Courtesy of The United States Trotting Association!
The U.S. Trotting Association would like to thank you for reading this
article and welcome you to the world of the Standardbred.
Here is some basic information about the evolution of the
Standardbred breed, as well as its versatility in both
racing and pleasure-horse activities. We hope you are as impressed
with this amazing breed as we are--the Standardbred is truly the
equine world's best- kept secret.
What is a Standardbred
The origins of the Standardbred trace back to Messenger, an English
Thoroughbred foaled in 1780, and later exported to the United States.
Messenger was the great-grandsire of Hambletonian 10, to whom every
Standardbred can trace its heritage. Standardbreds are a relatively
new breed, dating back just over 200 years, but it is a true American
The name "Standardbred" originated because the early trotters
not come into the picture until much later) were required to reach a
standard for the mile distance in order to be registered as part of
the new breed. The mile is still the standard distance covered in nearly
every harness race.
While Thoroughbred racing has long been known as the sport of kings,
dependable, athletic Standardbred brought racing to the common man,
between neighbors on community roads, and later at state-of-the-art
Standardbred racing has long been known as the sport of the people,
and both the sport and the breed are as much a part of our American
landscape as cowboys and apple pie. As it evolved it gave the
United States some of its first "sports heroes," including
Dan Patch, the legendary Adios and the great gray ghost, Greyhound.
In many respects, the Standardbred resembles the Thoroughbred.
However, it is often more muscled and longer in body, and does not stand
as tall, averaging between 15 and 16 hands. The head is bigger and may
even sport a Roman nose. The breed is changing in the last few years
to be much more refined and morab or thoroughbred looking.
This breed appears in varying colors, although
bay, brown and black
are predominant. It weighs between 800 and 1,000 pounds.
Standardbreds are known for their docile personalities and willing
Standardbred racing is contested on two gaits, the trot and the pace.
Trotters move with a diagonal gait; the left front and right rear legs
in unison, as do the right front and left rear. It requires much skill
trainer to get a trotter to move perfectly at high speeds, even though
trotting gait is a natural one in the animal world.
Pacers, on the other hand, move the legs on one side of their body
tandem: left front and rear, and right front and rear. This action shows
Pacers are often called "side-wheelers." Pacers, which account
80 percent of the performers in harness racing and are the faster of
two gaits, are aided in maintaining their gait by plastic loops called
hobbles, which keep their legs moving in synchronization.
Any trotter or pacer who "breaks" into a canter or gallop
a race must pulled back to it's correct gait and lose ground to
its competitors or be disqualified from the race.
Most Standardbreds start racing as 2- or 3-year-olds. Trotters race
trotters and pacers race only pacers. Racing takes place at numerous
tracks and fairs across North America, although harness racing is most
popular in the Midwest and the East.
Some of North Americas top trotting races are Peter Haughton
for 2-year-olds, and the World Trotting Derby, Yonkers Trot,
Hambletonian, and Kentucky Futurity for 3-year-olds. The latter three
races make up trotting Triple Crown.
For pacers, top races include the Woodrow Wilson and Metro Stake
for 2-year-olds, and the Little Brown Jug, Meadowlands Pace,
North American Cup and the Adios for 3-year-olds. The Pacing
Triple Crown is made up on the Little Brown Jug, the Messenger Stake
and the Cane Pace.
While the majority of Standardbred racing takes place with a driver
holding the reins from his seat in the sulky, racing under saddle, a
of Standardbred racing popular early in the breeds development,
become popular once again in the U.S.
Standardbreds off the track
For all their stamina and speed in harness, Standardbreds make willing
and intelligent companions off the track. Because of their training
track, it is usually an easy task to retrain them for pleasure or show.
Standardbreds excel in a variety of disciplines, from barrel racing
dressage, saddle seat to combined driving. They have a heart that knows
no limits, and versatility to go with it.
In 1996, the USTA instituted the Standardbred Equine Program.
This program is designed to work with adoption groups and connect
people looking for Standardbreds for pleasure or showing with people
finding new homes for retired horses. The program also offers much to
Standardbred pleasure horse enthusiast, including the annual High Point
awards program for competitors, the Medallion program for
non-competitors, C.H.A.M.P. for kids. SEP also offers retraining tips,
help with identification of horses (via lip tattoo or neck freeze brand),
as other services. For more information about the Standardbred Equine
Program, or about adopting or buying a non-racing Standardbred, please
contact the USTA at 750 Michigan Ave., Columbus, Ohio, 43215;
call (614) 224-2291 ext. 3260; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please visit the Standardbred Equine Program on the Internet at