Many people stereotype. It is a simple human behavior that enables us to make sense of the world around us. We stereotype other people, dogs, cats and even horses.
One of the hugest stereotyping that occurs in the equine industry is that of off the track breeds such as Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds.
Here are the top 10 myths I have heard about in regards to Standardbred’s. To disprove each of these myths, I have outlined my experiences training a young, off-the-track Standardbred mare named Animotion (AKA Annie).
Myth #1 – Standardbreds are only pacers
False. Off the track Standardbreds are trained to pace, that does not mean that pacing is all they can do. When a Standardbred is used on the track as a harness horse, they are required to pace and do not have the option to trot.
Annie was trained harshly to pace, but when I got her moving under-saddle it was really easy to get her to trot. Getting her to maintain the trot was difficult. This is because they know they are not allowed to trot if they came from the track. All you have to do when working with a pacer to train them to trot, is to relax and essentially sit like a bump on a log when they trot in the beginning. This way they learn that they are not going to get into trouble if they trot. It only took Annie two or three rides to realize this.
Myth #2 – Standardbred pacers never trot
True. This is related to the first myth. Standardbred pacers never trot when it comes to racing. However, as I have noted with Annie, above, pacers are quite capable of trotting.
The reaction for off-the-track Standardbreds to move out of the trot and back into a pace is usually when they are unsure or worried, because they fall back into their training. With patience and practice you can lessen the urge to pace. With Annie, it only took three or four rides with consistent training for her to keep the trot and not worry about running into a pace.
Myth #3 – Standardbreds can not canter or lope.
False. Standardbreds can walk, trot, pace, canter, gallop, etc. Annie is a fine example of this myth as well. I trained her to walk and trot under-saddle. Once she was comfortable with that, the training moved forward into cantering. Not only was she willing to canter forward, but she has an extremely comfortable movement at the canter.
Myth #4 – You can’t ride a Standardbred.
False. Considering all the talk I have been doing about riding Annie at the walk, trot and canter, there is no reason for people to believe that Standardbred horses cannot be ridden. They in fact make extremely willing and brave partners under-saddle.
Myth #5 – If you ride a Standardbred, all it will do is pace at 40 mph.
False. A Standardbred is just like any other horse under-saddle. Annie happened to race off into a pace when I started her, but I have had many others race off a trot when they first start their training or re-training. This is not conclusive of Standardbreds, but can be said for all horses. Standardbred’s just starting under-saddle are like every other horse who need consistent, patient training until they learn how to carry a rider properly under-saddle.
When it came to training Annie under-saddle, I simply used the release of pressure to teach her how to walk, trot, canter, stop, back-up, etc. These same concepts apply to all breeds.
Myth #6 – All Standardbreds are ugly.
False. Firstly, there is no such thing as an ugly “horse” as I see it. In fact, Standardbreds have been mistaken for anything from Thoroughbreds to Quarter Horses to Morgans. None of which are “ugly” breeds. There are various physical styles of Standardbreds, but each Standardbred has a solid and steady temperament, good bone, strong feet, and a capacity for incredible endurance. Annie is another fine example of the myth about all Standardbreds being “ugly”.
Myth #7 – Standardbreds are “cheap” horses.
False. Now-a-days, every horse can be a cheap horse. The truth is that the price of an equine, of any breed, depends on their bloodlines, their skills, their history, etc. There can be $10,000 or more Standardbreds and there can be $500 Standardbreds like Annie. The difference is none compared to other breeds.
Myth #8 – All Standardbreds coming off the track will have bad legs.
False. Most Standardbred’s that come off the track are simply not fast enough to be considered racers. This means that they were not raced long enough to have issues with their legs. Instead of pushing them beyond their capabilities, these horses are merely “retired” from the track. True, some Standardbreds do have injuries, but with proper care they are quite capable of healing and being introduced into a new career.
Annie is an off the track mare who is almost three years old now. She is perfectly sound and has very healthy hooves and legs.
Myth #9 – Standardbreds are “hot” because they are race horses.
False. This goes for Thoroughbreds too. A “hot” blooded horse only means that the horse has more oxygen in their blood, which helps them to cool down faster. Standardbreds are generally very gentle and affectionate. They are bold, brave and enthusiastic.
Annie is another prime example of why this myth is false. She is the sweetest and most cuddly mare I have ever met. She is still young and I have never seen a single thing startle her. She enjoys new experiences and places and is very brave and steadfast.
Myth #10 – Standardbreds have to be saved from the race track.
False if you want to use the word “saved”. Not all Standardbreds need to be saved from the track, same with Thoroughbreds. A lot of Standardbreds and Throughbreds alike do require saving. In the same breath, a lot of them are retired respectfully and with a bitter-sweetness about it.
Now that you have read the myths and truths about the Standardbred breed, perhaps you will consider the loyal, brave and affectionate partnership that a Standardbred can bring you.