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Windt im Wald Farm
Geauga County, Northeast Ohio
since 1995

THE STANDARDBRED

The horse that performs at racetracks across the United States at a trot or a pace is called "Standardbred" because the earliest trotters were required to complete the mile distance within a certain standard of time before they could be registered as part of the new "trotting" breed. During the early years of the Standardbred's development, the streets of major cities were cleared so that friends with trotting horses could challenge each other to see whose horse was the faster trotter. Today the only horses that can be registered as Standardbreds are those having two registered Standardbred parents or those whose sire, or male parent, can complete the mile in less than 2 minutes and 20 seconds as a 2 year old or in less than 2 minutes and 15 seconds at 3 or older.

Although trotting horses in the United States trace back to Thoroughbreds, Messenger, Mambrino, and Blaze, and to Hackneys, Morgans, and the now extinct Clay breed (said to have descended from a Barbary horse), the true foundation sire of the Standardbred was a stallion named Hambletonian, foaled in 1849 in New York State. Hambletonian completed a mile at the trot in two minutes and 48.5 seconds. Today 99 per cent of all Standardbreds trace in ancestry to Hambletonian.

By the 1890s Standardbreds that had previously been rejected because they gaited at a pace rather than a trot became accepted within the breed, and the first Standardbred to perform a mile in two minutes flat was the pacer, Star Pointer, in 1897. Trotters move with a diagonal gait; the left front and the right rear legs move in unison, followed by the right front and the left rear legs. Pacers, though, move the legs on the same side of their body in unison; the left front and the left rear move together, followed by the right front and right rear. Pacers are often assisted in maintaining their gait by using special loops called hobbles, which enable pacers to complete a set distance in much faster time than the trotters. Whether a Standardbred is a trotter or a pacer is determined by heredity, training, and shoeing techniques, but there are four times as many pacers as there are trotters.

Some of the most notable Standardbreds in American history besides Hambletonian were Goldsmith Maid, Maud S., Nancy Hanks, Yankee, and Dan Patch. In the 1930s two famous Standardbreds were Billy Direct and Greyhound, both of whom held world records for many years. Greyhound, a grey stallion sired by Guy Abbey out of Elizabeth by Peter the Great, was foaled in 1932. The illustration shows Greyhound as a young grey horse with a black mane and tail. Note the position of the driver's feet against the braces of the harness so that there is less wind resistance and the horse can make better time. In 1935 Greyhound won the Hambletonian Stakes for 3-year-olds, and during his career he completed 25 races in 2 minutes or lower. After Greyhound's retirement in 1940, his owner, Edward J. Baker, invited visitors to see the horse, who was every bit as popular as the Thoroughbred, Seabiscuit, who ran against War Admiral at about the same time. After Greyhound died at age 33 in February 1965, he was declared the Trotting Horse of the Century.

Today the US Trotting Association has launched the Standardbred Equestrian Program to promote the Standardbred under saddle by amateur and professional horsemen for dressage, eventing, western pleasure, hunt seat, trail pleasure, barrel racing, endurance, cutting, gymkhana, racking (a very high trot), saddle seat, 4H mounts, and police horses. Standardbreds are thus beloved because of their abilities to perform many roles when they can no longer perform the mile in two minutes.

Diane Jones
Windt im Wald Farm  

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