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Characteristic and Uses of the Standardbred Horse

From Wikipedia,

Standardbred harness racing horses are so called because in the early years of the Trotting Registry, the standardbred stud book established in the United States in 1879 by the National Association of Trotting Horse Breeders, only horses who could race a mile in a standard time or better, or whose get could race a mile in standard time or better, were entered in the book.

Standardbred Horse History

The first harness racers on North America were the Narragansett Pacer and the Canadian Pacer. Crosses between English Thoroughbreds and other breeds, including the Norfolk Trotter, the Hackney, the Morgan and the Canadian Pacer produced a horse that was the predecessor to the Standardbred.

In the 17th century, the first trotting races were held in the Americas, usually in fields on ridden horses. However, by the mid-18th century, trotting races were held on official courses, with the horses in harness. Breeders selected bloodlines that would produce the fastest horses, with one of the most notable sires being the gray English Thoroughbred Messenger, who was exported to the United States in 1788. He produced both runners and trotters, and the trotters possessed great speed and heart. His descendant, the legendary Hambletonian 10, 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 or pace a mile within the standard 2 minute, 30 second time. Today, many Standardbreds race much faster than this original standard, with several running the mile within 1 minute, 50 seconds.

The stud book was formed in 1939, with the formation of the United States Trotting Horse Association.

Standardbred Horse Breed Characteristics

Standardbreds have shorter legs than the American thoroughbred race horses and longer bodies. They also are of more placid dispositions, as suits horses whose races involve more strategy and more re-acceleration than do thoroughbred races. Standardbreds are very people-oriented, easy-to-train horses.

They are generally a bit stockier than their Thoroughbred cousins, but have refined legs and powerful shoulders and hindquarters. The breed is built very square, not as refined as the Thoroughbred, but are very sound and sturdy. Standardbreds have a wide range of heighth: from 14.1-17hh, and generally come in bay or brown, although other colors are seen.

Uses of the Standardbred Horse

Standardbreds are known for their skill in harness racing, being the fastest trotting horse in the world. In continental Europe all harness races are conducted between trotters. A trotter's forelegs move in unison with the opposite hind legs -- when the right foreleg moves forward so does the left hind leg, and vice versa. In Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, races are also held for pacers. Pacers' forelegs move in unison with the hind legs on the same side.

Because of their skill, Standardbreds are often used to upgrade other breeds of harness racers around the world. However, many are finding careers off the track. The Standardbred Pleasure Horse Organization, founded in the US in the 1980s, helps promote the breed for other disciplines.

The breed has all the usual gaits, and pacers can be retrained to trot. The breed is quite good at jumping, making them suitable for the hunters, jumpers, or eventing. The breed is also seen in dressage, and their excellent temperaments make them good trail or ranch horses.

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