About Standardbred Horses
by Adrianne Lake
The Standardbred horse is a fairly new American breed (being only about 200 years old) and is known as the fastest harness racing horse in the world. Harness racing is a very popular sport and is usually done on a track of a mile in length. Standardbred racers are classified as either trotters or pacers (trotters being slightly slower than pacers). The Standardbred will pull a lightweight sulky (also known as a racebike) with a driver in the seat. Horses bred for harness racing generally begin their careers at two or three years old. Standardbreds are identified by a tattoo on their inside lower lip or by a freeze brand on their neck showing their registration number.
The Standardbred comes in all colours but solid colours like bay, black, brown, and chestnut are the most prominent. It usually stands around 15.2 HH. This breed has conformation much like a Thoroughbred except it has shorter limbs and a longer body. Appearances can be deceiving though because many Standardbreds have been mistaken for other breeds. This horse weighs anywhere from 800 to 1000 pounds.
While the Standardbred is generally bred for harness racing it is important to note that they are versatile animals. Lately many people have discovered their ability for English disciplines (including jumping, dressage and endurance) as well as western riding. This is important for the Standardbred because many race horses who are deemed unfit for the track are sold at auction (many to meat buyers) because it is widely believed that Standardbreds can do nothing except race in harness. In fact Standardbreds started out being bred for trotting races in a saddle. Fortunately many Standardbred adoption and rescue agencies are in place for these beautiful horses.
Standardbred Horse Breed History:
Although the breed began taking shape in 1850 the term “standardbred” was coined in 1879 for horses who could trot or pace a mile long track in the “standard time” of two minutes and 30 seconds. Only horses that could race in this time frame or better could be registered in the American Trotter Registry. Today the breed of Standardbreds has excelled so much that racing a mile in two and a half minutes is not considered fast anymore. These horses began as Thoroughbreds with some Morgan and Arabian blood thrown in for better speed and endurance. Standardbreds today have a wonderful disposition because they were working cart horses by day and racers by night and therefore had to get along well with their owners.
In 1780 an English Thoroughbred of the Darley Arabian blood line was born called “Messenger” who was bred to race at a gallop. Messenger was the great grandfather of the famous race horse “Hambletonian”. Hambletonian is considered the founding sire of the Standardbred breed. The Standardbred stud book was officially formed in 1939 and this breed has influenced such breeds as the French Trotter and Russian Orlov.