SAQ Adoption Program

The SAQ adoption program has been running since 2003 and we have successfully re-homed over 600 Standardbreds, retired from their racing careers. Some of these horses were retired due to injuries, or simply because they lacked speed. ›› Read more

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The SAQ can provide Standardbred owners with show registration cards that are necessary to contest agricultural shows and participate in the National High Point Awards and the SAQ Annual Awards. ›› Read more

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Here you can browse stories and pictures of adopted horses and their owner





Emily and Barry

I adopted Barry (Embrace the Brawn) on the 29th October 2011. He had turned 4yrs old 11 days prior and had his last race 2 days earlier. As I had retired my other Standardbred (Longrow) after the 2011 State Championships, I was keeping an eye on the adoption lists and had put the feelers out to friends amongst the Harness Racing world hoping that another would become available that suited my list of ‘must haves’ – younger with minimal race starts, strong back, bloody good feet and the ability to carry a rider through different disciplines, namely Dressage. Fussy, but Longrow is the opposite of all those things and it was a very hard journey for him.

Barry was advertised as “Riley”. 15hh, great nature, 4yr old, sound and local.  15hh was too small for me – I wanted something big like Longrow (16.2) – but because he was just down the road I decided to look at him. I was corrected on his name when we arrived, given a halter and sent down into the paddock to find the pony in the rug. Kate was with me, so we caught him and pulled his rug off... and then began the deliberations. Even in full race condition you could see how solid and strong he was. He was just over 15hh, had quite a ‘bold’ head and huge strong feet. To see him move, we took turns (trying) to trot him up. As I wasn’t convinced he was what I was looking for, we rerugged, spoke to the trainers and headed home. I thought about it for a few hours and decided to give him a go. Although small, he was solid and strong. If it didn’t work out, he could be re adopted so I picked him up the following day.

He was a great to break to saddle. I taught him to lunge within 5 minutes so knew he was quite smart. I had heard stories about him being a real brat so I was a little worried about it all.. which may have been why I had a hard time ‘clicking’ with him. It took me 6 months to make a connection with him and him with me. I liked him, I just didn’t feel that spark. We first started competing in February. We competed openly at a dressage day at LVRC.  He was extremely stressed out but came home with a 2nd place from 29 horses. In March at Toowoomba Royal, he was still quite fit looking and completely off the planet. I was convinced on the way home that he was much more than a brat and probably half crazy. We had also attempted a Standardbred Dressage day in which we had to retire from one test and had many upsets in the other. He had put on a real display!

After talking at length with my Pop (a Standardbred guru) and Mum, I pulled him off all his feed and spent weeks researching diets and how a ‘cool’ diet is not necessarily cool if feed to the wrong horse (one who can’t breakdown protein). I had the wrong horse. I looked at every brand of horse feed you could think of, working out what exactly was in it, how much he would need of it and whether it would burn a hole in my pocket. Within 4 weeks, I had a different horse and we went out and won Champion Prep horse at the SAQ Dressage Championships.

It was uphill from there. I had and still have some major issues in the saddle. Give me a rowdy horse while I’m on the ground and I can handle it... Put me in the saddle and watch me crumble. The fact that I had not given up on Barry while he was in his ‘naughty’ faze made me realise that I might have clicked with him more than I thought. And as he improved so did I.

Barry and I had a great first year (2012) out and about – competing both amongst Standardbreds and openly. A few of my highlights were Laidley Show, where I rode him in the show ring for the first time. SAQ State Championships, where we won Reserve Champion Maiden/Beginner (his 2nd hack attempt). LVRC Open Dressage Championships, against 30 horses where we placed 3rd in both tests with unbelievable scores and less than 1% between the top 3. And Samford Show, which was our first canter attempt away from home and landed us another Reserve Champion.

Barry and I have a bond like no other. Whether it be that we grew together or that he is like no other horse I have ever owned, who knows. He is super smart and such a pleasure to own. He has his little quirks that may annoy most people but that is just Barry and I love him for it. He is a real character! 

For anyone considering adopting or buying a Standardbred, I say this to you – Like all horses, they are hard work. Don’t try to rush your relationship or your training. They are a fantastic breed, one worth the time and effort. They can do everything other breeds can do if you are willing to give them the shot they deserve. I have ridden all types of horses throughout my life and have never felt the pride I feel when I am out competing with Barry.

Looking forward to a great 2013 with my mate!