That Dreaded C Word – Canter

It’s no secret I’m lover of all things Standardbreds. I’ve been fortunate to have grown up surrounded by them. From breeding, training, racing then into their career after racing. Oh and I guess plenty of experience looking after the retired ones too!

The last 12 months or so after completing my EA Coaching, I’ve been helping my fellow Standardbred riders get the best out of their horses.

I come across horses at all different stages of their training, green horses to horses that have plenty of miles under their belts.

One thing I do come across is that dreaded C word.


I wanted to tell you one thing. It’s not impossible.

There is nothing holding you back. Speaking from my own experience, I’ve competed in more open competitions then I ever have within the Standardbred ring. It can be done.


But how?

Great question..


As much as we would like, there is no magic wand, no instant quick fix and certainly no tricks.


So, what is it?


Building blocks in our foundations, tackling and linking our blocks along the way.


We want to be an expert at the basics, our transitions not only in and out but within the gait. Keeping your horse balanced underneath you, not running away through the bridle. Having a genuine connection from the hind legs through your seat and into your hands from the bridle, working over their top line.


You can read a hundred different ways to get your Standardbred cantering, they’re all true someone has tried and tested it.

Don’t forget there are many ways not to get your Standardbred cantering, because we’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked!


My piece of advice to you (besides a few of those hundreds of exercises) is to ask yourself this. How good are your basics, are your building blocks helping you climb your way to success?


You want to be able to have that adjustable trot, being able to make it bigger and smaller.


When we first begin to ask for canter we only want to see a handful of strides, even if they are a four beat. Trust me, they will get more balanced and three beat over time.


9 times out of 10 they want to drop out of canter and run into trot, organise your trot again and reward. Use your voice, give them a pat! Don’t keep driving them in the canter to keep cantering or to find their balance.


Once you have your rhythm back in your trot work, ask again. Little bits at a time. You’ll soon be able to ride the canter like you ride the trot.


Of course, this all sounds simple in theory! But if it is something you’re struggling with or about to embark. Ask yourself, how good are your basic building blocks.

Open Competitions with Standardbreds

There is no reason why you can’t take your Standardbred into an open competition. There is nothing holding you back from pushing yourself and hitting those goals.

For those who have aspirations of competing in an open competition but feel like they’re never going to be able to. Re read the first paragraph again, and probably another 3 times.

Let it sink in.

It all comes down to your training and having a knowledgeable coach who will help you achieve this goal and your willingness to learn and motivation to make it routine.

You need to think about where you’re at with your training right now. How many miles has your horse have being under saddle, 6 weeks, 6 months or even 2 years? Note where you’re at and where you want to be down the track. If your horse has not long been under saddle, that’s great, put your goals down and work towards them.

There is nothing holding you back. Speaking from my own experience, I’ve competed in more open competitions then I ever have within the Standardbred ring. It can be done.

The ridden Standardbred classes have gone leaps and bounds over the last few years, it’s lovely to see the amount of horses out competing. The overall presentation of the horses is certainly something to be proud of. Honestly, it’s a huge credit to you for presenting them so beautifully.

It’s lovely to see the determination and also the enjoyment from these riders who are competing in the ridden events. Don’t let your goals stop in the breed ring.

There are some amazing riders out there who are completely kicking goals in open competition, have you seen some of the amazing Standardbreds sand dancing recently? It’s not only great to see but a pleasure to see good training pay off and for the breed to really be seriously competitive with other breeds in the 60×20.

If you’ve been following me for a while you know my view on competing Standardbreds in open competition is there is no chance, you’re not good enough or you will be out of place because you ride a Standardbred. It honestly comes down to good consistent training.

Lesson Diagonal Pair


If I’m speaking honestly, I felt prouder and successful about my own training when I was competing Arnie in open events. The fact he was just as competitive with all the other horses on the draw and no one looked at him as just a ‘Standardbred’ but a dressage horse.

A few little wise things from me to you.

