Thursday, January 14, 2016

In which we feature a Sensible Horse of a Different Color: Ink!

This is Part 3 of a series of posts about Standardbreds in endurance. 
Part 2 :  Eli  
Part 1:   Shag

Today's Standie is Ink, who lives with Kirrily Niswander in Kentucky. 


Here's what Kirrily has to say about her horse:
Ink is an 8 year old (2008) 14.3 hand brown roan mare who came from a less-than-ideal situation in eastern Kentucky with no history. I got her from a gaited horse trader who had only had her for a very short time (I think he had hoped she would gait, which she does not)....I don't know anything about before he got her.

Having owned (and loved!) a Standardbred before, I strongly suspected that Ink was one based on her looks, movement, and temperment. STBs are common in eastern KY; in addition to harness racing, they are often used for speed racking or breeding with gaited horses. 

Ink's DNA test:  Standardbred, Criollo, and British Warmblood

I sent hair samples to Texas A&M for breed analysis testing, and sure enough, her primary breed is Standardbred. 

Ink has normal walk-trot-canter gaits, though it took a lot of training and fitness to develop a balanced canter. She prefers a big long trot down the trail and gets frustrated being behind slower trotting horses. 

I've taught her to condense that big long trot into a more balanced and collected trot with dressage work, hoping to decrease wear and tear on her legs, at least for the first year or two. 

Ink and Kirrily
photo by Unbridled Imagery

Last year was our first season together.  We started with 4 LD's and moved up to 2 50's in the fall.  They all went really well with the exception of one LD.  She had a hindquarter muscle cramp at the hold which resolved quickly, but I RO'd [rider-option pull from the event] not wanting to risk worse.  I've changed our electrolyte protocol a bit and she's done wonderfully since.

Ink seems to really enjoy endurance.  She does tend to get "race brain" in the first loop, but goes quietly in a hackamore after that.  She eats really well, but is still working on drinking on the trail, as she is often too tense to drink on the first loop.  She always gets good hydration scores and seems to make up for it later in the ride, so I don't worry too much.

Our goals this year are to do more 50's, and hopefully work up to a 75 in the fall if all goes well.  

She is an absolute joy to ride: sensible yet very forward, great work ethic and wonderful personality. 

Standardbreds are my favorite breed, and can really be wonderful endurance prospects that not many people know about.  Where else can you find a sporty, athletic horse who is forward and energetic, but also sensible, honest, forgiving, and always willing to try anything?  What more could you ask for?!

I am 100% sold on the breed.

You can read a brief intro/bio about Ink on Kirrily's blog:  

Do you know another endurance Standardbred?  Get in touch!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

In which we meet another Endurance Standardbred: welcome, Eli!

In my not-even-vaguely subtle attempt to promote Standardbreds in endurance, 
I'm writing a series of posts spotlighting some of the fabulous competitors.  
This is Part 2 of the series.
Part 1: Shag

Today's featured Standardbred is a SouthEast region horse:  
East Meets Westowned and ridden by Patricia Clark.

East Meets West, aka "Eli"
photo by Becky Pearman

Eli is a 15.3  hand, 2005 model so he is 11 this year. He raced 21 times, won once and earned $7,000 (to non-race fanciers, $7000 isn't a huge amount of money). 

He is registered with the United States Trotting Association, a son of Western Paradise out of MD Has for those who pay attention to pedigrees.

Eli and Patricia
photo by Becky Pearman

Here's what Patricia has to say about Eli:

In 2009, I applied to be an adopter for New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program. After seeing this video clip I adopted him in less than two hours and had him shipped home to me in NC: 

We hit it off immediately. He is honest and works so very hard. He picked up trail riding quickly. He has legs of iron from years of jogging on the racetrack. He can trot for hours at 10-13mph and his bursts of speed dazzle the imagination. His arsenal of gaits include a 5mph walk, the trot, the pace, the stepping pace and a slow rack. 


His disposition endears him to everyone. He is particular about where he eats and how he is treated. He will throw his feed bucket in his water tub and play with it like a sailboat. He does not like to eat off the ground and he would prefer it if you were punctual when feeding him. He has the work ethic of his breed and does not like to be left at home. Eli wants to please, wants to succeed and he wants to be out on the trail with me. 

photo by Terri Strickland

We did a year of LDs in 2010 and he completed his first 55 mile endurance ride at the end of that year. Now in 2016 we are looking at our 7th year of endurance competitions. As of January 2016 he has 980 Endurance miles including two 75 mile rides and a first in one of those. He also has 445 LD miles so one of these years we will actually win our LD medallion. 

photo courtesy of Patricia Clark, stolen from the USTA website
He was the first recipient of the AERC High Mileage Standardbred Award in 2011 and in 2015 he was awarded the SERA 10 Consecutive Finishes Award. 

photo by Becky Pearman

The greatest thing about Eli is that he has simply changed my life. He is my friend, my partner, and my rock. We have completed so many adventures together from riding our first LD to traversing the dangerous Spine Ridge at Thomas Divide in the Smoky Mountains, to sharing those quiet moments during solo training rides when it is just the two of us. Eli has touched many other lives as well. 

