Strange Standardbred Behaviour: What’s Normal?

If you’re dealing with strange standardbred behaviour, you’re in the right place!


Standardbreds are weird. 

There I said it. 

With love. 

But also a big face-palm 🤦‍♀️

If you’ve found your way here by doing a bit of a search trying to solve a strange standardbred behaviour, then please let me reassure you that whatever it is your standardbred is doing is completely normal.  (…well, ‘normal’ for a standardbred 😉)

After spending many hours hanging out in the paddocks with standardbreds over the past twenty years, and chatting every day to awesome standardbred owners in our Online Standardbred Club, here’s a little list I’ve compiled of kooky-but-common standardbred habits, traits and behaviours.

The Standardbred Head Toss

Ever seen your standardbred tossing their head around in circles?

Swinging, waving, spinning and nodding like a loon, this behaviour is very common in standardbreds and nothing to be too concerned about.

Usually standardbred head tossing and swinging happens at times when the horse in in a heightened state of anxiety, anticipation, nervousness or tension. 

An example of this scenario would be a human being a whole 5 minutes late with the dinner bucket (the audacity 🤨)

Or a paddock mate being led away.

Or deciding a big fat “nah” to being caught today…a message delivered with a cheeky standardbred head toss, a fart and a bolt in the opposite direction of the halter-wielding human 🐎💨

Standardbred head tossing is a learned behaviour, which one horse teaches others to do.

It can start as young as a foal watching its mother swinging her head around wildly, which inspires a bit of ‘monkey see, monkey do’ and can create a habit carried through the rest of horse’s life.

I’m confident to call ‘learned behaviour’ on this one, as my first pony Tess spent over 17 years paddocking in the company of standardbreds. 

Every time Tess saw me gathering the buckets and heading towards the feed shed at dinner time, she’s sent herself dizzy spinning circles along with her big bay friends.

Several other non-standardbreds were also taught this behaviour whilst visiting our paddocks for a holiday…a little parting ‘gift’ sent home from their new standy mates (giggle).


Bouncy Standardbred Trot

Ahh, that first stride of trot when you ask your standardbred to pop up a gear from the walk… what a MONSTER of a movement it is!

bouncy standardbred trot

Putting leg on a standardbred is often like hitting the ejector seat button!

Rest assured, a standardbred bouncy trot is normal.  It’s something which your horse will become much better at moderating as they become more experienced under saddle. And, with time and practice, you’ll also become more familiar and comfortable riding along with whopping big standardbred movement!

In fact, you might become so accustomed to your standardbred’s trot that you end up finding riding any other breed of horse to be slow, lacking expression and, dare I say it…a bit boring!!!

There are two factors at play when it comes to improving a bouncy standardbred trot: the horse and the rider.

The Horse

As your standardbred increases their sense of balance and coordination, which may take time due to the immense change they’re going through, they will become more steady and consistent in their rhythm.

You can help make your standardbred’s trot more comfortable by doing some specific groundwork activities and to be conscious of your impact on your horse’s movement.

The Rider

As a rider, the goal is to try your best to ‘go with’ that first big lurch of trot forward without falling off balance or pulling your standardbred’s mouth.   I know, I know…easier said than done!  Sometimes just hanging on is the best we can do. 
All the feels 🤜🤛

The problem is that green standardbreds tend to ‘surge’ their speed within the gait.  This is super challenging to ride to.

I’ve put together a free PDF guide which outlines some of my best tips and tricks for riding a bouncy standardbred trot. I’ll send the guide straight to your email if you pop your address in here:


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A bouncy standardbred trot just takes a bit of time and practice for both horse and rider to master!

We green standardbred riders just to grit our teeth a little in the beginning.  Our job is to do our best to ensure our aids are clear and we’re giving our horse a bit of space to sort their legs out.

A standardbred who licks….everything!

Does your standardbred like to lick things?

You’re not alone there. 

In fact, when we asked our Facebook followers to share their standardbred’s weirdest behaviours some of the most common responses were:

“My standardbred licks my arms!”


“My standardbred licks everything!”

standardbred licking
and even..

“My standardbred likes to lick my dog”

Now, whilst sometimes a sweaty human arm is simply too irresistible (kinda like a portable salt lick on legs… gross, but true), or licking could perhaps even be seen as a sign of affection, the jury is still out as to what causes a standardbred to lick things.

I guess it’s just comforting to know that your horse is not alone in its peculiarities… but rather, just a member of the ‘weird standy gang’.


A standardbred sticking their tongue out of their mouth


Continuing on our theme of standardbreds doing weird things with their tongues, one of the most popular responses in our discussion on strange behaviours was standardbreds sticking their tongue out of their mouths.

We got such a great laugh at some of the hilarious photos and videos sent in on Facebook of standardbreds pulling funny faces!

Here are some of our faves:


Weird: yes.
Hilarious: also yes.

Ahh, you’ve gotta love a horse with a big personality!

Is your standardbred doing something else which is totally weird?

We’d love to hear from you!

Add your comment to our conversation thread on Facebook by clicking here.

Learn more about standardbreds….

standardbred topline