Show Jumping’s wake-up call

Back in November, the United States Equestrian Federation put on a forum on show jumping, to try and determine why American show jumping is such a broken, sad mess of a fashion show, instead of a serious arena for internationally-minded competitors to  prepare for important things, like Olympic medals and World Equestrian Games championships.

The Chronicle of the Horse ran a series of three articles on fixing show jumping, based upon these forums, and the third one, finally, screams out what I’ve been screaming for years, that is:

Our horses are the ones the Europeans don’t want!

It’s a funny thing, that Americans are so happy and eager to ride the rejects of the Old Country. Not very ‘Mercan (she says in a redneck accent) of them!

But you know it, I know it, we’ve all talked to the giggling Dutch dressage rider who says, “Of course the best horses never leave the country,” or the German trainer who shakes her head solemnly and says “The Germans do not let their good horses go.” A very prominent and well-renowned hunter trainer (you would just die if you knew who) told me with a chuckle that the hunter/jumper ring was full of German milk drays. Unapologetic, though, she sells them herself, and you can buy your own carthorse/showhorse from her, for something in the neighborhood of six figures.

So, this quote is a little sad, because I’m afraid the show jumping community just realized this:

Murray Kessler of the North American Riders Group echoed Morris’ words in the Nov. 7 open forum. “We are at a significant disadvantage in the area of breeding. Almost all of our horses come from European descent. These large and well established breeding programs are tightly controlled by governing bodies. Simply said, we get second choice for the best horses in the world.”

I could have told you that fifteen years ago. After all, I was seventeen and I knew everything. That being said, I was competing prelim and winning show jumping classes I entered just for giggles on a Thoroughbred. 

But I’ll cut you all some slack, slavish European equiphiles, if you’ll just put aside your FEI passports and pick up a few Jockey Club certificates. And look, your leaders think that you should!

Says our Chronicle of the Horse correspondent:

In the heyday of U.S. show jumping, the vast majority of top horses had North American origins. The legendary Touch Of Class, For The Moment, Idle Dice and Jet Run all were American-bred Thoroughbreds who started out on racetracks. Gem Twist never set foot on a track, having been bred out of classic jumper lines by Frank Chapot, but he was an American Thoroughbred. Abdullah, a Trakhener, was bred in Canada.

We all know Trakheners are practically Thoroughbreds, so I’m leaving old Abdullah in there. I always liked him.

But besides that, can we all just observe that the greatest show jumpers in American history were Thoroughbreds? Even Gem Twist. Gem Twist! I have a plastic Breyer model of Gem Twist on top of my kitchen cabinets at this very moment. I am thirty years old and I never got over Gem Twist, that’s how awesome he was!

Gem Twist, in the picture that never gets old.

Says George Morris, whose picky Jumping Clinic in the back of Practical Horseman created a stylized Fashion Week disaster out of Hunt Seat Equitation (I say that with love), completely redeems himself of any sins he may ever have committed with this one statement:

“Somehow, we have to get back to the horses we have in this country. There are tens of thousands of horses out there. There are Gem Twists out there. The American Thoroughbred is the best sport horse in the world. I had two very early European mentors, Otto Heuckeroth at Ox Ridge, who was a great horseman, and Bertalan de Némethy. Both of those Europeans told me repeatedly, ‘George, the best horses in the world are these American Thoroughbred horses.’ I would like somehow in the next 25 years to see some people with deep pockets get back in that direction and utilize this internal resource.”

I like this. I like this. And then he says this:

“Somehow, we need to tap into the thousands of Thoroughbred breeders in the United States and show them that there is big money to be made beyond racing.”

Yes! So I ask you: What are we going to do?

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106 Comments

Filed under Outside Sites, Sport Horses, Stereotypes

106 responses to “Show Jumping’s wake-up call

  1. Thank you for writing this blog! We have so many talented Thoroughbred that come through ReRun, but seem to have a hard time getting the talented riders to look at them! Just because they don’t cost 6 figures doesn’t mean they won’t be worth 6 figures one day! After reading this blog, I hope more riders take a second look at the original sport horse! Check out a few at http://www.rerun.org

    • Shirleyvh

      Its because most riders today never leave the teaching orshow ring fenced arenas. This does not develope confidence. TBs are the best!

  2. sally

    “completely redeems himself of any sins he may ever have committed with this one statement”

    some of those sins have hurt people that carry it into their adult life,…

    ummm nooo,…. its like penn state at some shows with his past just sayin

  3. Thing is, I don’t think the breeders need to change much of anything. They are producing quality horses in droves. The breeders need to have a market for their culls where they can get something akin to race-auction prices (which for the middling yearlings is easly pennies compared to what people pay to haul second-string warmbloods all the way from Europe), and the trainers need buyers for the horses who aren’t cutting it as racers. And there the problem isn’t on the racing end, either–most of them would love to sell for $1000 rather than be stuck giving animals to anyone with a trailer when there’s nowhere to go at the end of the meet.

    The real question is how do you knock sense into buyers that if they’re willing to put a little work into a horse they’ll get infinitely more bang for their buck paying a little for a TB and then spending the other $98,000 they’d have spent on a German reject into training it? How do you get people to stop BRAGGING that a TB “looks like a warmblood”? I don’t want a TB that looks like a descendant of central-european carthorses, I want one that looks like a TB. On good days, Lucky looks like a C.W. Anderson sketch and there’s not a better-looking horse in the world than that.

    (Well, okay, at the moment, he looks like a wooly bear. But it’s winter. In Michigan. And he likes it that way.)

    • Well they don’t HAVE to buy OTTBs. If someone is dying to drop 100K on a nice prospect, we have plenty of nice sales. Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton, Ocala Breeders’ Sales.. hell you can take a nice vacation, couple it with a Thoroughbred sale, and boom you have a gorgeous young thing that cost just as much as VonWeinerschnitzel IV cost Suzy back at your boarding stable!

  4. Great post! American Thoroughbreds are the best. There are so many different types. Some a scopey, some aren’t. Some are fancy movers, some aren’t. Some are fast, some aren’t. They as a breed possess all of the skills that any rider could ever hope for….it’s just about finding your right match. And when a rider finds their right Thoroughbred, that horse will give their all to their rider. They are all heart, athleticism and beauty. Go TBs and OTTBs!

  5. Mary Johnson

    I showed in the 1960’s and early 1970’s and all my horses were Thoroughbreds. I remember watching Rodney Jenkins ride Idle Dice, owned by Harry Gill, in the Open Jumpers. They were the best and I do believe that the TB is the most athletic horse on the face of the earth.

  6. YES!!!!!!!

    Bonheur, the horse Canada’s own own Christilot Boylen rode at the Tokyo Olympics in dressage was, ayup, a TB!
    Big beautiful dark bay handsome bugger. sigh.

