because the horse should be able to trot a distance of a mile within the standard time of 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Only then can a horse be registered as a Standardbred if it meets such qualifications. The name was officially used in 1879.
The Standardbred is comparable to the Thoroughbred but possesses strong and shorter legs. Their chests are narrow; the shoulders are sloping, and they have strong backs. Because a Standardbred is intentionally bred for speed, they have developed higher haunches. The breed is mainly bred for performance as trotting horses on harness; however, if they are bred for their appearance, the horses that will be selected should have straight legs, oblique shoulders and pelvis, excellent bone, ideal length of body, and the right chest depth and croup height.
Behavior and Temperament
A Standardbred’s personality is related to their training and management and can have an impact as they develop. Breeding Standardbreds have made their kind more trainable compared to other breeds. Training the breed for racing can have both advantages and disadvantages to their career as well. The way they are handled during racing training may pose a problem since this breed tends to experience long-term effects of pain from injuries and poor nutrition. Pain is a hindrance to training and should be resolved before the horse is allowed to train further.
Horses built for harness racing are trained and handled frequently and as a result, they know how to stand still and respond well when controlled by whips, reins, and voice. If you need to retrain a harness horse, you need to introduce things that are not familiar with them gradually. For instance, stirrups are unfamiliar to them, so you might want to have patience while introducing it. Since Standardbreds are quite trainable, reconditioning the harness racer is possible but requires more patience on the trainer’s part.
Racehorses are typically fed with high amounts of protein and sugar in their diets to compensate for the energy lost during training and performance. Standardbreds need more amounts of protein to help build their muscles. They even need it more than the Thoroughbreds because training is more intensive for trotters than gallopers.
They are also fed with lesser roughage since roughage holds excess fluid resulting in weight gain for these harness racers that may slow their speed down. Their diet usually has serious and long-term effects on their health. Majority of these horses will end up developing equine ulcers, and this problem can persist even after the horse is retired if left untreated.
Standardbred vs. Thoroughbred
Temperament sets apart the breeds Standardbred and Thoroughbred. The latter are hot-blooded horses, which mean that they are high-strung. On the other hand, Standardbreds are seen to be more laid back; after all, they are good trotters and pacers. They are known for being sensible, calm and sociable. Standardbreds are warm-blooded; they can be as athletic as the Thoroughbred, but is much easier to handle.
Here are other key differences between the two breeds:
- Standardbreds are bred for harness racing while Thoroughbreds (TB) are bred to predominantly race.
- Standardbreds have longer tails than TB’s.
- Standardbreds are a bit heavier but Thoroughbreds are taller, slimmer and possess more athletic ability.
- Standardbreds have longer, muscular bodies than they are tall compared to the TBs.
- When it comes to the head, the Thoroughbred’s is long and pointed while the Standardbred has a straight and broad forehead.
The Standardbred is the ideal breed for saddle or harness racing. With their calm temperament, they also make excellent pleasure horses. With the right training method and proper management, you can surely have the most out of this breed.