Prepared from information supplied by Harness Racing Australia and the Standardbred Pleasure and Performance Horse Association of New South Wales
The Standardbred horse is bred for harness racing. The first official trotting club in Australia was the New South Wales Trotting Club, established in 1902. This club was based at Harold Park, located in Glebe in Sydney's inner west until recently, when the club transferred to Menangle Park in Sydney's south-west.
There are 116 harness racing clubs in Australia, hosting more than 1900 race meetings each year and with more than 12,000 Standardbred horses registered for racing. The Standardbred industry adds $1.4 billion to the Australian economy each year, excluding the amount spent by recreational riders.
The Standardbred horse originated in the United States in the late 1700s. The colonists of America were mixing bloodlines to produce a faster road horse, and some of the breeds that contributed at the time included the now extinct Narragansett Pacer, English and Canadian hackneys, Arabian, Barb, Morgan, Thoroughbred and the Norfolk Trotter.
Standardbreds closely resemble Thoroughbreds but are usually smaller and have longer and lower bodies, flatter ribs, and heavier bones. Height and weight vary but Standardbreds are an average 15 to 16 hands and weigh between 410 and 450 kilograms.
Bay is the most common colour for Standardbreds, but brown, black, chestnut and grey also are found. The name Standardbred originated in the early development of the breed, when horses were registered in the official studbook (Wallace's American Trotting Register, first published in 1871) if they could meet certain standards of speed, such as trotting a mile in 2.5 minutes.
Standardbreds are gentle in nature and relatively cheap to purchase and train. Besides racing, Standardbreds make wonderful pleasure and show horses. A growing number of people are retraining Standardbreds as riding horses when they finish racing. Standardbreds have recognised ability in endurance riding, and are also successfully retrained for dressage, showjumping, eventing, showing, pony club and pleasure driving.