    TB’s are incredibly capable, intelligent, athletic horses.

    Hello.

  7. I daresay I’m as passionate about my TBs as you are. There’s one major reason why TBs fell out of favour as sporthorses (save for eventing) in North America, however. Most of the riders we turn out on this continent can’t ride ’em. The less complicated, less sensitive, more tolerant warmblood (um, especially those ones the Europeans are selling us, the ones with a dash of carthorse!) became the horse of choice 30 years ago because, from a temperament POV, they’re overgrown, more athletic (sometimes) quarter horses. In order for the TB to regain its popularity, first we have to go back to training riders to be something more than helpless and tactless passengers.

    • I mean, that’s true to a certain extent. But I find warmbloods (and quarter horses) have such a capacity for dishonesty and laziness that to me they’re a tougher ride than a Thoroughbred. I basically learned to ride on Thoroughbreds, so that may be the difference, and nearly everything I’ve ever learned I learned by the seat of my pants on the back of a variety of track-broke/green-broke TBs. If trainers are buying TBs and then putting their students on them to learn to ride, then, well, it all works out.

      • julie

        I have owned one purebred ex-racehorse, and a registered Oldenburg NA filly, and now a Thoroughbred/Welsh pony cross, and I will agree warmbloods are not the ideal breed most people think them to be, temperamentally speaking. As the admin said above…
        When I sold the warmblood for my current horse, the woman who bought the 3 yo filly was very involved in eventing, fox hunting, and dressage and basically admitted the same thing about warmbloods being more difficult rides than fans of the breeds admit, and her horses were almost all TB or WB stock. As she put it- “(Warmbloods)are hot like a Thoroughred, but also stubborn and at times lazy and defiant like their European draft ancestors in ways my Thoroughbreds aren’t… They can be tougher than some of the Thoroughbreds I ride.”
        Don’t mistake me in saying how talented they are, and that the attitude can be trained through with the right rider/trainers, but they are no easier a ride than any decent Thoroughbred. It depends and varies horse to horse, of course…

      • AND OTTBs are also being used in therapeutic riding! Can’t ride ’em? Balderdash. Get better instructors out there. Get real riders actually learning HOW to ride, not how to push a button.

        Horse sure looked like he was born to do that job.

      • drifter

        In the show world many trainers make most of their profit from commissions on buying /selling horses for their clients.
        Sadly there is way more profit on importing a warmblood than purchasing a bargain priced OTTB. Very sad but see it done all the time.

    • Blob

      I’m going to disagree with this. Yes, there are lots of riders who can’t ride TBs. But I don’t think they’re harder to ride. In fact, I’d argue the opposite. There are other reasons they’re not as popular in the sport world, some of those reasons are practical (particularly in the dressage world) and others are silly– ie, it’s more fashionable to have a big fancy warmblood.

      The real problem is that breeders are breeding TBs for speed and only for speed, which means there are a lot of other problems that are being passed on and down. TBs way back down the line don’t have and shoudln’t have bad feed, overly sensitive stomachs, and too long pasterns. But now so, so many of them do because breeders aren’t worried about those traits, all they need is something fast. The career of a racehorse is not nearly as long as the career of a sport horse so a lot of the issues don’t matter as much. But people in the sport horse world think TB and they think of hard keeper with bad feet and then they go look the other way.

      So yes, breeders do need to change, not just for the sport horse world, but for the sake of the TB.

      • It wouldn’t be a blog post if you didn’t disagree with it, Blob!

        As a generalization, it’s true. And people generalize like hell.

        Colics have never been an issue for me. Well, that’s not true. My first horse colicked all the time. But he was a Quarter Horse.

        On our ten-TB farm we had two colics in three years, and both of them were in pregnant mares. Feed your children well, keep them turned out as much as possible, that’s always been my philosophy. I had Rillo for more than ten years, and he never colicked.

        Feet, I can’t argue with you there. Feet are a problem. I blame Valid Appeal. Anyone else?

        The whole point of educating sport horse people about TBs is to help them understand that these are GENERALIZATIONS. They do not apply to every single horse. I don’t even think they apply to the majority of the population.

      • Sarah Posey

        as an OTTB owner AND former breeder AND a licensed TB trainer, there is some truth behind breeding for speed and overlooking some serious flaws that also effect racing soundness and performance.The versatilitilty of the TB is unmatched in my book and Thoroughbred Exhibitors Assoc. was founded in 1977 in OR of all places. We hold exclusive Tb shows (some 1/2 breds allowed. OUR MOTTO Thoroughbreds can do it all! friend us on facebook if you like and feel free to share with us

      • Pat

        TB’s can do it all and very well. But are broke way too soon worked way to hard early on. It’s a recipe for disaster.

    • Amy

      Yes Kim! Agree 150% as an “a” circuit trainer, it’s sad to see trainers started teaching their horses to tolerate riders instead of possibly losing a rider ($$$) because said rider wasn’t talented enough to ride said horse. I joke that I’m the only [crazy] one who has 2 red tb mares as her lesson horses. lol I love love my warmbloods but they definaty make learning to ride A LOT easier

      but we have hit the opposite extreme: run down the lines working hard to slow & calm your tb down vs choke & hold Your warmblood down the lines (making it near impossible for a beginner to confidently show a tb any less than 16.2). And kicking & gripping & spurring the whole way. There’s a middle ground in there somewhere we just need more trainers looking for it.

    • I TOTALLY agree we need to have more talented, sensitive riders who can actually ride a TB!! They are tricky horses to balance on and bond with, but jeez, once you got the hang of them, whoo hoo….these diamonds in the rough… The Sky Is The Limit!!
      Send them to me for training, I’ll train the horse/orthe rider, in four months. Watch their smoke in the jumper ring!!

      • The future of the thoroughbred, as well as the future of the entire sporthorse industry, all breeds included lies in the hands of competent trainers. Some comments were made that european riders could not handle our sensitive thoroughbreds but nothing could be farther from the truth. Horses are a part of life in Europe much more than here. Kids cut their teeth on ponies who would rather bite, kick and buck them off than jump a fence, but they persist until they can graduate to a real horse and boy what a horseperson they are by that time. Read the autobiography of Mary King. Born poor, never had a horse, wanted one desperately, her mom hated horses and they lived in a home with an outdoor bathroom. She begged and pleaded and her mom borrowed a pony to lead line her up and down the road, even as the pony bit the mom a few times. That passion continued and she has just been titled the International Event Rider of the year (and her horses carry a high percentage of TB blood). Trainers in the U.S. are the ones carrying the torch for horses. We need to change at the core before you will be able to change the outcomes. To do that we need more good trainers who can inspire kids. Kudos to every trainer who can teach a student to communicate with a horse because you have not only enriched that person’s life, you have potentially found a home for 100 horses. That person will not be able to contain their joy and they will inspire other little kids who will go on to be involved in horses.

