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  1. #1
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    Default retraining a Standardbred for riding. Resources?

    I am looking into adopting a STB, probably within the next year. In the mean time, I'd like to do as much research into their retraining as possible. My long term goals are pleasure riding with the occasional judged trail ride, so a pacing STB wouldn't be a deal breaker.

    If you own a STB, what were your experiences with working with them in their new careers? How did they adjust, and what are some things someone new to the breed should know before making that leap? Books, DVDs, that were helpful?

    Just looking to be pointed in the right direction at this point. Thanks.
    One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. - Virginia Woolf



  2. #2
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    They are pretty easy to change over - they already know how to steer, stop and start and are used to all kinds of things draped over their bodies, including people - many are ridden from the test barn back to their barn if the distance is great. The only thing I can suggest, other than using common sense as you would with training any horse, is change the bit completely so if they raced in a jointed snaffle, go to one with multiple joints or to mullen mouth until they get a handle on what you want.

    These horses are generally pretty people oriented and like to please - I dare say I would have had more trouble teaching 'tricks' to another breed as mine learned get over, come over, back up and other useful tricks very quickly. Some actually prefer human company over the company of another horse, so take your cues from the personality. One warning - they are mouthy in general, not that they bite people but the play with things and drag stuff around.

    I am probably the worst person to ask, however, since I have had nothing but Standardbreds and rode most of them on trails, chasing cows, gaming, ponying another horse, and all while they still raced.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by sk_pacer View Post
    They are pretty easy to change over - they already know how to steer, stop and start and are used to all kinds of things draped over their bodies, including people - many are ridden from the test barn back to their barn if the distance is great. The only thing I can suggest, other than using common sense as you would with training any horse, is change the bit completely so if they raced in a jointed snaffle, go to one with multiple joints or to mullen mouth until they get a handle on what you want.

    These horses are generally pretty people oriented and like to please - I dare say I would have had more trouble teaching 'tricks' to another breed as mine learned get over, come over, back up and other useful tricks very quickly. Some actually prefer human company over the company of another horse, so take your cues from the personality. One warning - they are mouthy in general, not that they bite people but the play with things and drag stuff around.

    I am probably the worst person to ask, however, since I have had nothing but Standardbreds and rode most of them on trails, chasing cows, gaming, ponying another horse, and all while they still raced.
    Actually, you are just the person I want to talk to.

    Say, how rare is a true pacing standardbred? I knew of one years ago that would perform a stepping pace if collected into the bridle. It was the most comfortable gait I've ever ridden. But what are the chances of finding one that will do it?
    One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. - Virginia Woolf



  4. #4
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    Dec. 25, 2006
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    STBs are great, and should make the change to being a pleasure horse with no problems at all. I learned how to harness and drive on a 9 yr old stallion who was still racing --- and all the STBs in the barn were like him, sweet, kind, and a pleasure to work with. Yes, they can be mouthy, but they aren't mean. I envy you!



  5. #5
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    May. 10, 2009
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    I've had both a pacer and a trotter. Both had been lightly ridden before I got them. The pacing mare did trot under saddle but would pace if she got nervous. I didn't encourage it, though, because I wanted a true trot for showing. I did find that it was MUCH easier to get my trotter to canter-he cantered from the first time he was asked, while my mare took a much longer time to canter constantly. I don't know if that had to do with the racing gait or not, just my experience.

    There are a couple of books you can find on line on retraining Standardbreds. From the two I had, the biggest thing was balance. They aren't taught to balance in harness the way we ask them to when we ride, and both liked to lean and haul in turns. Lots of lunging helped, and circles--starting with big circles and working toward smaller ones. Gelding went in a French-link snaffle and mare preferred a rubber mullen pelham.

    I will say that my STB's were the kindest, easiest horses I've ever had. Both were pretty much bombproof (my gelding once had a loose PIG run under his belly while he was on crossties and he never even flinched). They were kind, honest, and brave, as well as very people-oriented. They also had fantastic feet; both could easily have been barefoot year round though they were shod for traction. My mare was an excellent trail horse; she would go alone or in a group and over any terrain you asked of her. I would not hesitate a second to get another one if the opportunity arose. They're probably my favorite breed, overall.