  • A knowledgeable coach to help you work towards your goals.
  • Good training system
  • More importantly be consistent with your training system- stick at it.
  • Good things take time
  • Don’t stop learning

March Training Task

So much support in January with the training task! Amazing to see people getting involved, even if you didn’t share videos, letting me know how you went and asking load of questions.


This month for March – thinking I might do the training tasks bimonthly … because sometimes time escapes me! 🙂


Figure of 8’s


This training task will focus on:
  • the accuracy of each circle
  • the flexion and bend to the new direction.
  • Balance and regularity of the trot. (or canter for challenging yourself)


Things to think about:
  • Having both 20m circles even
  • Riding the outside shoulder on the line
  • The change of rein over x
Benefits of this exercise:
  • Improving suppleness
  • Improve the bend through the body
  • Accuracy
  • Equal bend on both reins

To mix it up during your training, you can make a walk transition at ‘x’ when changing the bend to the new direction.


To make it more challenging, you can do the figure of 8 at a canter. Ensuring you keep the regularity of the canter on the 20m circles while riding the line. You want a balanced transition at ‘x’ and preparation for both the transition down into trot then into canter.


If you have any questions email me! Or pop over into the Team Standardbred group, make sure you share your videos!


Happy Training



January Training Task

Over the Christmas break I had this idea to put together little challenges or tasks for 2021. Something to get us thinking about the different aspects of our training, keep us motivated, help with current issues or just something we haven’t thought about before. It is not something competitive to see who can do something ‘better’!

This month for January I wanted to do a ‘transitions’ task.

Now this training task will focus on:

Transitions within the gait

  • Trot– focusing on the horse to wait and to be able to come back on our aids then to be able to go back into a working trot again.
  • Canter – If you have a few more miles under your belt to be able to play around with the canter more, it’s a great exercise to start to work with.
Things to think about:
  • Keeping balance – not letting them want to pick up the lateral pair. They must keep the diagonal pair.
  • Connection in the bridle- keep a consistent contact and connection with the frame. We don’t want the frame/posture to change only the tempo.
  • Not to bring them back too far and getting stuck.
    • The idea is to keep the balance throughout the exercise being adjustable within the trot or canter work.
  • Finding that area where they might want to break into a pace. When you find that area and build on from it, you’ll know where your limits are.
  • If they are wanting to break into a pace while doing this exercise. Start to troubleshoot.
    • Bring it onto a 20m circle.
    • While in working trot, connecting your inside leg to your outside rein. This is helping to connect the horses inside hind leg to the outside shoulder.
    • Make sure you have a good connection through the reins and into the bridle.
    • Ride a shoulder fore on the circle before starting to play around with the transitions.


Benefits of this task:
  • Great exercise when you’re warming up if they are behind your leg
  • Finding more gears within your work
  • Getting the horse to use their hind quarters more
  • Will improve transitions in and out


Share your videos in the Team Standardbred Facebook group or if you don’t want to post in the group send them to me directly!


Any questions please ask away in the Facebook group or contact me directly I’m more than happy to help!


I’ll be popping up my video over the next few days!


Just remember we are all on this training train together 🙂


Let’s chat about pacing- part 2

If you’ve had the chance to read part 1 of Let’s Chat About Pacing (click here to read), I brushed over a few little concepts about ‘thinking’. The main reason I split the two into think person number one- and thinking-person number two is that, you don’t need to stress about if your Standardbred isn’t ‘perfect’ during training. Gosh, it’s called training for a reason at times it might look ugly so it can develop into something beautiful!

To recap about balance, it is about balancing the whole horse. As the training progresses, they will be able to accept more weight onto their hind legs. We want to start aligning and connecting through the body. As I mentioned in part 1, turning with the outside shoulder and activate the inside hind leg.