      • Trainers in the U.S. are the ones carrying the torch for horses. We need to change at the core before you will be able to change the outcomes. To do that we need more good trainers who can inspire kids. Kudos to every trainer who can teach a student to communicate with a horse because you have not only enriched that person’s life, you have potentially found a home for 100 horses.

        My riding instructors meant the WORLD to me. They were my foster parents, they were my best friends, they were my cool aunts, they were my mean coaches, they were EVERYTHING. And they shaped my outlook on horses. My trainer told my mom, “Sure, she can get a green horse and learn along with him. There’s nothing wrong with that.” My trainer said, “You want to learn how to ride babies? I have a few that need started.” My trainer said, “No one can ride this horse, go get on him and see what the problem is.” Trainers like that make the riders that are ready for any challenge, and, indeed, relish every challenge.

  8. Michelle Wingo

    AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  9. Jill Pflugheber

    Karen nailed it. Things have changed, and nowadays “riders” mostly aren’t horsemen. Me, I’d rather take a sharp stick in the eye than ride a warmblood. Give me a TB any day. They are intelligent and athletic, as well as incredibly versatile (if you give them a chance). Natalie, great article!

    • A sharp stick in the eye… 😀

      I just don’t find them difficult. I don’t know. Read way way back on this blog (early 2010) and see how easy Final Call was. Ridiculous. I hadn’t been riding for several years and was scared of everything when I got him.. true story! And do you know he never dumped me… not once.

  10. This story does not acknowledge that U.S. breeders have been breeding to European first rate horses for years via frozen semen. The best horse does not have to leave Germany and yet we still have access to the semen. I have a weanling colt by the German-bred World Eventing champion Grafenstolz. Londonderry the Hanoverian sire of the top selling 3 year old in Germany has semen available in the U.S. for the paltry sum of roughly $900 a breeding dose. Grafenstolz foal: http://horseofcorff.com/westwood.htm

    • Well it hasn’t helped us win anything, has it… 😉

      The point of this blog is that Thoroughbreds, home-grown and all around us, are being overlooked in favor of (largely) European imports. From the same Chronicle of the Horse article:

      Go down the list of top U.S. show jumpers now and count how many were bred in North America. In the top 25 horses in the 2011 year-end standings for the U.S. Grand Prix Horse of the Year, not one was bred in the United States.

  11. Amy M

    I agree with all of you! I grew up in the pony ring winning on ponies that were either plucked out of a field or saved from slaughter auctions, and as I moved into amateurs it was basically anything in my aunts barn, which includes plenty of thoroughbreds that came from new vocations. We r not fans of warmbloods at all and even refer to them as “dumbbloods”! To be completely honest, thoroughbreds aren’t my favorite horses! I have a love for appendix quarter horses, with thoroughbred in them of course for their stamina and athleticism! (I do like the sensibility of a quarter horse) but it still isn’t something that we got the leftovers of!
    P.S. I too still have my Gem Twist breyer proudly displayed in my bedroom at 25 years old! He is still the most gorgeous horse ever!!

  12. sophiea

    I think a large problem with buying our local thoroughbred horses is longevity… they don’t last. I have owned quite a few thoroughbreds over the years and have known what seems like trillions of thoroughbred owners…one thing we all had in common was the amount of time and money we spent on rehab, injections, stall rest etc. The relationship we built with our vets was amazing! I feel like in order for thoroughbreds to be considered competitors again is to adjust the breeding program, we need solid mounts with a good competitve disposition… too many tb’s are too cripled, too high strung and too much of an investment to gamble weather or not all the time and money put into it will pay off in the ring.
    Just a thought

    • I hear what you’re saying, I just have never found this to be the case any more with Thoroughbreds than with any other breed. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I am super lucky. (This seems unlikely because I am NOT lucky. Ask anyone.) I’ve known several nice warmbloods and quarter horses get repetitive stall rest, surgeries, soft-tissue injuries… it happens to sport horses because they work HARD (some as hard as racehorses) and I don’t think it is an inherent reality of owning a Thoroughbred that they’ll get hurt more often. I just totally disagree. Horses get hurt. ALL of them.

      And as I mentioned in a Facebook comment thread earlier, the nice turf-style horses that you want… they are out there. The late bloomers, especially! Call a breeding farm and ask what’s sitting in their back pasture!

      • Maybe I’ve been lucky, too, Natalie, but my own TBs (mostly off the track, though I do have two unraced homebreds out of my El Prado mare) have been (ahem, knock wood) enviably sound. Of course you DO have to exercise due diligence at the track when you’re selecting one for sport-horse purposes; I seldom recommend an OTTB for students because you really do have to know what you’re looking at and what the prognosis is likely to be.

        It’s not so much that TBs are inherently fragile (though yes, the tendency to breed for early speed with no regard to longevity is troubling) but that the track is very, very hard on them. The upside is that if you find one who is solid and sound and sane at the end of a racing career, you might just have found yourself an iron horse who isn’t going to break down on a cross-country course (my game) or in the jumper ring.

        I’ve known warmbloods who were getting their hocks injected at age five, and were unsound and retired by age eight. Yes, maybe I’ve just been lucky, but my old Prelim horse, who was a Damascus grandson, raced to the end of his six-year-old year and then evented with me for another 12 years. He was sound till his dying day this past July, at the age of 28.

      • Oh I DO love El Prados. I have an El Prado hat. 😀

        The upside is that if you find one who is solid and sound and sane at the end of a racing career, you might just have found yourself an iron horse who isn’t going to break down on a cross-country course (my game) or in the jumper ring.

        Truth.

        The fact of the matter is, ANY horse can be the one that needs hock injections at five and is broken down at eight. But this conversation is totally turning into a FIX THE BREEDING SITUATION conversation, and I find that fascinating.

        So what do we want Thoroughbred breeders to breed for? Kick out the broke-down stallions? Stop breeding for six furlongs?

    • Claudia Wolloch

      I agree wholeheartedly, that horses are all individuals, as people are. Some are more prone to lameness due to genetics, conformation and over training. When TBs begin their training for racing, their growth plates have not even closed yet! They are subjected to stress and the inappropriate rigors of breaking from the gate, pushing their limits, and being pounded on unforgiving track surfaces. It wasn’t until Barbaro and Eight Belles broke down, that the horrors of horse racing were brought in to the limelight.The proper legislation has finally been passed to protect them from steroid use. They always seem to invent another “wonder drug” that eludes testing. It’s all a big game, and the horses are the losers here. I’ve owned thoroughbreds my entire life, growing up close to Belmont race track. I always felt as though my off the track TB was getting a second chance at a better life. I would let them down, go slowly with them, in their training, and inevitably, they would break down. I would spend thousands of dollars, waiting several years for them to come back. I’ve owned many lawn ornaments that have broken my heart and my wallet! I love their brains and their ride,and athleticism, BUT, they are not practical! I now own my first “dumb blood,” a Hanoverian I purchased as a coming 4 year old. What a pleasure! Yes I paid more for him initially, but he has paid me back in spades. He’s beautiful quiet, versatile,(jumps, trail rides, shows)and he’s still going strong at the ripe age of 12! He’s my best friend, and I hope to be on his back in another 12 years, while all my TBs are turned out!