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  6. #6
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    Even trotters perform that gait if you can get them balanced for it, but much easier in a pacer as it is more hardwired into them; most pacing babies hit the ground pacing rather than a flatfooted walk. The real trick to gaiting is to keep their feet the same way they were for racing as that helps purity of gait as does keeping the head up, not racing up but up nonetheless as that is also balance and the rider must be in balance as well. Balance in gaited horses isn't quite the same as in trotting horses as you have to learn a whole new way of sitting so you don't introduce yourself to the dirt with the unfamiliar motion of the pace be it broken or otherwise. I can say that riding a trotting horse is way more difficult for me because I learned that other balance eons ago. FWIW, gaited horses were pretty much the norm around here, the old guys liked 'amblers' over the long distances they travelled.
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  7. #7
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    You have all been very helpful. Thanks!

    I think I'm going to get my application into New Vocations. I've heard great things about them. That way I'll be all set to go, should the right horse come along.

    I was thinking about getting the canter. Do you all find that using a small cross rail is helpful?
    One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. - Virginia Woolf



  8. #8
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    Mar. 12, 2006
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    I will brag on stb's any chance I get. They are my breed of choice after many years of horse ownership. Still love tb's too though.

    The US Trotting Assc website has good information.

    My guy did canter/walk transitions better than canter/trot. He was very good at jumping. An all around great horse.
    "All top hat and no canter". *Graureiter*



  9. #9
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    Standardbreds are my absolute favorite I agree that balance with a rider is one of the main things you will need to develop. I never had a problem getting them to canter. I did find it easier for them to canter in straight lines in open spaces at first, rather than in the ring.

    Most that I rode raced as pacers. A few would only pace under saddle, most would trot under saddle and pace on occasion, and one would also rack/singlefoot naturally (when ridden forward into collection, which I discovered completely by accident Then I knew how to ask for it. So fun to ride!)



  10. #10
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    I trained and competed in endurance with a trotter, a large mare and she, as so many, was a wonderful, quiet and kind type horse.

    Now, most of the larger ones I have ridden have such a long stride cantering you don't want to canter in a small arena/indoor, it is scary, at least until they learn to get their long legs better under control.

    If you want a horse to do what they can do, they are some of the nicer minded horses to have around.
    I don't think I would want to try to work cattle with them, not in close quarters.
    For what you aim to do, wonderful horses for that.
    I don't think I have ever known one to be difficult or complicated to live with.
    That may be partly because they have generally been in good hands all their life and learned well to be good, confident horses.



  11. #11
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    I have no riding experience with them but I think they are great horses. Years ago I did horse massage at a STB training barn and those horses were the best. Totally bombproof, sturdy and kind. If I had the money and time I wouldn' hesitate to adopt one. Some have the funny jugheads, and some look like Paso Finos. None that I worked on had any withers, so I don't know if it's true of all STBs but I imagine saddle fitting may be an issue.

    Good luck.



  12. #12
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    I have never owned one but I think they are one of those undervalued breeds, you know when you find a really good bargain at the store? I like their feet and pasterns compared to OTTBs, love a homely head and they look like sensible horses. The only thing Im not fond of is the longish back.
    Is it hard to collect them?
    I'd certainly look at this breed if I ever got another horse.



  13. #13
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    Yes, I have seen the long backed ones with their hocks parked out behind them. I imagine this gives them a superior long pacing stride on the track, but not something suited for the dressage ring. I think someone on this thread said they used theirs for endurance riding. I can see that.

    But, I also want to know about getting a saddle to fit them. Most seem fairly narrow built with a shallow (pony sized) girth. Kinda built like greyhounds. I'm thinking that my compfy western saddle with full qh bars isn't going to work.
    One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. - Virginia Woolf



  14. #14
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    The longish backs are mostly found in trotters. A longer back will help prevent scalping, speedy cutting and hitting hind shins. As to the heads, well, that depends on bloodlines and we like the heads the way they are.
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  15. #15
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    Actually, I like their roman noses. It gives them character.

