About the Standardbred

The standardbred is a breed best known for it’s use in the sport of harness racing, and usually contested in one of two gaits, trotting or pacing.  The name “Standardbred” is derived from back in 1879 from the early trotting horses.  These horses were required to reach a certain standard for the mile distance traveled to be eligible for this new breed.  At the time, the standard was the ability to trot a mile distance in two minutes and thirty-five seconds when hitched to a cart.  Today the mile traveled is much faster, and is responsible for the sport we know as harness racing today.

Local Harness Racing Connections

Harness racing in the Maritimes is a valuable industry, for breeders, owners and trainers alike. Between the three provinces, there are seven active racetracks and hundreds of Standardbred breeders.  One of these well known stables is Schooner Stables who had their name in the news with the successes of the quick rise to fame of “Somebeachsomewhere”.  This fast horse set four world records, winning twenty of his twenty-one career starts.  Earning over three million dollars, “The Beach” was also awarded with several prestigious awards including Nova Scotia Newsmaker of the Year, 2008 North American horse of the year, and was inducted into the 2009 Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.  At the ripe age of four, Somebeachsomewhere is now enjoying his retirement as a stud in Pennsylvania.

Standardbred Myths

Myth – You can’t ride a Standardbred.
False – More and more people are enjoying Standardbreds for every discipline.  They are highly trainable, very willing and capable of any task.  From jumping, trail, endurance, dressage or barrel-racing, their attitude and temperament make them suitable as a versatile under-saddle mount.

Myth – Standardbreds have to be saved from the race track.
True – Harness racing is a money-making industry.  Unfortunately the by-product of this industry is the focal point of the sport itself, the Standardbred.  Many of these horses are retired from the track every year for many reasons.  These horses that have provided hours of entertainment for the public and been a faithful athlete for their trainer deserve a legitimate reward for their efforts.  We owe it to these horses to find them a loving, caring home after their life at the track.  There are many organizations that are active in helping to rehome retirees and help them find a new life after harness racing.

Myth – Standardbreds are only pacers.
False – Standardbreds are bred to either pace (pacers) or trot (trotters).  Many of these horses are able to race without hobbles (a piece of equipment that only allows the horse to pace during a race) or race “free legged”.  Just because Standardbreds are bred to pace does not mean that they are not capable of other gaits.  Sometimes when a Standardbred is unsure of a situation or a cue from the rider, the pace is the gait they know best.  With patience and consistency the pace becomes less and less prevalent and they understand more what is being asked of them. Standardbreds can trot, canter and gallop like every other breed of horse, but not every other breed of horse is necessarily able to pace.

Myth – Standardbreds are “hot” because they are race horses.
False – Standardbreds are generally very kind, gentle, and love to be handled.  New challenges are accepted with interest and enthusiasm.  Being handled consistently early in life allows them to accept traffic, crowds, animals, and other typical distractions.