    • Soft tissue injuries are not confined to warmbloods and quarter horses. Generally speaking, the more money invested in the horse the more cautious the owner is about watching their musculoskeletal system. TBs have their share of injuries, many caused by the throw-away attitude some trainers have. It does go back to your theme of valuing the thoroughbred. My european champion sired Trakehner is out of a winning OTT TB mare who is sound. Regarding the issue of show jumping, the reason people are looking to imported warmbloods over thoroughbreds are two reasons primarily, bone and managability. Now the european warmbloods are using TB heavily now, but they still look down their nose at American bred TBs. The european TB has a lot more bone on average than the American TB. Certain lines are really known for good bone and temperament here in the U.S. though, Never Bend and Buckpasser for example. There are people using stallions with those bloodlines for both dressage and jumping. The addition of warmblood to a TB ends up with a horse with a better ability to focus. In my opinion and in the opinion of a lot of other breeders, the perfect combination for jumping is a 50-50 combo, that is first generation anglo-warmblood. Certain warmbloods have more TB already in them, such as Trak, as you mentioned. But the top european Hanoverian dressage stallions are now about 25% TB. You might be interested to find that adding TB to a warmblood improves the dressage gait, even though the TB does not have the “perfect conformation” for dressage. Add TB to a dressage Hanoverian and you get a foal that is better than the sum of the two. Why? Because TB brings the work ethic and the energy into the mix and the Hanoverian provides the huge shoulder and low-riding stifles that allow the leg to get under the belly.

      That is where the future of the American TB lies (in terms of Sporthorse showing) in my opinion. I love TB mares, but I want those with bone, conformation and attitude. I don’t want horses that broke down because of conformation or a bad temperament. The #1 and #2 eventing horses (winners of Rolex) were about 85% TB and 15% Hanoverian. The warmblood added the degree of control needed to navigate the course and the bone to allow the horse to compete for a long time, the 85% TB added the speed and maneuverability. Imported horses do carry a mystique and they are capitalizing on that somewhat, but there is a difference in the horses that are being used in the TB side of the mix (difference between American and European TBs, that is).

      The combo with the least amount of bone is the QH/TB (often called an American warmblood). The QH has less bone than the TB. I have two foals that are half TB. One has massive bone and the other has toothpick legs. The difference is one is QH and the other is Trak.

      You misunderstood my original post. I am saying you can get semen from the top European warmbloods for a pittance compared to the breeding fee of a racing TB stallion. Breed the slow TB mares to those stallions and see how fast the TB reputation increases.

    • Erin

      I wouldn’t say that at all! I take lessons on a 27 year old pure thoroughbred mare and she still jumps two foot courses with ease-and enjoys it. True, she’s been very well taken care of throughout her life, but I wouldn’t say longevity is an issue for us at all.

  13. You know, life is a wheel. The Thoroughbreds are out there and with the acceptance of slots, which raises the purses in racing states, I think the American Thoroughbred industry is on the rebound. This will hopefully increase the availability of quality horses in the market, not just racing rejects offered at the end of the meet. I’ve made up OTTBs all my working life with horse and in my book there is nothing like a good American Thoroughbred horse between you and the ground!

  14. Julie Lopez

    I loved reading this because all those lovely TB’s mentioned were my childhood heroes and I love the TB breed.

    On another note, from what I have read, Hickstead was a European reject that Lamaze picked up. Sometimes the greatest horses are diamonds in the rough.

    • Oh absolutely… and if you look back, all of our champion horses are European-bred. But you know how our economic system is broken because we export raw materials to China and then buy them back as consumer products?

      It seems like it’s the same with horses, doesn’t it?

      Except we don’t buy the Thoroughbreds back… we buy OTHER horses…

      Basically, we have an amazing commodity, produced by American farmers, that we’re tossing aside in favor of the ones that come with fancier names. Hey, listen, some of our Thoroughbreds have pretty fancy names. Some of them are JUST AS UNPRONOUNCEABLE as the European ones 🙂

  15. Rotten

    I agree that this is all a very valid point. If people really do want American Horses of quality, why just look in the general vicinity of your home? Elite Thoroughbred-Racing auctions are not going to be in everyone’s backyard. Travel and expand your horizons. Go to Keeneland, go to Fasig Tipton, go to Tattersalls, go to any Thoroughbred auction here in AMERICA and support the AMERICAN horse! Stop sticking to home base and get out a little bit.

    • Not to mention going to Thoroughbred auctions is FUN and ADDICTIVE and should never be done unless you’re planning on bringing a horse home! 😀

  16. Anita Barfield

    Hear hear! The American Thoroughbred is the pinniacle of athleticism! No other horse is as generous. They’ll give you everything they’ve got, and then dig deep and find more, just because you ask for it. As with any horse you’re looking to purchase, you have to shop for the traits you are seeking. Look for well conformed, sane animals with good feet, and you can find them right here at home.

  17. Pingback: Very cool blog/opinion (but pretty right on) about the American TB and sporthorses

  18. Kitster

    Great article!
    I have been around Show Jumping and racehorses most my life. I got my 1st OTTB when I was 14, he was nine, he lived till was 38. I think they are a lot tougher, try harder, smarter nad have a lot more heart then the Warmbloods. I have friends that spend fortunes on Warmbloods, They seem to have lots of soundness issue and act stupid at things, where a TB would not.
    I really hope the TB are making a comeback. The Jockey Club has put up incentive for Tb classes at Horse shows. Virgina Horse Park has the TB Celebration Horse shows. Also check out http://www.projectthoroughbred.com
    I would much rather rescue or adopt an OTTB, patch em up, and go kick warmblood ass in the show ring, then go drop a fortune on one!!!

  19. flyfilly

    What does he mean “Somehow, we need to tap into…”? What does he mean, somehow? Surely he can’t be so out of touch that he isn’t aware of the dozens, heck, hundreds of horse rescues out there laden with Thoroughbreds, many of them with retraining programs, desperately trying to get OTTBs placed with high-end performance homes? If you want to hunt for an OTTB up for cheap sale/adoption with plenty of potential, the solution is not a hard one.

  20. GemTwist

    As my name implies, I am A HUGE!!!! Gem Twist fan, always have been and I love that picture! I am also a huge TB fan. I have always loved them. So many people are afraid of a TB but the best horses I ever had in my life were full or part TB!!!

