The Metis Trotter -built for speed, not for looks!
The Metis Trotter (or Russian Trotter) first came to life in Russia. With an average height of 15.3hh(155.5cm), the Metis Trotter can come in a range of different colours, including grey, black and chestnut. Most, though, are bay coloured. The horse was developed as a cross between the old Russian breed, Orlov, and American Standardbreds in the 1800s and was first recognised as a breed in the 1950s. It was bred to develop a horse with a faster trotting speed than the old Orlov breed. But while the Metis Trotter may be faster, it is not as easy on the eye as the Orlov.
According to some sources, about 156 Standard-bred horses and 220 mares were shipped from the US for crossing purposes between 1890 and 1914. Some three decades later, the Metis Trotter was officially recognised as a breed of horse. The aim was to mix the speed and power of the Standardbred with the good looks and grace of the Orlov. The quality of the breed may have been questioned, but the speed of the horse is obvious for all to see.
The breed does not possess the quality shine of the Orlov and has been found to have more defects. On the positive side, the horse is well-behaved and simple to train. While they are easy to command, they remain full of energy and enthusiastic, so it is important to keep them busy so they can use that energy. Over the years, it has been found that further breeding has resulted in faster and better quality horses.
Russia has set a range of minimum standards to lead the way in improving the quality and looks of the Metis Trotter, with a height of no less than 15.3hh(155.5cm) for mares and 16hh(162.cm) For Stallions at the top of the list. A girth of 185cm is also described as being a minimum, along with a below-the-knee bone measurement of 19.7cm .
Today, the Russian Trotter is suited to harness racing, using its speed and strength as assets. It is not only a clean and well-proportioned animal, but the obvious development of its muscles makes it an intimidating prospect when compared to fellow breeds of horses. The back, especially, is muscular.
On the negative side, this breed falls short in appearance when compared to the Orlov Trotter. While it is obviously superior to the Orlov in the speed stakes, the Metis Trotter is not as fast as some American trotters. The Russian Trotter has been bred in a wide-range of countries and conditions and has proven it is adaptable.
In appearance, the Metis Trotter has a regular head and a long neck mixed with strength and a wide chest. Their strong legs also play a key role in their speed, allowing for longer strides and faster movement across the turf. This makes them the perfect racing animal and, while not as pretty as the Orlov of previous generations, the speed of the Metis Trotter is undeniable and, at times, devastatingly impressive.
At the time of writing this article, the Metis Trotter was not included in any local pacing / trotting breeding programs and there were no Metis Trotters in Australia that we were able to locate.