Now, let’s have a chat about the ‘doing’ side of this! I’ve mentioned this multiple times over the years, but out of all the horses (by that I mean Standardbreds- of course) I could have picked on the property for my ridden horse, I picked the one who naturally paces the most. He paces all the time, no there isn’t anything wrong with him. It’s natural and he obviously feels more comfortable pacing more times than some of the others. If anyone has experience with a Standardbred who loves to pace under saddle, that would be me!




You’re probably thinking these topics in this series are a bit boring, where is the short cut and the quick fix. Well, it’s about the hours in and out of the saddle making mistakes and finding ways to do things better. Transitions isn’t just all about walk to trot and trot to canter, it is also about the different gears within the pace.

At the start when I was riding Arnie it was hard! Getting him to wait and to listen, come back and be a little ‘quicker’ underneath me. He really wanted to drop out underneath me into a pace because it was a lot easier. (It’s the best feeling at the trot to really feel working over the back connected through the body and that swing and push!)

Have your horse in front of your leg (not running away, but the feeling of them underneath you if you say go it will go), use your body/position and your half halts to bring them back into a ‘smaller’ trot or canter, you want the feeling that they are still ‘pushing’ still active underneath you. Pushing with the hind legs not pulling with the fronts! A little ‘quicker’, which is about how long their feet are on the ground for.

You want to try and find the sweet spot where they will just hang in before they want to drop out and stop pushing. You’ll know when you find it! When you’re in it, they should be waiting for you to come back out of it into a more working pace again. Don’t hang to long, it is hard for them to find this area to keep pushing and wait.  Chip away at it each ride, if you ask for a little more some days and a little fewer other days. It will start to build them up.

I could write an essay on cantering with your Standardbred, training is like an onion, you just keep peeling back the layers (sometimes yes, we have tears!) As we are having a little chat about pacing under saddle with balance and transitions, I have found that when you are starting out cantering your Standardbred (I’ll have other post down the track with this in focus or please just contact me for any questions, more than happy to help). It’s all about the preparation before the canter and the preparation coming back to trot. If you find they can only canter a few strides that’s completely fine. I honestly don’t know how long it took Arnie to develop and progress to be able to canter down the whole long side of the arena completely balanced and in a 3 beat canter.

Set yourself up for the transition into canter with a positive trot, canter half 20m circle or until they don’t feel like are going to fall out of canter. Prepare make a transition to trot, keep it balanced, don’t let it run on the forehand. It is far better to get snippets of a good quality canter with preparation into and out of then to keep cantering around and being unbalanced.

Start small, keep the bend through the body, they will less likely want to pop into a pace on a circle then down the long side.

Stay tuned for Part 3 – at this point I feel like there are going to be many parts to this series because it is such a large topic and I really want to break them down!


Let’s chat about pacing – part 1

I like to think there are two different types of thinking when it comes to pacing. Don’t worry, I’ve been both of them at some point during my time.

The first thinking, who gets a little ‘frustrated’ when their horse slides in the odd pace. Their heart sinks a little, questioning why on earth do they ‘have’ to throw in that few strides of pacing. They shorten them up in front to try to help to maintain the trot or in transitions.

Thinking number two, is when their horse puts in a few strides of pace they really think about how the horse is using their body. Thinking why the horse is putting in a few strides of pace during a certain exercise. How can make them use their body from the hind end and influence them in a way to build their strength and balance to help the horse.

Which thinking do you fall into? I used to be number one, but now I can happily say I’m number 2! But as we know it’s not always as easy as it seems is it? It’s so easy to fall into the trap of think it has to be great and it has to be great now. Without breaking down the process.

I really, really want to put a little something together for you, think of it as a reference guide, just a little something to think about while you are at home training. I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty details about the gait pacing itself in this post. You can read about my views on pacing on my previous blog posts – Standardbred Myths Part 1 here and Standardbred Myths Part 2 here.

If there is one thing I want to repeat again and again is, it’s natural. It’s in their DNA if you like it or not, it is our job to teach them how to use their bodies in a different way, so they learn the 3 main gaits.

