If you are considering buying a Standardbred or have recently acquired one – Great choice! You will have a friend for life when you own a Standardbred. Much like a faithful pet dog, you will find your Standardbred will want to please you in return for a happy enjoyable life.
Yes, they can take longer to get moving correctly under saddle. Just know that you will not be alone here and with time and patience the Standardbred can conquer most, if not all, that you ask of it.
When looking at Standardbreds, consider what discipline you wish to do. Showjumping, dressage, trail riding, western…. the list goes on. Standardbreds come in many shapes and sizes. Some are small and wide, others small and narrow. Some are long in length, some have shorter backs. They range in height from under 14hh to over 17hh but, commonly they range between 14.2hh to 16hh. If you are unsure of the correct type of horse you need, seek more knowledgeable advice from a more experienced friend or a professional such as an instructor or from the SPPHAV.
In our opinion it is best to train your Standardbred yourself, even if you are novice in riding and with horses. While most Standardbreds that have just stopped racing, or race training, can be saddled and sat on without problems, we suggest that you spell your horse for a few weeks, adjusting feeds from the hotter feeds given to racing Standardbreds to a feed program more suitable to your pleasure horse. Spend this time getting to know your horse, take it for walks, brush and comb it, sit in their paddock just spending quality time together. When you decide it is time to put the saddle on your horse, make sure you have someone there with you, holding your horse until you are settled in the saddle. There is nothing wrong with having your friend or partner lead you and your horse for a few minutes before you take control of the reins yourself. If you are having riding lessons, have them on your new horse.
The following are some pointers designed to guide you in the right direction when re-educating your Standardbred. You must consider that a Standardbred straight-off-the-track is “green” when it comes to riding.
If you are a confident rider you should be able to do most of the training by yourself – best with the occasional help of a riding instructor. Train your Standardbred as you would train a hack.
If you are novice, make sure you select a suitable Standardbred. We recommend you look at horses that are over 5 years of age and, preferably, one that has done a fair amount of racing. Anything younger may not suit a novice / new rider. Better still, you could be lucky and find a Standardbred for sale that has already had some riding miles. Trail riding places often use Standardbreds and some are happy to sell them on to private homes. If you are a novice rider you might consider sending your new Standardbred to a reputable trainer for some initial basic training. The time factor, for this training, should be discussed with the trainer taking into consideration your, and the horse’s abilities.
Trail ride your new Standardbred as much as possible. This will settle your horse, under saddle, quickly. It will help strengthen your horse for riding and the bond, between you both, will form and grow.
Long rein your Standardbred regularly. Long reining can be used to help your Standardbred get balanced, not to lean in, not to race around and, most importantly, to create and perfect your transitions without ‘chasing’.