Consider Adopting a Standardbred
Standardbreds are quieter and more tolerant of mistakes than Thoroughbreds. These horses are accustomed to standing patiently in cross ties for hours and are satisfied to leave the premises alone. They have been bathed, shipped, and shod extensively and usually have exceptional ground manners. These horses excel on trails and do not spook easily. Standardbreds are very durable, with exceptional endurance. They can cover miles of trails with little effort. However, this breed has a well-developed trot or pace and does not canter easily without additional training. It takes some collection and occasionally a heavier shoe behind to swing them into a rack. Their trot is long and rough to sit, so posting is advised.
Standardbreds have hundreds and even thousands of miles in harness. Most can be used for pleasure driving with some schooling in driving etiquette and manners, but some will be too spirited in harness for this pursuit. Those that lack driving manners do not carry those unsavory traits under-saddle and will not develop bad habits unless allowed by their rider.
The transition from harness to saddle is easy and natural for the Standardbred. They are already well trained in turning, stopping, and moving forward. However, they must learn to accept a rider on their back, give to the bit, and respond to leg pressure. The first ride should follow a bitting session as described under transitional training. A slow, gentle approach while mounting with a calm person at the horse’s head is reassuring. After a few minutes of adjustment to seeing a rider on its back the horse may be led around. During the initial rides, verbal commands and a tap on the rump are usually quite sufficient to get them to move forward.
Standardbreds are a hardy breed and not difficult to maintain if fed sufficiently. They can often be ridden without shoes. Due to the extensive drilling in harness at an early age, these horses do not get rusty or “wild” without work. Once a Standardbred is going under saddle, it will be the same obedient horse whether ridden once a week, once a year, or once every 10 years.
Most of the Standardbreds at New Vocations have only been ridden about a dozen times unless they were previously adopted. Therefore, we do not recommend these horses for beginner or novice riders. They still need additional direction from a competent person to establish themselves as pleasure mounts. In time, many will become safe for beginners. But at this point in their transition these horses do not need the door open to bad habits and avoidable accidents that come with Beginner riders.