Standardbred Facts And Information – Breed Profile

The Standardbred is a horse breed that was sired in the United States of America in the 19th century. Used mainly for the purpose of harness racing, the Standardbred is a valuable trotting horse.

With a substantial capacity for stamina and endurance, these horses are similar to Thoroughbreds, but look smaller and possess longer and lower body structures.

Standardbred Horse

They also have flatter ribs and heavier bones than their Thoroughbred friends. The most common color that you’ll find Standardbred horses in is Bay. Brown, black, gray and chestnut color are also found in horses of this breed. This breed is recommended for owners and riders of all levels.


The origins of the Standardbred horse can be traced back to New England around the 1800s. It was bred from a blend of horse breeds that were popular for their trotting and pacing abilities. These horses could be raced under saddle and harness alike.

In 1788, a thoroughbred called “Messenger” was brought into the United States from England. This horse is thought to be the foundation of the standardbred breed.

Other breeds were gradually introduced to the lineage that originated from the foundation sire, contributing unique characteristics to the breed that is the racing standardbred of today. Thoroughbreds, Morgans, and Canadian pacers were among these.

The National Association of Trotting Horse Breeders created a breed registry in 1879. The Standardbred’s name has its basis in the standard mile time of 2 and a half minutes that any given horse had to trot or pace to qualify for registration.


Two distinctive Standardbreds exist. These comprise trotters and pacers.

Trotters are distinguished by their diagonal gait. This means that a trotter’s left front leg and right hind leg step in unison with each other (as well as the right front and left hind).

Pacers, on the other hand, move their legs on the same side simultaneously. Pacers exhibit greater speeds at harness racing than trotters do. In the USA, pacers are more common on the race track than trotters. Pacers are versatile horses. They often amble in a smooth gait while running. They can be made to trot too. As a result, they are flexible enough as show horses and pleasure riding horses.


This breed of horse is no different in its dietary requirements than any other typical equine. Horses need a regular nourishing diet of grass of a good quality, grain, hay, and fruit and vegetables. In case horses cannot graze at will, they may need some additional supplementary vitamins and minerals.

The horse’s size and level of activity determine the intake of food. If the horse is a racer, then it will need a diet that corresponds, providing extra energy that the horse works off.

Its important to note that these horses work ten times harder than Thoroughbreds while preparing for races. As they are smaller framed as well, they need more energy-sourced foods such as corn (crushed) and barley (steamed). Oats give out more starch, and these shouldn’t be given to Standardbred horses in training. Oil is usually added to the diets of any horse, as it not only provides biological fuel, but goes a long way in maintaining the horse’s coat.

Breeding And Uses

Primarily bred for its speed and stamina in the arena of harness racing, the American Standardbred holds its own in other areas of riding disciplines.

These horses are found in sports like speed games, riding for endurance, show jumping, pleasure driving, and carriage competitions. As Standardbreds have an ability for speed, they are used to improve other racing harness horse breeds, like Trotter horses, the Orlov and French, for example.

Horses that are trained for the track right from a very tender age, Standardbred horses have the advantage of exposure to different contexts. Adaptive horses, these horses can make the transition from pleasure riding to racing in no time. Excelling as harness racehorses, they are usually bred for their value as racing horses against other purposes.

Some Standardbred horses are considered to be the fastest horses in the world, and have done many owners and breeders proud. In Canada, Australia, the UK and the USA, races are held to include both trotters and pacers of Standardbreds. In Europe, trotters of the breed are used for racing competitions. Major races in the USA are the Trotting World Derby and the Kentucky Harness Racing Derby.


The general weight of a Standardbred horse is anywhere from 800 – 1,200 pounds, with a height of 56 – 68 inches.

With a life expectancy of 25 – 30 years, this American horse does well whether its used for recreation or as a show jumping horse.

Sporting a thick mane and tail, the animal has muscular legs, a deep chest, and looks a lot like a Thoroughbred, but for its medium to long frame. You can mistake a Standardbred for a Thoroughbred quite easily as it has the same refined head.