    Thank you for writing this article. I hope that people start rethinking what they think about the TB and start giving more of them a chance. They aren’t all about going as fast as they can. They are the most wonderful, forgiving, loving breeds of horses I have ever known. And they give the BEST hugs!!!

  21. I got my first horse as a child, he was a skinny, 2 year old rescued TB that never raced and my mom paid the price of meat for. I’ve been a thoroughbred addict ever since. I showed him in the 3’6 hunters on A and had a blast. Naturally he didn’t beat the in style warmbloods but that never stopped us. My heart has belonged to Thoroughbreds ever since. THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS!!! I’ve said it all along and so many have yet no one listened. Finally people are waking up!
    And I’m 27 and still have my Breyer Gem Twist as well. He is still my all time favourite showjumper. I Loved watching him!

  22. I know what i’m doing about it. I started an organization to fund classes at shows so people who can’t afford the 50k starting price would take a chance, again, on an off the track horse. I run shows called “thoroughbred re-discovery”, and i have several in my barn…

  23. Margo Nielsen

    And what a shame… so many of our (U.S.) OTTBs being sent to slaughter without even attempting to find them another job! I know many trainers and tracks don’t do this now, but 10% or more of the horses shipped to Mexico or Canada are U.S. TBs… that’s close to 15,000 horses per year!

  24. Lisa

    52, on my 6th TB, 5th OTTB. Never owned a WB, never wanted to, never will. Never bit by the bigger is better, more $ is better, or what everyone else just had to have bugs. Can’t match the brains, heart, willingness or beauty of a TB.

  25. Pat

    rarely is the problem with the horse. As with computers, it is usually “operator error”. I have watched some events and can tell from approach that the horse is not going to clear the jump. I can only speak of Americans, but it seems that many only want a horse that is completely trained and don’t have to put any effort into training/working. My 1st horse was green broke that’s all. My riding teacher, God Bless her, told me that I needed a green horse so that we could learn together and we did. After 30+ years everything I learned is ingrained in my brain/body. Europeans have a different riding style. They move with the horse working as a team.

  26. Pat

    I have an OTTB too. He is a super horse, the best of the best. I am fortunate that in my training I was taught to work with the horse. I knew nothing about my boy when I bought him (for a whole $40.00) except he was all scarred up from fire pining and could not for the life of me figure out why he fought me so much. Turns out that the boy is dressage trained and didn’t respond well to my hands, but I can do a figure 8 with my legs and seat! He is big and beautiful and will do anything I ask:)
    I worked hard to figure him out and in the mean time earned his respect.

  27. Thoroughbred_Gal

    This is a super article. My trainer feels that riders today don’t want to learn to ride well enough to work with a horse that is forward, or needs any prep time.

    That said, I do think there are significant, major changes in thoroughbred breeding practices that are moving away from making them sound in mind and body enough for careers in the show ring. Breeders who are breeding for commercial success in the sales ring are inserting screws and wires in knees in yearlings to make them look more “correct”. Who knows the long term impact this is having on the integrity of the entire structure of the horse? Pedigree is king, and hot sires that bring money in the sales ring have significant confirmation flaws that are being passed down (Storm Cats have terrible knees, Unbridled Song’s are famously unsound. Both sires are also known for passing along very tempermentally unsound get.) But horses that mature fast and are precocious on the track are selling for big $$$.

    I think that the American Thoroughbred today, versus the American Thoroughbred of yesteryear are turning into two very different breeds, and it is a sad, sad thing. I wish there were more thoroughbred breeders who were breeding for the show world – breeding horses that are sound in mind and body, but the money for the market just isn’t there.

  28. I love the quote from George Morris. Steuart’s got a couple of good quotes about how awesome Thoroughbreds are on his website (from Jimmy Wofford and Rebecca Langwost): http://www.dodonfarm.com/TB_Qualities.html

  29. The American TB breeding program used to have breeders that bred strictly for the show ring. I remember so many in the in hand classes… The don’t any more. I was probably one of the last and I did breed TB’s that looked and acted like WB’s. My motto was “WB type horses at a TB price”. I couldn’t get anyone to buy them. If they did, it was at a loss. These were FANTASTIC horses! I do agree that TBs are more sensitive and because of that maybe more difficult to ride but the question is that no one seems to be approaching is –

    Why are our riders not up to the level of riding them?

    In Europe, the riders aren’t so “instant coffee”, have to “have it now” minded. They drill and drill, ride both dressage and jump. Quite possibly their skill level is better, the WB’s are the horses they ride (with lots of TB in them) and we think that it must be the horse quality that makes the difference. Of course it can’t be our riding program in this country.

    Just food for thought.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Susen, and all you have to do is watch a WEG round and see the incredible difference between American riders and, say, German riders. If both riders are on Holsteiners (for example) but one is going around like a half-broke mustang and one is going around like a Grand Prix dressage horse, what does this tell us?

      Personally I find it pretty disappointing that there are thirteen-year-old girls out there who’d rather ride a warmblood than a Thoroughbred because Thoroughbreds are “too hot.” It seems to go along with the current emphasis on girls wearing pink and playing with dolls that look like South Bronx prostitutes. (No offense to South Bronx prostitutes intended.) TOUGHEN UP GIRLS. LEARN TO RIDE.

  30. Vangoghpro

    I own two TBs. They are as different as day and night. The 14 year old gelding is an OTTB – a multiple winner in California. At my barn everyone thinks he is a warmblood because of his build and demeanor. He is the gentle giant, in your pocket buddy. He has solid legs. My other TB is a frivolous filly. She is a wild child. She is not an easy ride for even the best rider. But when she goes she has heart. She has skinny legs and looks like Eight Belles. Her sire was an OTTB who won in the show jumping ring in his second career. As other posters have noted, it’s not the breed, it’s the horse. It’s just a snob thing in my barn to have a warmblood, but one of the rider’s bringing home the ribbons is on a skinny TB mare. Any time you take in an OTTB, you save a life – and a good few pennies too.

  31. BTW, I now raise strictly warmbloods so I can put food on the table however we have just started a Equine Rehabilitation Project (that is the official name of it). Paperwork is being processed and our first 2 TBs have arrived from Pa tracks. We live in SD so that is saying something. For now we are doing 2 at a time but once we get our tax exemption status, we hope to have more sponsors to help more get into new careers. Gotta love those TBs!

  32. Kim Houkding DVM

    I quit breeding 5 years ago. I am down to 9 head-3-4 more than I can afford. Some nice prospects to choose from!