He is a New Vocations Ambassador and I will maintain that his $300 adoption fee was the best money ever spent. Not a rescue in any sense, his transition from his kind racing owner to his life on the trails with me has been seamless because of the help of so many people. 

photo by Becky Pearman

We are looking forward to a fun and successful 2016. We would like to tackle a tough 50 miler on our home training grounds that will be a true test of grit and endurance. I'm looking forward to Leatherwood, Biltmore and of course Sandhills and the Carolina rides. 

In every way, Eli has become such an important part of my life that I cannot imagine it without him. 

You can follow the adventures of Eli and Patricia on the Racknabout Stable blog or like his Facebook page

Coming soon:  a Standardbred Horse of a Different Color!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

In which I learn new stuff about Standardbreds: the speed-racking horses

I spend a lot of time on this blog praising Standardbreds...and especially praising Fiddle. 

But hey, I thought.  Why not talk about some other Standie cousins?  I queried folks on Facebook who compete their STBs in endurance, and asked them to provide photos, videos and stories about their brown horses, and I want to share the stuff I'm learning here.

Shaggin' Ass, owned and ridden by Anita Rees

Speed racking horse Shag with Anita

You see that I'm not kidding when I say that Standies have the dumbest names ever.  But in this case, we can't even blame the United States Trotting Association, because standie gelding "Shag" comes from outside the USTA!

Here's what Anita Rees of Kentucky has to say about her 15 hand, 12 year old unregistered Standardbred gelding:

"He's homebred, never been on the track.  I saw him several years ago at a big speed racking competition.... 

I've had Shag about a year.  He's one of the most stubborn horses I've ever dealt with, and can be very buddy sour. He paces, racks, trots (a little) and is developing a lovely canter.  He has huge floppy ears, floppy lower lip, big roman nose and his front legs splay out in different directs.  BUT he's wicked fast, has incredible good bone and feet, excellent recoveries, is very sure footed, and eats anything anywhere.

Shag and a friend
My plan for his first 50 [this spring] is to go slow and keep him by himself. 

Talkin' with those great big ears!
Learning about Shag got me interested in the whole sport of speed racking--about which I know absolutely nothing.  So, I asked a bunch of questions and started googling around.  

Who organizes these events?   Are there prizes?  Anita told me that speed racking races can be organized by anyone who is interested to do it.  They have classes at local shows (in the South) with money prizes.  There are a few big competitions each year.  Racking on the Edge and Big Guns are two major events held each year in Jamestown, TN.  There are trophies but no money prizes at the big events--those are for bragging rights.

Is there a registry?  The United States Trotting Association doesn't track speed rackers, but the Racking Horse Breeding Association registers quite a few.  Many speed rackers are known to be Standardbreds or STB-crosses.

There is also a Speed Racking Association of American.
(All spelling mistakes and grammar goofs are native to the original, I didn't change them.) 
The Speed Racking Association is an association that hopes to promote the speed racking horse and the Racking Horse Breeders of America, our association was formed in part to give the speed racking horse a guideline in their performance.  We hope to increase the participation and educate the exhibitors and fans of what is expected of a speed racking horse.  We are a horse that is judged on speed, style and confirmation while exhibiting the gait of the rack, at no time should the horse lose its form and confirmation while performing the speed rack, it must still perform the three gaits of a racking horse what are show walk, slow rack and fast rack in the most stylish manner possible.  Is it the hope of this association along with the Racking Horse Breeders Association that this division grows and helps entertain the fans in the stands.  

The graphic for the RHBAA Speed Racking Association logo (above) gave me pause, so I asked more questions.  

What kind of shoes are used on speed racking horses?  Are there rules?  
Anita said that some people will put heavier shoes on the front to make the horse rack (rather than pace).  The last speed racking competition she attended allowed only standard keg shoes.  

Patricia Clark (another Standie lover--we'll be hearing more from her in a blog post soon!) chimed in that she sees speed rackers wearing keg shoes or a 3/4 or 3/8 shoe, known as a "colt shoe."  I didn't know what that was, so I went googling again and found THIS.

This was labelled on the website as a 3/8 x 3/4 Competition Lite Shod

Are there rules against soring?  Are there any veterinary controls?  Does anybody check?
There are no veterinary controls.  Soring wouldn't make a horse go faster (makes sense) so it's not a thing.  

At the Big Guns event, organizers specified that keg shoes were required for the speed racking events, but they weren't checking everybody.  The horses for that event also had to qualify with a 20mph speed rack.  (!!!!!)

Wanna see what it looks like?  Of course you do!  The mare in the video belongs to a friend of Anita, and she came from New Vocations, which is where Patricia got her horse Eli.  Look at those feet go!

Coming soon:  another Standardbred!