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The Trottingbred - It's Not What You Think!
Don't let the name fool you. If the name of the breed makes you think of
a diagonally gaited horse you are halfway correct. The other half?
They also do lateral gaits.
Trottingbreds are harness racing ponies, which
like their Standardbred forebears, race at either the pace or trot.
Unlike Standardbreds, which are raced over a mile, Trottingbreds
are clocked on the half-mile. The fastest half-mile was paced
in 59 seconds by the stallion, Shamrock Shady. The trotting
record of is 59.2 belongs to the mare Sweet B. Lozario, who
shares the actual race record of 1:01 with Wild Rose. Like
Standardbreds, racing Trottingbreds often find themselves in need
of new employment, and many become nice gaited mounts, suitable
for adults or children.
The Standardbred connection is the result of planning with definite
goals. In the late 1950's, pony harness races were popular at many
county fairs in the Midwest and parts of New England. As the sport
grew, enthusiasts wanted to produce a pony with more racing desire
and speed. By the early 1960's breeders began crossing their Shetlands,
Welshes, Hackneys, Americanas (Shetland/Hackney cross) and grade
ponies with Standardbred racers. In 1977, the Trottingbred was
officially recognized as a breed by the American Horse Council
and is regulated by the International Trotting and Pacing Association
(ITPA). Today's Trottingbreds are 3/4 to 7/8 Standardbred.
The first significant Standardbred sire was Lothario, a
14 hand son of Florican, out of a Star's Pride mare.
He made heavy contributions to the breed, producing speed, desire
and both natural pacers and trotters. Other notable Standardbred
sires in Trottingbred bloodlines include Super Bowl and Albatross.
Built Pony Tough
Trottingbreds are fine looking animals, often very refined. Height
is limited to 52 inches (13 hands) for registration and 51 ½ inches
for racing. Individuals do grow to over the size limit, which
is a negative for racing, but puts good riding mounts on the market.
Typical traits include flat, low shoulders, not a problem for driving,
but often a challenge for saddle fit. Hooves are proportional and
hard, and fetlocks tend to be extra profuse. Bay and black are the
most common colors, but they can be found in any color, including
pinto, palomino, grey and roan, though they are much harder to find.
shades of chestnut may be seen, and liver chestnut with a flaxen
mane and tail is currently popular. Trottingbreds with pony breeding
close up tend to grow heavy winter coats. Ponies with more Standardbred
bloodlines tend not to grow as heavy a coat, as heavy coats, being
much harder to cool out, are not bred for in Standardbreds.
Trottingbreds are naturally good-tempered animals. They
can be very sweet and affectionate and genuinely like people. Race
training gives them lots of handling and attention that they accept
These ponies are tough and long lived, most reaching their twenties.
Track injuries may be an issue, but since their racing schedule
is seasonal, rather than all year long, they generally stay very
sound. Another plus, their smaller size makes them more economical
From Track to Hack
Trottingbreds make the transition from harness to saddle smoothly
and former pace racers are capable of intermediate gaits. While
some need little prompting, others need retraining to learn to round
the back and break up the two-beat pace into a stepping pace, fox
trot or rack. They posses a very fast walk and can keep up with
bigger horses easily.
Trottingbreds have an amazing amount of stamina, coupled with
a desire to work. These
are not lazy ponies. If they liked racing, as many do, they
seem to transfer their enthusiasm to life under saddle.
Jim Ritter of Indiana recalls being out late at night in a state
forest with a group of riders. The other riders requested that he
"put that little, black horse up front so we can get home faster".
Jim's little, black, Trottingbred gelding hit a quick stepping pace
and led the way home. Jim also races pacers and successfully shows
his gelding in trail horse classes.
Jack Goes, a long time Indiana breeder and racer, who also uses
his Trottingbreds under saddle, used to fox hunt on Thoroughbreds.
"These ponies are capable enough that on an all-day fox hunt, they
keep up," he says. Enthusiasts all stress how sturdy and sound these
ponies are, and emphasize that they have tremendous stamina.
|The author's personal experience echoes that of other Trottingbred
enthusiasts. "My mare, Minty,
seemed to retain the conditioning from all her years in racing
and she is capable of gaiting for miles. They tend to be a sound
breed, some racing into their teens."
Bringing ponies off the track to ride does require some work, but
you won't have to teach them to clip, load or behave for the veterinarian
or farrier. Being on the road from May to October, track ponies
are worked every day, by adults, and tend to have very good manners.
Ponies do have to be taught to canter as "breaking stride" is discouraged
in racing. Also, racing puts the pony in a hollow frame, head up,
in a dead pace. It takes some work to get the pony to round his
body and break up the pace. Racing ponies also tend to lean on the
bit, which takes some retraining. Track ponies also need to be introduced
to scary new things, like traffic, mailboxes, cows and dirtbikes.
Best Kept Secret
So where would you find a Trottingbred if you desire to own one?
Hotbeds of racing are in Indiana, eastern Pennsylvania, New York,
Florida, Louisiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Delaware.
Sales, typically in the spring and fall, are held in the same areas.
Prices vary, but at the sale held in Canfield, Ohio at the 2000
All Star Races, ponies went for $400 to $1000. The best racing
stock brings higher prices. Lower priced animals may still be in
great shape, but not winning races. Private sales of already
retrained ponies run from $1000 to $1800. Common bidding competition
at sales is often the Amish, who cherish them as driving ponies,
or people looking for a driving pony for competition. Their good
looks and prior training make them attractive candidates for competitive
driving. This secret breed tends to have mostly devotees of racing
at its sales and not much of the general public.
Ride, drive, or race - the versatility is there to do it all
with these sturdy American ponies. Keep them in mind the next time
you are looking for a smaller, economical, gaited mount.
For more information see the ITPA website at www.trottingbred.com,
International Trotting and Pacing Association
60 Gulf Road
Gouverneur, NY 13642
For sale dates or racing schedules contact Julee Dunagan, ITPA
member and liaison at firstname.lastname@example.org