I have a few general rules when it comes to pacing under saddle. You might have heard this word a little or a lot, you might think it important or you might not understand the importance as of yet.


Balance – is one of those things that typically we are aiming to achieve from a green horse all the way through to Grand Prix. The degree changes as the horse progresses through the levels, but it is something we need to think about and implement from the get-go.

Why do we need to think about balance for our Standardbred? Great question. Because when you look at the mechanics of the Standardbred, you’ll see they are built different to other ridden horses. And that’s ok, because their sole intention isn’t to be a ridden horse. They were literally born to pull a cart.

Let’s just re read a part of that last sentence. Born to pull a cart. Like any horse starting out under saddle we want to encourage to work from behind and over the back. Naturally our lovely Standardbreds with the tendency to be ‘on the forehand’, when we begin to start asking them to move and bend through their bodies, they find it a bit hard and revert to what they find natural, pulling power. For me, I relate this to a ‘cart’ horse make up of them and never really needing the bend and for them to move through the body being a racehorse prior.

It’s important for us as riders that not only to show them but teach them how to use their body in a way that we are asking. We should never, never, never relate pacing to anything negative. It is our job to show them when and when not to use it. They are in the paddock and have around 23 hours a day to themselves to do whatever they please. In the 1 hour they are with us it is our job to teach them.

So how do we help improve their balance? Well there are a few aspects, in this post I will discuss lightly the first aspect. I’ll be breaking it down over a series of posts. (so stay tuned)

Not getting stuck riding around the outside track in the arena for starters! Even our 20m circles, let’s have some purpose. You shouldn’t feel like you are just ‘riding around’. I mention a bit about planning your training which you can find here.

To begin the process of transitioning them from being a racehorse to a ridden horse, we want them to learn to start moving and to have control over where they are putting their feet and shoulders. If you’ve had a lesson with me before you might have heard me say this, because I really love this analogy! Imagine you are riding on a train track; their shoulders are the front of the train and the rest of the horse are the carriages and they will follow through.

Let’s have a quick chat about the shoulders. Have a think about how you turn your horse. It’s good practise from the beginning, to start to connect the horse with your outside rein and to be able to turn with the outside shoulder. This will be so, super, super helpful when you progress through your training. When you begin to develop turning with the outside rein aid (outside shoulder) this will help improve the connection with their inside hind leg. Because of their previous life as a ‘cart’ horse there was never the true need to take weight on their inside hind leg as their fellow ridden friends.

The only way you will improve is to keep pushing on through your training. Use the space you have and move them around, have the change of bend through their bodies. If in doubt walk through the exercise first and then do it again in trot. By having a handle over moving the shoulders around, you will have less of a chance of them pacing.

From here, we need to as riders, think about the diagonal pair. If you haven’t had the chance to check out my lesson with Brett last year about the diagonal pair, you can check it out here.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, I’ll go into depth about a few handy exercises that I have found super helpful with Arnie and chat away about other areas of pacing under saddle including the diagonal pair. Out of all the horses on the property I could have chosen to ride, Arnie was the one who loves to pace the most naturally!

Meet the horses: Kiwi Jak

You’ve might have seen a fair few posts recently about this dark handsome kiwi horse. Don’t worry, I haven’t replaced Arnie!

In fact, this tall dark handsome man is Kiwi Jak! I thought it was time to do a little ‘informal’ introduction J

Of course, if you would like to watch the vlog you can by clicking here

As the name suggests he is in fact a kiwi. He is a 7 year old Standardbred gelding that we purchased from the yearling sales in New Zealand. He spent a little bit of time over in New Zealand being broken in, trialled and qualified before making the move over to the sunny shores of Australia.

Jak didn’t settle all that well when he first arrived over from New Zealand, he didn’t acclimatise at all. In fact, I’m fairly certain it was about 40 degrees when he landed in Sydney! When we finally got going, he had his first race start. You see, if you have been following and reading for a while you will know that I used to do a bit of driving on our family bred horses. It honestly looked like I came out of ‘retirement’ just to have my one race drive on Kiwi Jak. We run a super second!

