What is the difference between a Saddlebred and standardbred horse?

Answered by Ricardo McCardle

The American Saddlebred and the Standardbred are two distinct breeds of horses that have different purposes and characteristics. Let’s delve into the differences between these two breeds.

1. Purpose:
– American Saddlebreds are primarily pleasure horses ridden under saddle and used for light pleasure driving. They are known for their elegant and flashy gaits, making them popular in the show ring.
– Standardbreds, on the other hand, are best known for their use in harness racing. They are trained to either trot or pace, depending on their natural inclination. Standardbreds are bred and trained specifically for speed and endurance in harness racing.

2. Gaits:
– American Saddlebreds exhibit a variety of gaits, including the walk, trot, canter, and the highly prized slow-gait and rack. The slow-gait is a four-beat gait with exaggerated action, while the rack is a smooth, lateral gait with high knee action. These unique gaits make Saddlebreds stand out in the show ring.
– Standardbreds are trained to either trot or pace in harness racing. The trot is a two-beat diagonal gait, while the pace is a two-beat lateral gait. Standardbreds are bred for their ability to maintain speed in these specific gaits over long distances.

3. Conformation:
– American Saddlebreds have a refined and elegant appearance. They typically have a well-arched neck, high head carriage, and a sloping shoulder. Saddlebreds are known for their overall athleticism and grace in movement.
– Standardbreds have a more robust and muscular build, reflecting their purpose as harness racing horses. They have a longer body, powerful hindquarters, and a strong shoulder. These features contribute to their ability to generate speed and power in harness racing.

4. Retraining and Second Careers:
– Retired American Saddlebreds often find new careers as pleasure riding horses, show horses in non-gaited disciplines, or even as therapy horses. Their versatile nature and willingness to learn make them adaptable to various disciplines.
– Many retired Standardbreds go on to be retrained as pleasure riding horses or find work as carriage horses, particularly in Amish communities. They have a calm and steady temperament, which makes them suitable for these types of jobs.

The American Saddlebred is primarily a pleasure horse ridden under saddle and used for light pleasure driving, known for its elegant appearance and flashy gaits. The Standardbred, on the other hand, is bred and trained for harness racing, with a focus on speed and endurance in either the trot or pace. While both breeds can transition into second careers after their initial purpose, their distinct characteristics make them well-suited for different roles in the equine world.