Stigmas & Questions


Naturally, when you take a horse bred for one very specific discipline, and ask it to do something else, there are going to be a number of challenges associated with that change.  With Standardbreds there are a surprising number of stigmas you’ll run into especially when making the transfer from racing, to other competitive disciplines. Where I live, Standardbreds are very rarely seen being used outside of trail riding careers, so most judges and officials haven’t seen them before outside of racing. Here’s a few of the stigmas and questions I’ve run into, or heard about personally:

“Is your horse lame?”
No, he’s not lame. He’s gaited. He has an extra gear that literally every other horse here does not have. So, he’s going to move slightly differently on occasion.

“What warmblood breed puts their brand on the neck?”
This is probably my favourite question, but only because it makes me so proud of how far Leo has come, and shows exactly how capable Standardbreds are. (For the record. They don’t. He’s a Standardbred.)

“How did you teach him to trot?”
I didn’t. Pacing in Standardbreds is an additional gait. Not a replacement gait as seen in some other gaited breeds. He can pace AND he can trot.

“Flat movement. Earth bound.”
This was a comment I received on a dressage test.  And when compared to warmbloods and other more ‘lofty’ moving horses, – Yes. Leo is incredibly flat and ‘earth bound’.  Standardbreds are design for efficiency. They are designed to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible while using the least amount of energy. Lofty movement, wastes energy moving vertically. However, while a disadvantage in dressage, this lack of loft is beneficial in the other two phases that required a bit more distance at speed. 🙂

“How did you teach him to canter?”
Short answer: I didn’t. He knew that too.
Long answer: Leo knew how to canter, but it was poor quality and he had trouble maintaining it for more than a few strides. There are three things I found most beneficial when developing his canter.
1) Regard the canter as a gait change, but not a speed change.
2) Jumping, and placing poles.
3) Finding a stretch of field, and letting him canter to ‘practice’ without having to worry about turning, or avoiding obstacles like in an arena.

“You’re so brave, race horses are crazy!”
Leo routinely falls asleep while tacking up, in a barn full of horses, with music playing and uses the cross ties to hold up his face. The craziest of crazy.

“Does he know how to run?”
Oh yes. It’s literally his favourite activity. More often with Leo, the conversation is about running less, not running more.

“Why don’t you just get another horse?”
This is my least favourite of questions. But only because it makes me the most offended. Yes, Leo is gaited. Yes, that complicates things. Yes, I know majority of people don’t know any better.
But, I would rather have a moderately talented horse, that tries his hardest every single time I put my foot in the stirrup. Than the most talented horse in the world who holds zero interest in his job, or me. I’ll take a horse with heart over a horse with talent any day.

“Did you train him yourself?”
When I got Leo he was started walk/trot western under saddle. Everything else past that, cantering, jumping, lateral movements, galloping, adjustability, I’ve taught him under the guidance of various instructors and with the help of other people within the Standardbred community. But yes, I trained him myself.

Oddly, many of these questions are what motivates me to continue to work through things with Leo each time we hit a bump in the road, or experience a set back. The eventing community here in Alberta has been wildly supportive since we started in their sport three years ago, and has allowed Leo and I a wonderful platform to continue to promote the breed and break the stereotypes.

As always, I’m happy to answer any questions (or expand on those above) either on Leo’s Facebook page, instagram or other social media outlets. If you’d rather not post your question publically, private messages are great as well.

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