    Thanks for correcting me, sk_pacer, that it's the trotters not the pacers with the longer back. I'm still learning about the breed. What you wrote makes perfect sense.

    Anyone have any input on saddle fit?
    One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. - Virginia Woolf



  16. #16
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    Both of mine took a medium tree English saddle and kind of an average girth (46-48ish), but every horse is different, so if I were you, I'd wait until you choose a horse and have a good saddle fitter come to you or to choose one yourself if you're confident about doing it. I'm not an expert on Western saddle fit, but I suspect you're right about full QH bars being too wide. (those suckers are WIDE. My QH can't wear full bars...) You may need to look for semi-QH or even Arabian, but you never know.

    New Vocations always has some nice horses. This mare is adorable: http://www.horseadoption.com/horsepr...little-peanut/ I want to snuggle her pretty face!



  17. #17
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    Saddle fit is just like any other horse, keep trying until you get it right. Standardbreds do come in all body shapes including witherless so it's just a matter of finding the right fit. FWIW, the witherless ones are just as tough to fit a harness to as they are for saddle fit.
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  18. #18
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    Jan. 13, 2012
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    Standies come in various body types, and heights range from pony to 16+ hands.
    Of the horses I've groomed:
    Earl was a bit slab sided but I don't remember him seeming narrow.
    Dream was pony sized with a cute almost arab head.
    Victor at two looked a bit like a giraffe, long thin neck with a heavy but shapely head. I ended up buying Vic so I got to see him mature. He ended up around 16 hands, solid body, slightly narrow chest, big feet and his body caught up with his neck. He liked to give hugs and kisses. He reminded me of the older style saddlebreds.
    Birdie was pony sized with a plain little head, but there was nothing narrow about her.
    Ham was long bodied, somewhat narrow chest but really deep girth. Long head, with a little hint of dish to it.
    Mr. P looked like a warmblood. Big feet, long legs, stout body.
    Royal, was Mr. P's full brother. In the body they were similar, but Royal got the Fabio genes. Long thick mane, forelock and tail. Pretty face. Looked like a morgan.
    Skip was a tank. Solid body with a cute, almost dainty face.

    Most of the ones I worked with had withers that blended well from neck to back, but Vic and Ham had sharper withers. Both had to wear a foam cutout pad under their harness and fitting blankets was not fun.


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  19. #19
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    Contact Dom at http://harnessphoto.blogspot.com/ or http://www.thumbsuphorsemanship.com/ She trains for a living and has a LOT of experience with STBs.

    Or a friend of hers' who doesn't train for a living, but is also awesome http://nowthatsatrot.blogspot.com/

    Between the two, you should have just about anything you need to know about STBs. Both worked and trained for the Standardbred Retirement Foundation at one point. Dom worked both on the track and at breeding farms for STBs also.


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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by candysgirl View Post
    Contact Dom at http://harnessphoto.blogspot.com/ or http://www.thumbsuphorsemanship.com/ She trains for a living and has a LOT of experience with STBs.

    Or a friend of hers' who doesn't train for a living, but is also awesome http://nowthatsatrot.blogspot.com/

    Between the two, you should have just about anything you need to know about STBs. Both worked and trained for the Standardbred Retirement Foundation at one point. Dom worked both on the track and at breeding farms for STBs also.
    Dom is terrific and is now a dressage rider and trail rider so she has a lot of experience with different disciplines. She also has been doing a great job retraining "problem" horses.

    Dont' know where you are but if close enough give her a try. She is here in Central Jersey but I don't know how far she travels.

    I work with yearlings at the same STB breeding farm she worked at and the yearlings are always a pleasure to work with. Show them once and they have it!

    When we did videos this year for the auction every yearling trotted the fence line even the pacers and this is pretty normal. They consolidate the pacing with training and tack. They come in all shapes and sizes but generally all have a willing and kind nature and are fast to learn.



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