I was super proud of him running second in our first start together, but that balloon was soon deflated. Having an injury to his annular ligament required him to have extensive time on the sideline. It felt like time was passing ever so slowly on his road to full health again. I’m pleased to say it wasn’t completely impossible.

Once he was nursed back to soundness, we were back into training as if we hadn’t missed a beat. As it turns out, the racing gods weren’t on our side at all this time round! With two separate incidents, travelling back from the trials one evening with a huge storm. It was quite the experience, I was ready to grab the change of pants just from sitting the car, let alone Jak who was in the float. We had to pull over off the freeway into the nearest service station just to take cover. I remember checking in on Jak in the float and he looked at worried as I was.

Close to this experience for this boy, we had another summer storm. This time it was in the early hours of the morning where his stable (which also has a walk in, walk out yard) took a direct hit with lightening. There were sparks flying off his roof and poor Jak was worried as anything! After these two events, we still attempted to kick on with his training. But unfortunately, poor Jak, the few times we transported him in the float to the track he just over sweated on the trip to the track and it honestly was like he went out on the track to cool down. Needless to say, we decided to give Kiwi Jak a break!

He isn’t just a track pony, he has been to 3 shows so far. For 2 Champions and a Reserve Champion. I’ve been working him lately as if he has commenced the transformation to the ‘riding team’! So far he has taken to a duck on water. So proud of him, such a laid-back temperament. He will truly make a lovely ridden horse down the track.

I’m really excited to see what path Kiwk Jak takes this year, if it be a return to racing or to commence a saddle career! Either way, I hope you enjoyed a little insight to learning about Kiwi Jak. Please make sure you do check out the vlog 🙂

Measuring Success with a Standardbred

I’m sure there is a point in your life when you have come across your first Standardbred, it will be a point in your life that you remember. For me, I’ve been fortunate to have grown up with them in my life since I can honestly remember. With my family having involvement with the breed before I even knew what horse breeds are.

the training plan

People sometimes ask me; how do you measure your success with your Standardbred against other horses in the open competition. I have to stop and think, why do I need to measure my success any differently to other riders.


People sometimes ask me; how do you measure your success with your Standardbred against other horses in the open competition


My answer usually is something along the lines of, well I’ve been fortunate to have grown up with the breed since a young age, so I literally see them as any other horse. I love every aspect of the breed, they have been amazing to work with from breeding, training, racing, retiring and recently retraining as a saddle horse. As we know the Standardbred have a lovely trainable nature to them.


Now, that’s just my honest opinion.


But I do think about people who have found the love of the breed later in their equestrian journey. What influence this must bring to them. I know my strength is to put the blinkers on and ignore any ‘negativity’. I can’t help but wonder what influence the wider equestrian community has on people who have found the breed differently to me.


Collectively as equestrians, no matter what discipline you choose. We all put the same amount of time and effort into the sport. We all have a different level of expectations, but when it comes to the competition aspect what we want is to truly achieve the best possible mark.


I’m not entirely sure how my mindset works at times, but what I know and feel confident with is, that there is no need to see myself as someone ‘different’ because of my horse. When I see my name in the result sheet, I don’t think wow I placed mid field, that’s great considering I have a Standardbred. I’m thinking, great ride, but how can I make it better and be further up that list.


Through-out my riding and competition life with my number one Standardbred Arnie, I’ve never felt as if I’ve been let down because of his breed. I’ve never really felt the need to judge my opinion of success because of his breed. If anything, it just makes me more determined to try new things and advance our training!


I receive many messages from other Standardbred riders who do feel they need to adjust their mindset and lower their expectations of success because of the breed of horse they ride.


