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

Most common myths surrounding the Standardbred: Part 1

common myths surrounding the standardbred

I have long wanted to write about the most common myths about Standardbreds. Having grown up my whole life around them, enjoyed seeing their whole life. From breeding, breaking in, race prep, racing, retiring and starting under saddle.

Which I consider myself fortunate to be a part of many aspects of the breed during their life. I have an understanding about the breed, the mechanics of the breeding and have an understanding and respect for training after racing. Which is the main reason why I have held off for so long on having my opinion about what I believe are the myths about the breed.

Common myths surrounding the standardbred
All Smoked Up and half brother All The Rhythm

I’ll be honest, it used to grind my gears reading the absolute hogwash on social media about the breed. It is unfortunate to witness this hype as many people out there that know little about the breed are quick to pass judgement.

I have learnt to just keep scrolling past, when it comes to any discipline with horses you always are going to find people who are completely left field to yourself. You must learn to respect their way of thinking and way of training, and just put your block eyes on, keep hustling and focusing on your training system and your own horses.  For me this has taken a lot of time and self-discipline to be able to achieve.

So, I thought to myself, why not just put these myths on the table for discussion. I wanted to break down what I believe are the top three myths surrounding the Standardbred over three separate posts. Covering each myth in a bit of detail. I have previously posted a quick overview on the origins of the Standardbred, which I always find fascinating!

-Most common myths surrounding the Standardbred-

-Standardbred’s are trained to pace and trained not to canter-

I hear this one way to often.

To begin, Standardbred’s are a 5-gaited breed. Walk, trot, pace, canter and gallop, naturally they can canter without difficultly. The standardbred is a special breed of horse, thanks to scientists at Sweden’s Uppsala University who discovered a gene called DMRT3. Explaining how Standardbred’s have this DMRT3 gene which allows them to have the ability to pace. New York Times has an interesting article about the discovery of the DMRT3 gene.

Over the last few years learning about self-discipline also my own personal development with my training system, my reaction has changed. I used to dismiss such claims that ‘Standardbred’s would never make a riding horse as they do not have the ability to canter’.

But as I have learnt we are all different, we all have our own views nowadays, I just nod and smile and keep on scrolling on social media. If life has taught me anything thus far, all riders train differently and all horses learn differently. However, you cannot go past the fact that scientifically the horse is a 5-gaited breed.

I hear this comment from two different groups.

One, people who are not involved with the breed and have formed a misconception of the Standardbred.

Two, people who are involved within the breed but only from an “after racing” situation.

What we should remember (or learn for any new Standardbred fans) is when the Standardbred is in race training they’re not hoppled seven days a week forced to pace around and around the track forever and a day. Depending on the trainer and where the horse is up to with its training, they can be “fast worked” 2-3 times a week.

This is mixed up during the week with various training such as incorporating jogging up, swimming, galloping and a day off etc. With the various exercises the Standardbred becomes a fit athlete, capable of trotting, pacing, cantering and galloping.

I believe that many Standardbred riders out there are all individually trying hard to promote the breed with life after racing.  That’s why it is important that we support each other with our journeys, because it is damn hard to get the rest of the equestrian community to sit up and take notice. Especially to take you seriously in open competition.

common myths standardbred

Looking forward to sharing the next two parts to common myths surrounding the Standardbred.

Happy Training 😊