You Can’t Hug a Thoroughbred

My neighbor told me you can’t hug a Thoroughbred.

Here is the first post – six months later, where Retired Racehorse started, this is why we do it. This is what we love.

My neighbor told me you can’t hug a Thoroughbred.

I think that was the catalyst, really, where it all started. Having grown up with Thoroughbreds – on the track, off the track, breaking from the starting gates, jumping double oxers, you name it – I have always been convinced of the breed’s total superiority in all things.

Sure, they have their quirks. They have history. A Thoroughbred fresh off the racetrack has forgotten more than most of us will ever see. They have been pin-cushions for veterinarians, they have logged thousands of miles in horse vans, making the trek from race meet to race meet. Perhaps, compared to a show horse, they have been taught very little – but what they have been taught is very specific.

The universal cues of the racehorse: change leads on the turns. When the jockey takes hold of the bit, push down against his weight and run. When the jockey loosens the reins and stands up, relax – the work day is over. And always, always, always stay in motion. That part is more genetic, than taught. A Thoroughbred’s most important purpose in life is to keep moving forward.

When my neighbor told me I couldFinal Calln’t hug a Thoroughbred, the way she could hug a Quarter Horse, a whole chain of events started sputtering to life in my mind. First and foremost, it seemed that a sizeable portion of the equestrian community, expert and fluent in so many breeds and disciplines, didn’t understand the very unique life and thought process of the racehorse.

Moreover, retired Thoroughbred racehorses, which have dominated the American showing and eventing scene for so many years, have recently begun to feel the push from Warmbloods and cross-breds. Thoroughbreds are being categorized as “hot,” and “sensitive,” and “too much horse” for the average equestrian. They’re being marketed as “For Experienced Rider Only,” or “Great For Professional.” The rare quiet horse is being tagged as “Not a typical Thoroughbred!”

How, I wondered, could these horses be so universally tough to ride, when my childhood companion had been a five-year-old Off-Track Thoroughbred (OTTB), just six months off the racetrack? He’d been just the first in a long line of OTTBs that I’d taught dressage, jumping, and cross-country to.

And so, following this conversation with my neighbor (and myself), something serendipitious happened. A Thoroughbred, five years old, plain bay with a tiny white snip on his nose, came into my life. He and I are partnering up – with this blog – to help the world remember that nothing is quite so wonderful – and compulsively huggable – as a retired racehorse.



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7 responses to “You Can’t Hug a Thoroughbred

  1. blob

    You make this sound so final. You’ll have plenty more thoroughbreds to hug up in NY and as it turns out, most of them hug back. And we expect to hear all about it.

    Having said that, you and Final Call have made quite a journey– a good one and that’s what matters most.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Oh no, I didn’t mean it like that at all.

      I’m not even changing the name of the blog… it has too much name recognition/Google cred to give up. It will just have to be “Not” Retired Racehorse some days.

      This post makes me happy. This post started things. Sometimes I think I should have called the blog “You Can’t Hug a Thoroughbred”!

      The excitement level really can’t be beat. Well, it would be if I weren’t so incredibly tired. But inside, I swear I’m excited 🙂

  2. Fiona Farrell


    Funny how so many of those huggable QHs have large percentages of TB blood in ’em. As do those huggable WBs, ISHs, etc. Maybe horses are just plain huggable. Or – are we hugging ‘em, TBs or not, ‘cause we also love their functionality?

  3. Kat

    Very sweet post. It takes the right kind of training to make a TB, or any highly athletic horse, a good riding horse. Just like more energetic breeds of dogs, TBs need a job. Keeping them occupied and understanding the mindset of an athletic animal is all it takes in most cases. I too have known some calm, quiet OTTBs, easily retrained, sometimes quirky, but good-natured. They are suitable to any discipline!

  4. Portia Winters

    Again love the blog. Wow I have always hugged my Tbs. Actually they love being hugged. I have a 14 yr old that raced for 10 years up in Canada whom I fox hunt and just all around enjoy life with and he is demanding of attention especially if it involves hugs and grooming. I am with you I have always worked with Tb’s and always will til Death do us part.

  5. Sherri Stearns

    You CAN hug a thoroughbred!! I have two five-year old thoroughbreds – had one for three years and the other for two years – both raced previous to coming into my life. I hug my TB’s every day and my mare loves for me to hold her head while she sleeps in my arms! Enjoy your TB – your neighbor doesn’t know what he/she is talking about!

  6. Pingback: WordPress Sends Me 2010 in Review! « The Un-Retired Racehorse

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