Most Common Myths Surrounding the Standardbred: Part 2

I enjoy writing and sharing my insights about what I am passionate about, anything Standardbred and dressage I can chat all day. It is important in our sport that we are a supportive bunch of individuals, this is why I find it incredibly frustrating reading and listening to people putting down and creating a negative environment surrounding the Standardbred.

I previously posted about how Standardbreds are trained to pace and trained not to canter in Part 1 of Common Myths Surrounding the Standardbred. I discussed my insights about how the Standardbred are naturally a 5-gaited breed. Thanks to the scientists at Sweden’s Uppsala University, who discovered the gene called DMRT3. In turn, allowing the Standardbred to have the natural ability to pace.

Standardbred Myths

Personally, I feel every myth surrounding the Standardbred stems from myth #1 Standardbreds are trained to pace and trained not to canter. This cloud of misconception hangs over almost every aspect with Standardbreds after racing.

Personally, I feel every myth surrounding the Standardbred stems from myth #1 Standardbreds are trained to pace and trained not to canter. This cloud of misconception hangs over almost every aspect with Standardbreds after racing.

I wanted to discuss what I personally feel is the second biggest myth surrounding the Standardbred.

Standardbreds will never make a competitive mount.

Discussion purposes, let’s just assume 95% of people who have this brain wave of ‘Standardbreds will never make a competitive mount’ believe this because the horse is a ‘Standardbred’ meaning they pace. Which, they believe they will always pace and nothing else. They only believe they will be good trail horses or anything in a ‘non-competitive’ event.

Then the remaining 5% are individuals who aren’t on any of our Christmas card list, they just dismiss anything or don’t even have a second thought about it.  Closed book, Standardbreds don’t exist.

Rather than laying the facts out explaining that the Standardbred is naturally a 5-gaited breed and they have the capability (like any other breed) to trot, canter and gallop. I thought to discuss how to successfully show the 95% can be a competitive mount, as they say a picture is worth 1,000 words.

Because, guaranteed to any Standardbred owner you know your horse has what it takes to hold themselves in any show line up, in any dressage arena, in any endurance ride and even out there eventing. You know from firsthand experience how trainable, quiet and willing the breed really is.

How to successfully make your Standardbred a competitive mount?

I’ve picked a few main areas on how to make your standardbred into a competitive mount, how to reflect your hard work and make them be noticed in a positive way to the wider equestrian community. Turn heads and make everyone take notice on how great the Standardbred can be. These areas are what I feel are very important, not just for Standardbred horses but for any breed of horse.

It all starts from the beginning

Most of the Standardbred’s that we acquire have not been started under saddle or they have only had a few rides. Don’t be despondent, the Standardbred is already broken into harness. They have been mouthed, long reined, driven, floated, cross tied, worked with other horses. All the basic work has already been put into them. It is at this point of their changing careers, the saddle is introduced, the leg aids are introduced, the weight is shifted from being pulled to being carried on their backs.

It is at this stage I encourage (from personal experience):

  • Patience
  • Hard work
  • Patience
  • Hard work
  • Patience
  • Enjoyment

Balance is the main area I would set my focus. I too often see horses out that aren’t balanced, running forward and on the fore. I just love reading anything from Kyra Kyrklund, if you are after a good read about balance I strongly recommend visiting Dressage Today’s website to read all about her ‘smaller steps for greater balance’.

Don’t rush to take your horse out under saddle, it’s no longer a race! Don’t take them out until they are ready. If you are going to be showing, don’t take them out until they have a nice balanced walk, trot and canter (3 beat), smooth transitions in and out of canter. Same if you are going out to compete in dressage, know your test, if it is preparatory ensure you have a nice balanced walk and trot with smooth transitions.

Training is the Number 1 area no matter what level rider you are or what level your horse is at, everyone needs a good coach. A genuine set of eyes on the ground to assist with your journey. I hear too frequently how riders are put off asking for coaches for lessons because they have a Standardbred and are worried they may be rejected for a lesson for it. I feel extremely blessed to have (who I feel) are the best coaches I have access to for lessons, the amount of hours in the saddle during these lessons are invaluable. Not once throughout my career have I had any rejection or negativity from coaches, if you are willing to learn and progress your riding there won’t be anyone stopping you.

A few friendly tips to help change the 95 % perspective:
  • A picture says 1,00 words, so train and work hard at home before you have your first outing
  • Get a good coach, EA has a list of qualified coaches (dressage and showing) in your area.
  • You are never too good to learn
  • Negativity makes you ugly, ignore any hate. We all have our bad days just keep working towards your goals.
  • Enjoy your small successes as much as the large ones
  • Never think that because you ride a Standardbred you are disadvantaged
  • Professionalism goes a long way