This year (2015) marks the 11th Anniversary of Smokin’ The Trails With Big Guns (Big Guns for short). Big Guns was initially held at Richard and Teresa Moore’s farm, Double M, in Sulligent, Alabama. It was a hit, so it was moved to a larger place at Circle S in Beaverton, Alabama the next year. The event soon outgrew Circle S, so it was moved to Circle E in Belvidere, Tennessee for a couple of years. Another event, Smokin’ The Trails, had been held in Indiana for several years by Chris and Sue Laney. The Moore’s and Laney’s were close friends so they decided to combine their events, hence the name Smokin’ The Trails With Big Guns, and have it in a central location. For the last 4 years, it has been held at Eastfork Stables in Jamestown, Tennessee on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains right in the middle of horse country.
A 450 foot ‘track’ is marked off in the parking lot for all of the classes in the event which include Crowd Favorite, 2 Year Old Best Gaited, 3 Year Old Best Gaited, Youth Racking, Best Gaited, Speed Racking, Total Package, and new this year was the Rackin’ Rhythm class. The Rackin’ Rhythm was judged by 3 blindfolded judges who voted for the squarest sounded gaited horse based on it’s footfalls.
On arrival, the strip was already jumping as the campers and participants were having fun warming up, practicing, or simply showing off their beautiful horses. Several of the campers had gone out on a trail ride to enjoy the beautiful scenery and trails in the mountains around Jamestown. Many have found that their Standardbred is a versatile breed that has many talents and not only used for racing.
The big day was moved from Saturday to Friday, due to impending rain and thunderstorms predicted to arrive on Saturday. There was a riders meeting early that morning to go over the rules and answer any questions for the classes.
A great time was had by all and no one went home without seeing some good clean horse racing, prancing, and parading fun with some of the best gaited horses to be found in the United States.
The Standardbred is gaining popularity in Racking Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse, and other gaited events such as Big Guns, Racking On The Edge, Rattlesnake Rack N Roll & Pace, etc., which requires a robust, hardy horse with a good disposition, and most importantly, speed. Few gaited breeds have the ability to travel in a four beat gait at speeds over 20 miles per hour. Standardbreds retired from the track, or those that are not qualified to race, are showing great promise in being retrained to rack and trail ride as well as the hunter/jumper events we have seen them excel in. They are also being bred and dubbed ‘homegrown’ Standardbreds for the same purpose.
The results of this years ‘Big Guns’ seems to support this trend. Seven of the nine classes boasted winners that were Standardbreds. Below are some interesting facts on the winners of those classes and their owners.
Crowd Favorite: Chad Angle from Foristess, MO on Cajun Bones, Standardbred. Bones registered name is B.I.T.S. Storm Warning from Back In The Saddle Stable in Louisiana. He is a 9 year old Bay ½ Standardbred, ½ TWH gelding that his owners say was ‘the skinniest horse we had ever seen’ when they bought him sight unseen. He has obviously recovered nicely and is much loved.
Winners of the youth classes were:
Crowd Favorite, Ivey Hart on Gold Express, owed by Tracy Vicars Hart of Honaker, VA.
Youth Racking, Alyssa Moore on Cupid’s Virginia Secret, Brookesville, FL. Cupid is a golden palomino Rowdy bred stallion. His dam is a Saddlebred & sire is Stonewall Jackson from the Cupid’s Arrow Stallion off of Rowdy Rawhide.
Congratulations to all the winners and runner’s up! You did a great job, along with the several hundred other participants, entertaining a huge audience of fans of wonderful, gorgeous horses.
Saddle seat, the name conjures images of high stepping trotting horses, riders in vintage riding attire, and high energy crowds at shows. While the American Saddlebred, Morgans, and Arabs are typical in saddle seat, the Standardbred is making it’s presence felt at both breed and open shows.
Saddle seat is different from other English disciplines. The sport got its start in the Antebellum South, as opposed to European/British roots. In the South a flashy yet smooth horse was in demand by plantation owners and their overseers. Saddle seat became popular in more urban settings as well, with city dwellers wanting a flashier horse to show off in parks and roadways. Saddle seat is gaining in popularity and in this article, we will talk to two different riders to gain more perspective on saddle seat and how Standardbreds are being presented.
Stacey Volkman was given her first Standardbred “C Me Shine” in 2008. After training the mare herself, she started competing in 2013 when she won “Multiple World Champion” at the Breed Show, including 2014’s Saddle Seat 2 Gait World Champion as well as 2014 High Point World Champion Adult and Horse in the same show. Stacey actively competes in open and Standardbred Breed shows and trains and teaches in Lebanon, Ohio. She is a graduate with a B.S. In Agriculture and Equine Sciences from Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio.
Mandi Cool is the Founder and Executive Director of Starting Gait: Standardbred Transitioning Program in Xenia, Ohio. Mandi competes with Standardbreds and Friesans in saddle seat and other disciplines.
What got you started in saddle seat?
SV: I started to ride saddle seat after successfully showing my Standardbred mare in western events. I was looking to expand into another discipline in order to participate in more classes at shows.
MC: I first started riding saddle seat when I adopted my first Standardbred from New Vocations 6 years ago. He is gaited, so saddle seat is the discipline for showing in English Pleasure classes.
Can you describe the classes STBs fit into?
