HOURSE in VT, harness racer rescue & retraining

Frequently Asked Questions

Natural Song learns to balance a rider

What does H.O.U.R.S.E. stand for?

H.O.U.R.S.E. is an acronym for the Humane Organization for UnRaceable Standardbred Equines.

What is a Standardbred?

Standardbred horses are an American breed originating in the 1800's during a time when our nation depended upon horse drawn carriages for transportation. There was a great deal of pride in having a smart moving horse in harness and the urge to compete was a natural result. Standardbreds claim as their foundation sire the great Hambletonian whose descendants became the fastest horses in harness racing, first in big wheel jigs around the town common and then faster carts on well groomed race tracks.

     Today, a Standardbred must be able to trot or pace the mile in 2:20 or faster to be registered and both sire and dam must be Standardbred. With racing "bikes" and flawless track surfaces, Standardbreds are now posting speeds of 1:49 for a mile and even faster. Standardbreds are among America's greatest treasures. No other horse in the world is faster than a Standardbred in harness!

     To learn more about the history of Standardbreds and harness racing, be sure to visit the United States Trotting Association and the Harness Racing Museum.

Where do unraceable Standardbreds come from?

In our program, unraceable Standardbreds come from caring owners in harness racing who don’t want to send their horses to the sales where anything can happen. These are the people of harness racing who want their horses to have bright futures in loving homes with responsible horse keepers.

Isn't it hard to retrain a mature horse after a racing career?

The training of any horse depends upon the horseman’s knowledge. Standardbreds are very sociable with people and very willing to work. TTEAM, TTOUCH, Join-Up, clicker training and classical non-confrontational, non-violent techniques work well. The transition to saddled work and balancing a rider are effortless for the Standardbred. We offer several clinics and workshops in various techniques that work for us.

Can Standardbreds be ridden? After all, they are harness (driving) horses.

Of course Standardbreds can be ridden; but they need to be taught the skill and command of carrying a rider. Once retrained for riding, the bonus is they are still good driving horses.

My riding teacher says they can’t canter and they have a funny gait; what is she talking about?

Standardbreds are born to trot or pace. The trot is a diagonal two beat gait and the pace is a lateral two beat gait. When trotting a horse, English riders will post (rise) to this beat and cover great distances efficiently. It is also a very popular gait when driving a horse for pleasure. The pace is wonderful once the Standardbred learns to slow it down to jogging speed. It offers a swaying motion which can be more comfortable for riders with arthritis or back trouble. When riding the pace, it’s most comfortable to sit fully seated in your saddle and let your hips and lower back relax and sway with the motion. Some Standardbreds will even offer a single foot gait (similar to PasoFino horses) and this is pure pleasure to ride!

     Since 1990, we have retrained over 100 horses and only three were free-legged pacers (able to race without hobbles to remind them and, therefore, naturally dedicated to the pace). Many unraceable Standardbreds can walk, trot and canter freely in pastures; it's a matter of training them to provide these gaits at our command. Some even offer a canter, a very slow gallop or a four beat canter. Gaited horses are awesome for trail riding, as parade horses, and even driving. Dressage, however, can be a difficult transition for a naturally gaited horse.

Is it true that race horses don’t know how to stop?

While race horse training doesn’t always include teaching a horse to whoa, at H.O.U.R.S.E. we spend time specifically teaching each horse to whoa and stand for grooming, farrier care, mounting and dismounting. We even hold a Whoa! Clinic every year to teach these easy, gentle and effective techniques for a reliable whoa. Whoa is in the horse’s brain, not the mouth or the bit.

How does one adopt a horse?

At H.O.U.R.S.E in VT we begin with a preliminary application process. This includes a brief interview, the submission of a complete pre-application form, a $50 processing fee, and a visit to your facility. Then when we have a potential horse to match you with, you are invited to come and ride and/or drive the horse at the foster farm in Jeffersonville, Vermont.

     If all goes well, a delivery date is set and an adoption contract is signed. An adoption fee is collected the day the horse goes to his new home. The adoption fee varies with the horse: $750 for a working horse under 20 years old; $500 for a working horse 20 or older; and a negotiated fee for a lawn ornament horse (one who can no longer work but would excel as a companion to people or other horses). For more information, see our Adoption page.

"And God took a handful of southerly wind, blew His breath over it, and created the horse."
              Bedouin Legend

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