A little heavier than a Thoroughbred, this is a medium-build horse. Friendly and easy to train, these horses are great to work with for breeders and racehorse jockeys.

Breeds That Make Up The Standardbred

Horse breeds that have largely contributed to the foundation stock of the horse breed of Standardbred include the following:

  • Pacer Horses – The Canadian and Narrangansett Pacer horses
  • Thoroughbred Horses
  • TrottersThe Norfolk Trotter is one of the characteristic foundation breeds of the Standardbred.
  • Hackney
  • Morgan

Hambletonian 10, acknowledged as having ancestry from a horse called “Messenger” is also thought to have been, in some way, linked to the Standardbred’s breeding roots.

What Do They Look Like?

Relative to Thoroughbreds, these may not seem as imposing, but they are very impressive to look at. They are mostly bay, brown or black, but you can see some chestnut-colored and gray horses too. Some may be roan. These are prized as the colors are rarer for Standardbred horses.

Weighing in at 800 – 1,000 pounds (0.45 ton) on average, you can find bulkier animals also. Straight and refined heads mark their typical features, and give them a regal look. With broad foreheads, strong shoulders and large nostrils, you can’t mistake a Standardbred. The horse is known by its normally shallow mouth, and robust musculature in a long body type.

Where Do They Live?

The breed was developed and bred in North America originally, though its antecedents may be traced back to England.

These solid, well-built, dependable horses are bred all over the world now, and they are prized by many stud farms as the racehorses of choice. They have amenable dispositions and are trained with ease.

How Long Do They Live?

On average, a racehorse lives 22 to 28 years, and this depends on a lot of factors. The lifespan of a horse is determined by genetics, the way it lives and diet.

Today’s Standardbred is much more likely to outlive its predecessor, even if it is trained for the tough racetrack. It is believed that heavier horses don’t outlive their lightweight counterparts, but a Standardbred can live up to 30 years, and this is considered a long lifespan for any horse. A healthy diet can add years to a horse’s life, genetics aside.

How Fast Are They?

Standardbred horses are made for speed. They clock average speeds at 30 miles per hour (48.28 km/h), so make excellent race horses and competitive animals. In a harness race, dashing against the clock, a Standardbred, Lee Axworthy made a mile in just under 2 minutes, trotting. Other horses make the same statistics at a gallop.

Are They Good For Beginners?

As far as behavior goes, Standardbred horses are quite calm and take to human company. Nonetheless, most are trained for racing from a young age, so if you’re considering general riding, then beginners will find them too fast. Former racehorses are used to trotting at very swift speeds – this is almost reflexive to these horses. Nonetheless, former racehorses can be untrained by expert equine trainers. 


These horses require typical grooming and maintenance. Brushing them regularly so that dead hair and dirt is removed should be a daily routine. Hooves need to be cleaned on a daily basis too, as debris get stuck and create foot issues later.

How Much Do They Cost?

Standardbreds can cost up to 5,000 USD on average, provided you opt for a reputed breed with official documents that validate lineage. Prices vary according to age, pedigree, health and training.

Former racehorses, passed their prime, will be cheaper to buy. When buying a new horse, ask for details of the horse’s history.


Born in 1849, the American Hambiltonian 10 has earned a name among Standardbreds and people who love these horses. Officially acknowledged as the founding sire of the breed in North America, this horse was unique as it had an unusually tall build. With long hind legs, the horse propelled himself swiftly forward at a trot. Race-friendly, he was, during his time, the most sought-after racehorse in the United States of America. The road of the place of his burial is called “Hambiltonian Avenue”.

Another noteworthy Standardbred was called “Dan Patch”. Accomplishing many wins in races, this horse made headlines at the turn of the 20th century. For more than 30 years, his record was unbroken.

These are popular horses, and some that have been untrained partake in special competitions under saddle and harness.

There’s a whole world of horse breeds out there to explore! Discover and find out more information by checking out our horse breed guides.