  33. chorse

    Right on Karen! The WB’s are just bigger jumping quarterhorses with correctly sized feet! True, most Americans can’t ride TB’s (it jiggs, it spooks, it is sensitive… etc). You actually have to ride a TB and be willing to ride through some settling activities. WB’s are often tricky to ride because they are more insensitive and mule like but they won’t scare off most riders and TB’s scare off many average riders.

    • chorse

      By the way, some of the best horses in the world will be selling for $500.00 at the Hawthorne Race Track winter TB sale after Christmas here in Chicago. Bring your trailers if you can ride…

  34. Pingback: More TBs please! | jenmontfort.com

  35. Susan

    I agree with the sentiment but I get tired of the extremes being voiced. I own two horses right now- an OTTB and a Dutch WB, both born and bred in the US. I cannot pick between them for work ethic, kindness, intelligence, heart, athleticism, etc. My WB is only three, was broke just this summer, and is an absolute joy to ride- but so is my TB, who is a very green 10. My older boy tries extremely hard for me, but so does my baby. Stereotyping WBs as dumb and lazy is not only annoying to those of us who own them, but it also ignores the dominance of truly amazing WBs in show jumping and dressage. Sapphire? Baloubet de Rouet? Shutterfly? Etc etc etc. These are horses bred for the job they do and they do it well. This is not to say TBs cannot also do this job- and many of them compete at the top levels. My TB just learned how to jump this past year and lopes up to 4′ fences without blinking- based on what I feel under me I think he has the scope to go a lot higher. The point is that because WBs dominate the top performance categories doesn’t mean that TBs can’t, but it also doesn’t mean that one can dismiss them as somehow less valuable and amazing than TBs. There are brilliant animals in both sets of horses- the journey to bringing that out in an OTTB is often much longer and that is where the trouble is, as many people have noted. TBs that have never raced and have not been race-trained are just as easy to start as the average WB, or any other breed. OTTBs often take more time and a different set of training tools because of the job they have already had, and a lot of people aren’t interested or knowledgeable enough to do that. At the end of the day what I am interested in is a good brain and the ability to compete at the level I want in the jumper ring, regardless of breed. I am happy to spend the extra time bringing along an OTTB, but a lot of people are not. That is where people should be focused, not on which type of horse is better.

    • I think that goes back to our conversation a little higher up, about the waning abilities of American riders. Can you imagine ever thinking you were a “good enough” rider, and not want to continue in your skills and learn to ride challenging horses, or horses that need to be re-schooled? I can’t…

  36. Maria Mann

    I too have felt since the beginning that American Thoroughbreds outclass and outj-ump the majority of the European horses. However there is a very serious problem with today’s Thoroughbreds and that is they are no longer bred as they were in the days of Touch of Class, and Jet Run. Or don’t forget Balbuco who was an Argentine Thoroughbred. Us went by way of the warmblood because they thought they were hardier. Well that obviously did not prove to be true. “thicker” and more level headed, yes, but sounder no. If we were to return to our American Thoroughbred lines we would have to find a lineage that is sounder than what is normally being produced today for the track. Otherwise we are simply shooting ourselves back in the foot and doing the breeding industry a disservice. Soundness and good conformation is key. Adopt the same strict breeding principles as they do in Europe and re-introducing the American Thoroughbred could have terrific results.

    • I think this is a case where Bloodline Brag at the Retired Racehorse Project could really provide us with a view of what bloodlines we need to perpetuate to create a new, stronger sport Thoroughbred.

      It’s right here: http://www.retiredracehorsetraining.org/index.php?option=com_sobipro&sid=63&Itemid=163

      Put in as much info as you have about your horse… and be sure to enter his JOCKEY CLUB name!

      Erin Pittman is doing follow-up on every entry and confirming pedigrees with Equineline, but the Jockey Club name is key to confirming pedigrees. Pedigree research=stronger Thoroughbreds.

  37. Carmela B

    I happen to know, that when I was involved in breed shows (specifically Quarter Horse) my trainer & spouse were selling horses to the Japanese and to Europeans to take back with them. They were selling their “junk,” not the good quality horses with potential…just unloading the culls on them. So I have to heartily laugh at the comments that the Europeans are making about their dumbbloods, and what some American trainers were doing to them helping to make their “cowboy” dreams come true…

    We need to focus on our domestic breeding programs, and the Jockey Club is totally on board with promoting Thoroughbreds as the sporthorses they are & can be.

  38. JulieM

    Maria makes an excellent point. It seems that in the past 30 years, American TBs have been bred for speed and nothing else. Consequently their ability to last in a jumping career is seriously handicapped.

  39. Cathy

    I have to admit that I am one of those people that does not do well with the thoroughbred temperment. I do best with a cross of some type. That being said, the nature of the racing industry creates alot of neurotic horses that may or may not recover psychologically from the experience. No brain – no horse. Also the racing industry has gone too far with the light boned horses that are more likely to break down with stress. Anyway, horse and rider should mesh regardless of breed and this choice should not reflect the “fashion” trend.

    • Obviously temperament has to mesh, I agree with you.

      Question: sprint horses are physically akin to Quarter Horses… often they are heavier, they are smaller, they are more densely made. Generally, the tall, leggy horses are the ones that are bred for a mile and more. If the Thoroughbred industry is breeding too much for speed, AND is breeding too many light-boned horses, I’m seeing a contradiction.

      • Cathy

        My understanding is that even the sprint horses have a smaller cannon circumfrance than the quarter horse. Regardless, the hope is to promote the use of an American treasure (the thoroughbred) in the world of show jumping. Perhaps educating today’s trainers will start a new trend.

  40. Here is an American thoroughbred stallion who has been inspected and approved by the ATA (Trakehner)for breeding with Trakehner mares.

    Pedigree: http://www.pedigreequery.com/sea+accounts

  41. KAS

    Amazing article and comments! I love it!
    I grew up riding at a “sale” barn so I am not much into the stereotypes that some of the commenters are posting. I have ridden every type of horse that all had very individual talent levels that had nothing to do with their breeding, or lack thereof…. I love to hear of a movement to get back to bragging about our OTTBs… I have 3, the 20 year old is currently on lease to a kid as a confidence builder on trails and over fences, the 14 year old is a sensitive, brave, athletic jumper that only I ride, and the 7 year old will jump anything, trail rides like a war horse, and contentedly give pony rides… One has horrible feet, one has the best bare feet In the barn and one only needs front shoes…. They live on full turnout, get big wooly coats in the winter, live mainly on hay/ grass, rarely have digestive or soundness issues, hold weight just fine….. To be fair, I also have a QH and a paint that I could make similar comments on (the paint is a great little jumper) as well.
    I really hope more horsewomen and men will give OTTBs a chance, or at lease branch out from the “bigger is better, best is most expensive” mind set. I believe that riding the OTTBs has given me my seat and my hands, and teaching them to jump gave me guts! The homogenization of the show-ring has become quite boring!!! It’s time to mix it up:)

    • KAS, I love that your OTTBs are confidence builders for trail riding. In 2008 my all time favorite mount, Misty’s Hope, fractured his sesamoid winning a race. His first job after retiring was trail riding. . . no wait. . . his first job was to learn party tricks. While on stall rest he learned to fetch, smile, answer yes or no questions, etc. These tricks actually helped transition him to his next life. The once Dangerous Horse had a new focus and was quite fearless on trails. His first show was 1 month after his lay-up was over and he was amazingly relaxed. I’d love to say it is because I’m an amazing horsewoman, but it is really because he is an amazing, though once misunderstood, horse. He is the darling of the barn where he is boarded and he charms everyone who meets him. . . be ye human, cow, cat, or pig.
      I love all of your comments. And just want to say, “HEAR HEAR!!”
      And, once again, I love this article, too!