SV: Standardbreds can fit into nearly any division. Standardbred breed specific shows are becoming increasingly popular around the east coast and Midwest. Here in Ohio, shows are hosted that offer a multitude of disciplines in which the Standardbred is showcased. Most forget that the Standardbred is just like any other horse and is not only for racing. I know of several individual Standardbreds who are “all-arounders” and compete in several disciplines within one show weekend, including my own horse.
MC: A Standardbred can show saddle seat in any English Pleasure or Equitation class, unless it specifically calls for Hunter Under Saddle. A Standardbred could either be gaited or show at the trot for saddle seat. Easy gaited is the most common way of showing a Standardbred in saddle seat, however as we see in the Roadster horses that are primarily Standardbreds, they are very capable of the flashy, high-stepping trot with the right training.
While an English discipline, the saddles are different, can you explain the saddles and how they help with saddle seat?
SV: In saddle seat, the horse is shown in a “cutback” saddle. The area at the front of the pommel is cut back- hence the nickname- to allow for the wither movement of a saddle type horse. Horses who are best suited to the discipline have higher head carriages which means that they are more vertical and need the room to allow for the bigger movement and action in the legs. The seat of the saddle is typically flat, which allows the rider to balance in the center of the horse’s back, avoiding falling behind or ahead with the motion of the horse.
Can you describe the various attire in saddle seat? Is there a difference between divisions?
SV: The attire required in saddle seat is very different from that required in the other English disciplines. A standard “riding habit” will include a long coat, vest, button up blouse or shirt, a tie, jod boots, jod pants, gloved hands and a derby hat. Helmets are becoming popular instead of the derby hat, but most riders prefer the traditional choice of hat. The color of the entire outfit depends on the time of day in which the saddle seat class occurs.
Exhibitors that show in classes that occur during the daytime, or informal classes, may show in brightly colored “day coats,” which should coordinate with the coloring of the mount. The vest, tie and jod pants should also match and coordinate with the day coat and horse. Much like the traditional breeches worn in hunt seat classes, jod pants may have knee and seat patches sewn onto the fabric to give the rider more grip in the saddle.
Exhibitors showing in the evening or championship rounds should wear formal attire. Formal coats are dark in color, usually a dark navy blue or black, with charcoal or white accents. Instead of a standard derby hat, most riders show in a top hat.
Would you be able to describe the shoeing requirements in saddle seat?
MC: There really are no shoeing requirements specific to the discipline. You should work with your farrier to get the best combination of shoeing and angles depending on what kind of movement you’re looking for. Racking/Easy Gaited Standardbreds are going to be shod differently than a Standardbred that just trots. It really is unique to the horse more so than the riding discipline.
Which divisions do Standardbreds show well in?
SV: Standardbreds that are trotting bred and pacing bred can both do well in many different divisions. Either can excel in three gaited classes if the horse can canter. Those that are pacing bred can excel in the two gaited or “easy gaited” divisions. As with any breed exhibiting in the saddle seat discipline, the way of going is important- balance and consistency are key. Rated shows, such as those licensed with the United States Equestrian Federation, or USEF, will list exactly the type and movement required for their saddle seat classes.
The breed also does extremely well in the Roadster Under Saddle classes. This class requires a lot of vertical action at speed while maintaining consistency. While not part of the traditional realm of the saddle seat discipline, roadster horses are usually shown in cutback saddles.
Do you see many Standardbreds in Open shows/classes?
SV: Standardbreds are slowly becoming well known in the show pen against other breeds. They are like any other breed in regards to selecting suitability to the discipline. Here, in Ohio, the Standardbred is becoming a popular 4H mount and in the youth divisions. I personally show in open shows quite a bit with my Standardbred mare, and often have judges, show staff and spectators question what breed my mare is. Most take her for a saddlebred cross and never a Standardbred! It goes to show that the breed has the potential to compete with other traditional saddle seat breeds.
What do you look for in a Standardbred that you are considering for saddle seat?
SV: When assessing a Standardbred for saddle seat, a preference for an individual who has a natural vertical action should be given. I personally look for a horse that has a lot of high knee carriage and is light on the forehand. I also look at the temperament of the horse under saddle. Horses that are willing to work and are energetic are appealing as saddle seat prospects.
MC: You’re more looking for the size and headset of the horse in addition to the gait. The saddle seat horse should be a more upright presented horse – long neck, and the ability to flex and have a nice presented headset along with the gait (either trotting or gaiting – whatever you’re going for)
Where would a rider look to find a Standardbred saddle seat trainer?
SV: A lot of traditional saddle seat trainers usually work with American Saddlebreds, Morgan’s or similar breeds. I would suggest contacting a reputable Saddlebred trainer. Traditional gaited horse trainers are also a good place to start. The Standardbred under saddle is a relatively new concept to most of the horse industry; traditional saddle seat trainers would more than likely be willing to take on a client with a Standardbred as long as the client fits within their training program.
MC: I would think any trainer that has worked with gaited horses or Saddlebred/Morgan/Arab type horses in Saddle Seat would be a good place to start looking. All of these breeds have the same overall presentation that you are looking for in the saddle seat discipline, and would lend well to working with a Standardbred. Saddlebred trainers are the obvious front-runner when it comes to Saddle seat – they have both 3 and 5-gaited divisions and would be able to work with both a gaited and trotting horse.