Standardbred Horse

The Standardbred horse is a race horse, much like its ancestor the thoroughbred, but the big distinction is that it races in harness. Not as fast as a thoroughbred nor as large, it has a longer body and strong back legs that help propel it as it pulls the harness. The term Standardbred refers to the speed standard that is required for acceptance into the breed registry and it was first used in 1879. Standardbred coat colors are bay, chestnut, brown and black. They weigh between 800 and 1,000 pounds.

Probably the advent of harness racing began in the 1800s with people challenging each other to see whose carriage horse was fastest. Most competitions took place in fields, but sometimes these races would take place in cities, and the people would clear the street so that competition could take place; hence the large number of Race Streets.

There are two basic gaits that Standardbred horses use. The first is the trot. Trotters use a diagonal gait with the left front and right rear moving in unison and the right front and left rear also in unison. The second gait is the pace. Pacers move quite differently. The legs of one side are in tandem with the left front and rear moving together and the right front and rear moving together. The action has led some to call pacers "side-wheelers" because they see a resemblance to the steamship with its side propulsion wheel. The American Standardbred is the fastest of all Standardbred and most races in the United States are made up of pacers rather than trotters, while European racers are for the most part all trotters.

Most American Standardbred horses are related to a thoroughbred named Messenger that was imported from England in 1788. He was bred and the offspring Hambletonian 10 had the perfect size, speed, temperament and athletic capacity for harness racing. About 90 percent of American Standardbreds are related to him.

The Standardbred has other uses in the United States as well. Standardbreds are used in horse shows and for pleasure riding. They are also used by Amish people, who do not drive cars, to pull their buggies. The breed is also good at jumping so it is used for show jumping, show hunter and eventing. Because of their gentle temperaments and nibble foot work, they are good trail horses as well.