  42. Shannon

    I agree wholeheartedly, there is no finer athlete than the thoroughbred. I live in Lexington, KY and was actually surprised a few years ago to see how many eventers at Rolex are thoroughbreds, I figured they would ALL be warmbloods. Please check out my blog about what West Point Thoroughbreds does when we retire a racehorse. We need more owners/riders to give these horses a second career. http://www.westpointtb.com/news-and-blog/blog/2011/12/19/what-does-west-point-thoroughbreds-do-with-retired-racehorses

  43. Sterling Ferguson

    Excellent article. I have spent considerable time in both the show jumping ring and on a race horse. Both TB’s and warmbloods have they’re pro’s and cons. I used to take TB’s off the track and retrain and resell them, and I stopped because no one wanted them, I couldn’t get more than 5k for them, no matter how well they were jumping around. We have become very spoiled with the quiet (laziness) of the warmblood. The TB is best when getting exercise at least 5 days a week. They simply can’t go in the eurosizer 4 days a week and get ridden 3 (and be sane). Also our hunter judging is so warmblood bias, horses have to be dead quiet to compete and look like a WB. I love the TB mind, and ex race horse’s have an excellent work ethic. If we could get to a place were there was a demand for TB’s again, I think the racing industry will pull its weight and help with incentives. Racing wants to see their horses be happy and useful after racing, it would encourage them to retire horses before too broken, and possibly breed for multi purposes.

    • Well said. No horse has the heart of a TB! If you don’t pressure them beyond what they understand at the moment and introduce things in small bites, they just keep trying and trying. If you do blow their mind one day, they come out the next with a start over attitude – no grudge. I just had 2 TBs come into my barn for layup – one is that fine little thing, one could be a QH with his frame and the third is tall and lovely. With weight I bet I could say he was a WB. What I am trying to say is they aren’t breeding them for race any differently than they used to, just there aren’t the breeders breeding for the ring – we can’t afford to.

      Love the dialogue and Have a Merry Christmas!

      • Merry Christmas Susen!

        I have to say I am LOVING the dialogue myself. After Christmas I’ll do a post pulling some of these comments and see if we can analyze some of the common themes. If Thoroughbreds are truly the super-horse that many of us believe them to be, what do we need to do in order to convince others? What are the obstacles in our way, and how are we going to join together to overcome them?

  44. Julianne Ross

    Yes, some thoroughbreds have lousy feet…but I have had quarterhorses that were certainly no better. As a breeder, its important to breed mares with good feet, and pedigrees that show their produce can perform consistently. My best mare is coming 23 this year. I retired her last year after her 13th registered foal was born. She has produced 12 registered, 11 racing age, 10 to race, nine winners….including a stakes winner…her two year old won first time out this summer and her yearling is the bomb! This mares feet are the BEST and she passes on superior conformation and soundness. We need to breed more of these types of horses….sound and consistent and make that the new “fashionable”….

  45. One of the top two best horses I exercised would have been an amazing jumper. She was agile, athletic, and fast. She jumped puddles for fun. She was the Maryland Bred Filly of the Year in her day. She’s gone on to be a brood mare, which is great, but I sure wish that she’d been allowed to go on to another career first.
    I’m delighted to read this article because I’ve been wondering why all the TBs are being left out of competing. It seems like the equestrian community sees them as second (or third) class citizens.

  46. Maureen Keenan

    Very good, and true, article! I have an OTTB adopted from MAHR, and he is terrific. I was selective about the horse I wanted -about 15.3, good bone, good hooves, decent conformation, relatively easy keeper (for a TB) and good disposition. I have all that and more in my gelding, who raced for 3 years at lower-level tracks. One trainer had him the whole time, and clearly treated him well. He is quite forward to ride, but a “plug” if compared to my Arabian cross (who has in permanent “go” mode). I was shocked at the very soft mouth he has and how responsive he is, even after a full gallop. He has really impressed me and sold me on the value of a good TB. His sire is Deposit Ticket.

  47. Betsy Lamb

    I’m a Thoroughbred lover, owner, breeder, rider and racer. It doesn’t get any better than the TB’s. We have 30 on the farm at any given time and all of mine (including my 2 stallions) are sweet, kind, gentle, sound and have good feet. Some are better movers than others, some are fast and some couldn’t out run a fat man running uphill, but all are eager to please and learn. Wouldn’t trade any of them for any toe-pointing dumb blood.

  48. Holly Kruse

    And let’s not forget the wonderful quarter horse, Threes and Sevens, from the late 1980s-early 1990s, first with Peter Leone, then with (ick!) George Lindemann, Jr. He was an appendix, and more than half-thoroughbred, but plenty quarter horse too, and scrappy! http://www.allbreedpedigree.com/threes+and+sevens

    • I remember Threes and Sevens! I did NOT know he was an Appendix though!

      • Holly Kruse

        I don’t think Threes and Sevens was very tall either. A little over 15 hands, maybe? (I could be wrong about that though.) That really was a great era for American show jumping, with Gem Twist, For the Moment, Jet Run, Threes and Sevens, and the rest.

      • I was a teenage fangirl. I remember being at the American Invitational and running to the restroom before the event, only to find myself STANDING IN LINE NEXT TO MARGIE GOLDSTEIN. I nearly died.

  49. Sue

    This blog is great!! We live near a small NYS TB racetrack where racetrack culls are numerous and cheap/free so basically anyone can own a horse if they can find a way to get him home. I agree with the many posters that there is nothing wrong with the TB horse. My best and favorite horse of all time was an unraced TB gelding with a heart of gold. I will be forever looking for his reincarnated soul !! For all of you out there looking for a good OTTTB ,google Purple Haze Center where they rehab and resell TBs from Fingerlakes Racetrack.BUY AMERICAN…

  50. Here is a picture of a great TB stallion. He sired so many performers in sport horses that the Trakehner association gave him the title of “Elite”, a title never before given to a TB. He passed away last year.
    http://www.wbfsh.org/GB/News/2010/2010(x0x)10(x0x)10%20Thoroughbred%20sire%20Beg%20passed%20away.aspx

  51. Well, I didn’t have time to read all 90+ comments, but the first 10 were engaging! I’m guilty of not being sufficiently ‘Merican… my last two horses were a German Hanoverian dressage horse and a Canadian born Sporthorse (which I know has some kind of TB in it). The current filly I’m training was born in the soil of our American backyard, a TB dam with an Argentine Criollo Stallion (at stud in the U.S.).

