To be recognised as a Standardbred, a horse must be recorded in the Stud Book. The Book is maintained to include all sires, mares and foalings and a horse is not eligible for registration unless it is the progeny of a sire and dam also registered in the Stud Book, has been freezebranded, and has had a DNA sample recorded.
All international horses must receive a clearance from the country in which it was registered.
The Standardbred is widely known as a placid and willing horse as well as being very athletic – similar to the Thoroughbred but generally with stronger, shorter legs, a longer body and more sloped shoulder. The average height of a Standardbred is 15.1hh and can be almost any colour, with a range of bays, chestnuts, greys, blacks and even multi-coloured horses in Victoria.
There is little variation between trotters and pacers, with both having durable hooves, a slightly arched, muscular neck and medium-long barrel. While not permitted in racing, the Standardbred will canter and gallop as any other breed, though many will free-leg pace (lateral gait, without hopples) in addition to the usual four gaits.
The foundation bloodlines of the Standardbred trace back to English Thoroughbred, Messenger, foaled in 1780 and imported the USA in 1788. A great-grandson of the big grey, Hambletonian 10, is considered the foundation sire, from which all Standardbreds descend and was out of a Norfolk Trotter mare. Owner William Rysdyk raced Hambletonian as a colt and went on to sire over 1,300 offspring.
The first breed registry was formed in the USA in 1879 by the National Association of Trotting Horse Breeders, with the breed name arising from the ‘standard’ required of breeding stock – that they were able to pace or trot a mile in certain time frame. Trotters and pacers vary in their modern bloodlines but both can be traced back to Hambletonian 10.
All Australian-bred Standardbreds are freezebranded as a method of identification, and can be easily translated to find the identity of a horse. New Zealand, European and North American stock carry different brands. Visit this Harness Racing Australia site for information on reading freezebrands.