Kayla 1
Kayla at 8 years old

Horses for Courses



  1. used for saying that it is important to choose suitable people for particular activities because everyone has different skills


There is truth to the phrase, "There are horses for courses." Although in the real world, they use this expression to indicate that a job is suitable for one type of person or another, you can take it literally when referring to horses.

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Pick a breed and you'll probably be able to identify the characteristics that it was designed for. Most of our present-day horses trace back to a particular purpose - whether for work, for flashiness or for speed. Some horses are high-stepping, others are great pullers, and others are designed to move over ground with a low center of gravity. I imagine that as time passes and we continue our breeding programs into this era where horses are now generally bred for rideability (recreation), there will be more commonalities between breeds than there were in the past.

My horse, Kayla Queen (now 33 years of age) is a prime example. She was my dream-come-true horse, and as a Standardbred, taught me things that horses from other breeds never could. At 14.2 hh, she could keep up with the walking stride of a 17hh warmblood horse. In fact, she outwalked most horses and therefore was always in the lead during a trail ride. 

Because of her desire to "just go", she taught me to enjoy the thrill of pure movement. Her steadfast personality meant that she rarely slowed down or spooked (she would look at something and just go by) and that allowed me to become a super confident, trusting rider during my most important early riding experiences.

Best of all, she is a free-legged pacer. That means that when other horses would trot or canter, she would pace. She also sported a wonderful high-stepping trot but would switch over to pace after a certain speed. 

So I learned to sit the pace, enjoy the speed, and wave buh-bye to my friends as they switched to canter just to keep up! The "course" that Kayla was made for was definitely the speed course, and so we ended up conditioning for and then competing in long distance trail rides. That was her area of strength and what she enjoyed the most.

Kayla also spent many years taking me through my rider lessons and fun shows, but her way of going was not suited for things like collected canter or flying changes. And so in her years after retiring from competitive trail, we always headed for the trails even after a ring session.

Kayla taught me all about horses for courses. 

How about your horse? How is your horse suited for a particular job? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. Thanks for this one, Kathy! I’ve owned many horses over the years………each one suited its own niche in my life. And I’ve owned more than one Standardbred, and worked with many more…..people don’t give them near the credit they deserve! They can be wonderful horses, suited for more than just harness racing! They often make great trail horses (I’ve known several that you can’t tire out & they do tend to be very steady & “spookless”)…..I’ve trained more than one to jump & several as barrel horses……..

  2. We once had occasion to start a Standardbred broodmare under saddle. She had raced a little at a young age but had been a broodmare for 8 to 10 years. She had a fancy race name. I don’t remember what it was. After working with her for a couple of weeks we renamed her NoDramaMomma. I loved that horse.

  3. Very thot provoking! We are still trying to figure out the niche of our TB mare of 4 years, who while 14, had to be re-backed from 7 years of no use. And I’m also trying to decide whether in my midlife, she and I can find the same niche 🙂 Although she is coming along nicely in dressage. Such a willing and honest girl. But I’m now sporting a broken hip as she got a little too frisky from this cold winter and bucked me off a few weeks ago 🙁 Good time to contemplate from my Lazy Boy 🙂 Thanks for the thots! Hope I find the answer. She’s a sweet heart.