When Alison MacLaren was looking to return to riding after over a decade out of the saddle, she found a shift in priorities from the high-octane horses of her eventing past, to a sensible partner to have some fun with.
“When my large, hot performance mare nearly trampled my two-year-old daughter, I knew I had to make a change”, Alison explains.
“I had recently rejoined the Glenlyon & District Riding Club after moving back to Victoria and a fellow member had a standardbred. I thought ‘what a lovely horse!’
“When I started my search for a more family-friendly mount, I reached out to people within the standardbred community and was fortunate to be offered a gelding directly from his racing connections.
“Bobby, who raced as a pacer under the name Etesian, was the perfect horse to fit into my busy lifestyle.
“With work and parenting demands, I can really only manage riding about three times a week. What’s great about standardbreds is that, unlike some breeds, they don’t require rigid routines or be worked every day. Whatever you can manage will be enough, as they pick new skills up quickly and have fantastic work ethic”.
Alison and Bobby shared around five years of adventures together, exploring a variety of disciplines.
“The highlight of my journey with Bobby was winning the Glenlyon Cup race at our club’s annual New Year’s Day event”, Alison recalls.
“We had to do two laps around the Glenlyon track and Bobby just put his game-face on. He was watching the other horses out of the corner of his eye and, when we turned the home straight, he found another gear!
“Having raced as a pacer for several years, Bobby started to free-leg (pacing without any harness racing gear) and took on a thoroughbred at full gallop. It was just phenomenal and our claim to fame as a partnership!”
As Bobby developed a penchant for the trails, Alison felt it was the right decision to find him a wonderful new home where he could enjoy quiet pleasure riding.
Once Bobby was settled in a lovely family, Alison put the feelers out for a new horse to pursue her eventing ambitions. The experience working with an off-the-track harness horse had been so positive that Alison felt drawn towards another standy.
“I took on Yoshi Dynamite sight-unseen from his racing trainer Danny Thackery” Alison explains.
“Yoshi has matured considerably across the past two years and turned into a stunning little riding horse and quite the handy all-rounder.
“After being scared of a pole on the ground in February this year, and being eliminated at the second jump at our first horse trials event in March, our biggest achievement is how far Yoshi has come in a very short time.
“He won third place in a field of over twenty show jumpers in November and had a clear round in the 70cm jump-off over a tricky course with difficult striding.
“Yoshi now jumps double-clears in his cross country and show jumping. He dressage is improving all the time, especially his canter, enhanced by his jump training.
“Yoshi’s an expressive little character and I’m always amazed at how he quickly becomes a bit of a crowd favourite. His little size, big heart, big enthusiasm and big jump always shine through!”
Alison’s passion for standardbreds grew so much that she decided to start her own HRCAV club just for standy owners.
“I’ve met a lot of standardbred enthusiasts during my travels as a Level Assessor and to compete with Yoshi”, Alison explains.
“This includes Jen Phillips, who was part of the founding committee of the Central Standardbred Riding Group (SRG), based in Wandong.
“I asked Jen what she thought of the idea to start a sister branch of the Standardbred Riding Group out in Castlemaine, which would be the fourth SRG to form in Victoria (joining Central, Northern and South Eastern chapters). Jen was really supportive of the idea and so the Goldfields Standardbreds Riding Group was born!
“We’ve got such a fantastic group of standy owners at Goldfields SRG, with a diverse range of experience levels and interests. Our rallies are quite informal and the Club is welcoming of everyone who owns a standardbred and wants to surround themselves with a support network.
“Several of our members go out and compete regularly. They’ve been quite successful in breed, HRCAV and open events, which helps to showcase just what standardbreds can do!
“On the other hand, some members have busy family lives and young children, so they view rally days as a chance to get together and relax for a few hours with likeminded friends. Often, they don’t even bring their horses to ride, as it’s purely about the comradery!
“I think this really reflects the spirit of HRCAV; it’s as much about the glass of bubbly with friends back at the float as it is the riding!”
Having recently taken on her third standardbred, a handsome gelding named Hallaboutme
who received with some foundation re-education from Hero Affiliate Retrainer Patchwork Park Equestrian before being rehomed, it’s safe to say that Alison has become bona fide standy fan.
“Standardbreds are super sensible but they still have that fire in their belly to be highly competitive. They have the most unbelievable temperament and a deep connection with people, making them readily adaptable and flexible.
“Standardbreds are just the perfect horse, with athleticism but far more patience and tolerance than other performance breeds”.