My advice. Don’t. You have a willing trainable horse, just transitioning from one career to another. I don’t think many other dressage or show horses out there also can pull a cart 😉

Standardbred Showcase: Just Anna and Jessamyn Maumill

Standardbred Showcase

I’m proud to showcase Just Anna & Jassamyn Maumill for our third instalment of Standardbred Showcase #transformationtuesday, a new segment through Dressage Dreamers.

Just Anna & Jessamyn Maumill

Jessamyn from the Blue Mountains New South Wales found Just Anna back in 2016, Anna, at the time, an un raced three year old, going through countless sales throughout New South Wales. Who also spent time as an embryo mare in the Central West area. However, after she failed as a surrogate she was soon put up for re-homing. While Jess finding Anna’s Facebook ad during her HSC, they haven’t looked back since.

After a long 6-hour trip to go and see Anna, Jess fell in love. It wasn’t long until transport was organised, Anna arrived skinny and scared. Soon in Jess’ care Anna started to put the weight back on and feel safe in her new home.

Standardbred Showcase

Jess admits they have had an eventful road together, with Anna being broken into saddle at the end of 2016 with plenty of spells when needed to allow her to mature and be a horse.  It was almost a year into her new career when Jess started free jumping Anna. Who, after clearing a 1 meter fence! Quickly found out this is where her true talent lies, the pair haven’t looked back since.  But still train in hacking and dressage.

Standardbred Showcase

Anna and Jess have achieved so much together she finds it hard to put it all down!

Proudly together their achievements are:
  • Anna putting her trust in Jess, which was lead to her being started under saddle.
  • Anna learning to accept the bridle (as this was something that she found very hard to accept).
  • Becoming at ease in new situations, including being shod and being clipped for the first time.
  • Removing any trace of pacing for the most beautiful canter.
  • Establishing being ‘in frame’ and ‘on the bit’ regularly.
  • Their first jumps.
  • Continuing jumping new things and raising the heights.


Their major competition achievements are:
  • Competing at their first show in Oberon and completing in their first showjumping competition at various heights including 45 cm, 60 cm and 75 cm. Proudly shocked everyone by placing first in the 60 cm round!
  • Rylestone Show, having their first try at hacking, coming home with seconds and thirds, and also continuing in the showjumping arena competing in the 60 cm and 80 cm rounds, coming home with multiple seconds and thirds.
  • Sofala Show, continuing in their hacking experience and coming home with firsts, seconds and thirds from all of the classes. Not to mention Champion Led Standardbred and the opportunity to compete for Supreme Led Mare!

Standardbred Showcase

With these achievements under their belt, Jess has great aspirations with Anna for the future. In the next 12 months her aims are:
  • Jumping and competing at a higher level, Jump C grade in Pony Club (75cm-90cm). Always with the potential to go higher!
  • Competing in dressage and eventing. – Would love to participate in a One Day Event!
  • Compete at a few major shows, such as, Bathurst Royal.

But, what I love the most about Jess’ goals is wanting to bring awareness of Standardbred’s versatility and their heart. With Anna she has made all her achievements possible and has shaped her into a better rider she is today. Her biggest inspirations are all the influential people she follows on social media or out at competitions, who make the best out of what they have. The amount of amazing horse owners who achieve so much with so little but are always willing to help others are the kind of people who she aspires to.


If Jess could have a lesson with anyone, it would be Alycia Burton, she has the most amazing technique and her amazing story is one that she can honestly relate to in many ways. Alycia’s horsemanship is inspiring on so many levels, she too hopes one day to learn to destroy her fears like Alycia has.

No story is complete without special mentions from people who have inspired and helped us along our journey. Jess would love to thank her Grandmother and her Grandfather, Beryl and John Vickery and her Aunt Elizabeth. Because no matter what, even a State away, they have supported her through everything and have never let her give up. They have helped shape her into a better person and for that thank you will never be enough.

And of course, a special thanks to Anna! She was the first horse Jess has broken in herself and will always have her special place at home with her no matter what the future holds.


If you would like to have your standardbred featured #transformationtuesday please click here for the information and email 


Standardbred Showcase

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