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Standardbred Horse Characteristics

The Standardbred horse is usually described as robust, rugged, loyal, sensible, level-headed, willing and capable of doing any job asked. Standardbred horses have a reputation for being 'bombproof' and many adoptions off the racetrack find homes as stellar trail horses for famillies. Standardbreds have also been used as police horses for their dependability and stoicism. Standardbreds adapt easily to any riding discipline and show intelligence and willingness. Therefore, you will find them more and more as outstanding horses in many riding styles and all types of competition.


Cynthia Marshall takes her Standardbred around the jump course. Photo: Michelle Younghans


Standardbreds have often been said to resemble Thoroughbreds without the 'hot' qualities. Considering that most Standardbreds originate from a famous
A bay colored Standardbred mare Standardbred, Warmblood, Thoroughbred, or ??!
Thoroughbred Stallion, Messenger (see history of Standardbreds), it's not all that surprising that the horse which looks like a Thoroughbred or Warm Blood in a show class might actually be a Standardbred!

Standardbred horses are of medium to large build, weighing between 900 and 1200+ pounds and ranging in size from 14.2 to 17+ hands. The Standardbred can be varied colours, usually bay or brown, or black, chestnut and sometimes grey. Other colours being reintroduced in Australia are the Skewbalds.


Skewbald Stallion Rorschach - Horse of the Year Medicine Dance, Skewbald Stallion
Two fine Skewbald Standardbred stallions: Rorschach and Medicine Dance. Photos provided courtesy of Skewbald Racing Stables

Above all, one thing is for certain: Standardbreds are not simply 'race horses' any more whose lives are usually short-lived if their usefullness on the racing circuit isn't profitable. People are often surprised to learn that the horse in the show class is not a Warmblood or Thoroughbred as performance horses often are, but really, the willing and athletic Standardbred!
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Q: Can a horse from the pacing race track be re-trained as a riding horse or show horse?
A: Yes! Many Standardbred horses are raced and find new careers after their racing days are over.

Q: Are Standardbreds born pacing?
A: Some breeders say so. However it is more likely that the young foal sees its mother pacing and imitates the movement. Standardbreds are trained in hobbles which force the legs to move in the 'pace' (see diagram below) gait.



Many believe that hobbles are cruel and that the pace is a gait entirely unnatural to horses.

Q: Where can I adopt a Standardbred horse?
A: There are adoption agencies all over the world! Check our Organizations section, or perhaps a quick Google Internet search and you are bound to find one in your locale.
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