The Standardbred

Standardbreds are a breed of horse best known for their ability to race in harness at a trot or pace instead of under saddle at a gallop. Developed in North America, the breed is now recognized worldwide for its harness racing ability. They are solid, well-built horses with good dispositions.

Breed History
In the 17th century, the first trotting races were held in the Americas, usually in fields on horses under saddle. However, by the mid-18th century, trotting races were held on official courses, with the horses in harness. Breeds that have contributed foundation stock to the Standardbred breed included the Narragansett Pacer and the Canadian Pacer, English Thoroughbreds, Norfolk Trotter, the Hackney, and the Morgan. Breeders selected bloodlines that would produce the fastest horses, with one of the most notable sires being the gray English Thoroughbred stallion Messenger, who was exported to the United States in 1788. He produced both runners and trotters.

Messengers descendant, the legendary Hambletonian 10, also known as Rydysks Hambletonian, was born in 1849. He was sold, his owners thinking he was worthless, but later became one of the most prolific sires of Standardbreds, today with nearly every trotter or pacer tracing its lineage back to him.

The name "Standardbred" was first used in 1879, due to the fact that, in order to be registered, every Standardbred had to be able to trot a mile within the "standard" of 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Today, many Standardbreds race much faster than this original standard, with several pacing the mile within 1 minute, 50 seconds, and trotters only a few seconds slower than pacers. Slightly different bloodlines are found in trotters than pacers, though both can trace their heritage back to Hambletonian.

Breed Characteristics
A Standardbred is a bit heavier in build than a Thoroughbred, but still shows quality and refinement

Standardbreds tend to be more muscled and longer bodied than the American Thoroughbred. They also are of more placid dispositions, as suits horses whose races involve more strategy and more changes of speed than do Thoroughbred races. Standardbreds are considered people-oriented, easy-to-train horses.

They are generally a bit heavier in build than their Thoroughbred cousins, but have refined, solid legs and powerful shoulders and hindquarters. Standardbreds have a wide range of height, from 14.1 to 17 hands (57"-66"), and most often are bay or the darker variation of bay called "brown," although other colors such as chestnut and black are not uncommon.ncluding chestnut, black. gray and roan are also found. The tobiano pattern is seen in some New Zealand-bred horses.

There are two basic types, trotters and pacers. As the name suggests, the trotters preferred racing gait is the trot, where the horses legs move in diagonal pairs, when the right foreleg moves forward so does the left hind leg, and vice versa. The pace is a two beat lateral gait; Pacers forelegs move in unison with the hind legs on the same side.

However, the breed also is able to perform all other horse gaits, including the canter, and pacers can be retrained to trot.

Uses
Standardbreds are known for their skill in harness racing, being the fastest trotting horse in the world. Because of their speed, Standardbreds are often used to upgrade other breeds of harness racers around the world, such as the Orlov Trotter and French Trotter.

In Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, races are held for both trotters and pacers. In continental Europe, all harness races are conducted between trotters.

Standardbreds are also used in horse shows and for pleasure riding. Many retired Standardbreds find a second career off the track with the help.

The breed is quite good at jumping, making them suitable for the sport horse disciplines of hunt seat, show jumping, show hunter and eventing. The breed is also seen in dressage, and their excellent temperaments make them good trail riding and ranch horses. In addition, because of the genetics of the breed, they can also be encouraged and trained to perform smooth ambling gaits, such as the rack and the stepping pace.