    I’ll be opening up the difficult search for the *perfect* new horse in 2012- honestly, my best horses have fallen in my lap, I’ve never had to search for them, and I’m hoping the same this time. If its a TB that meets my hunter/jumper, sound-mind and body criteria, then awesome! But my history with TBs is a terribly propensity for Navicular- the numero uno fear in our California hard-packed footing. And coffin injuries. Caused by in-breeding for speed, as mentioned one of your comments to the blog. I have nothing against TBs per se, but I have really loved my experiences with foreign horses these past 10 years. At the very least, you’re doing a great job of putting the vote for TBs out into the marketplace! again, love the insight! Corinna

    • How unAmerican are you?! My goodness woman!

      I’m just kidding (or am I??) but I do think the BUY AMERICAN-BUY A THOROUGHBRED marketing slogan is fun. It might not matter much, since I often find that friends with German horses have a house stocked with British vacuum cleaners and French wines and get there in a suitably European automobile. I like these friends. But when luxury goods and patriotism meet, patriotism usually has to duck its head and slip out the back door. It is what it is.

      The navicular history is a sad thing, and I’m sorry to hear it. In Florida we have the opposite problem: the soft, sandy soil combined with the archaic shoeing methods at the track (THEY DON’T NEED SUCH LONG TOES, RACING FARRIERS, PLEASE STOP KILLING THEIR HEELS) creates pancake feet with dropped soles that get ouchy, abscess, and generally make you miserable. Geographically, I suppose, both places are absolutely awful for horses. It’s only the limestone that made Ocala good for horses, and that’s gradually being covered over with malls and retirement communities.

      How are Kentucky feet, I wonder, or Virginia? All that slick clay ought to be good, right?

      It is interesting to note that where a horse grows up or trains can have a huge impact on how his hooves will develop, even if they pretty much train on similar tracks.

      I wish you luck! I’m sure we can all gang up together and find you the perfect Thoroughbred!

      • haha, thanks for the response, sad that the breeding is causing foot problems throughout the country… a big body on toothpick legs may or may not lead to problems for different riders, and maybe if I don’t event and only jump in the arena then I’ll be better off.

        – a love connection indeed! I like ’em big, upwards of 16.3, big round stride, rational brain, and for vanity’s sake, a little bit of color on them! 🙂

      • Oh you like the big ones! No wonder you’re having problems! 😉

        I like them about a hand shorter, myself. I am quite interested in seeing more pictures of Thoroughbreds who have been approved as warmblood breeding stock, like the stallion mentioned earlier in the comments. If you go to “OTTB Diaries” or whatever I called that page and find a picture of Bon Appeal, she was a 15.3 hand mare that both myself and her current owner had considered trying to get a Hanoverian approval for.

        I think that’s a relevant line of argument: if we can determine the body type that once made American Thoroughbreds the most sought-after athletes in English riding, then we can determine which lines (or breeders) are producing that body type and not only push on them to continue their good work, but also push for more of their breeding stock to be approved for warmblood stud books, thus giving bloodstock an alternative if they are not successful at producing racehorses.

        Thoughts?

      • I thought I would be put to the stake if I mentioned in this thread that essentially, ‘I want a TB that looks and moves like a Warmblood;’ it seems the entire running idea from this post is the need to re-train the American mind to appreciate TBs for being TBs, and to not be so obsessed with finding the right heavy-bodied Euro Import. I’ll go check out Bon Appeal… I think your idea: “if we can determine the body type that once made American Thoroughbreds the most sought-after athletes in English riding, then we can determine which lines (or breeders) are producing that body type” is brilliant. But again, I haven’t been involved in the racing world so it is hard for me to imagine the feasibility of that option. Sorry for taking over your comments section 🙂

      • The more the merrier!

        I mean, I agree, and someone stated it much further up in the comments: I don’t WANT a carthorse, I want a THOROUGHBRED, that is the point.

        Thoroughbreds DO come in all sizes and shapes, and whenever I see the line about “Thoroughbreds are too spindly-legged,” I am confused, because I have had several that were built like Panzer tanks, and then I see the line about “Thoroughbreds are being built too heavy,” I am confused, because didn’t we just establish that you didn’t like their supposed spindly-legs? You can come up with EVERY SINGLE BODY TYPE when dealing with Thoroughbreds.

        The question is, which body types WORK as sporthorses?

        I think the sixteen hand, strong-legged, wide-chested variety work quite well as an eventer, myself, and possibly the slightly-longer legged, more racy leopard-type might work better as a show jumper (although I can think of several heavy, round show jumpers in the past).

        I think Bon Appeal was utterly perfect, the most beautiful horse in the WORLD, and then again Final Call, who was built rather taller and had much more bone, was desperately gorgeous too. You could see the two of them in the field together and know they were both Thoroughbreds, but that they had different body types.

        Come to think of it my two 2009 foals were the same.. my Gallapiatsprincess colt was built like a boulder, and my Ontherightwicket filly was built like a ballet dancer. They were bred for different things, of course. The colt was bred to be a sprinter and the filly was bred to be a miler.

        At any rate I think misconceptions and stereotypes are so rampant in the horse world that “acts like a warmblood!” and “looks like a warmblood!” work as sales slogans because everyone knows that all Thoroughbreds are sixteen three, with huge chests and tiny legs and a brain like a Meth addict. I mean, OBVIOUSLY.

    • Not thinking I have had that much of an issue with Navicular in TB. The Trakehner mare in my barn was just nerved yesterday for it though and then there are the QH’a. Usually those straighter pasturned horses get it has been my experience. I have very little soundness issues with TBs that both that I have raised and gotten off the track. Seems the OCD’s in the WBs I have raised or purchased have been a greater expense to me. Good luck in finding your next great horse though. I have a bunch in my pastures if you might want to see!

      • Heheheh it’s the Retired Racehorse Blog Love Connection! Find your dream horse here!

        I can’t think of Navicular in any TBs I have known either, but I guess any breed of horse can throw those straight pasterns if the breeding is sloppy enough. Luckily that tends to be a disease that you can weed out of your selections when you’re assessing the conformation of a potential purchase.

  52. I’m an Australian breeder of what I like to call Thoroughbred Sport Horses. My family have been breeding thoroughbred horses for the sports scene for over 100 years, with horses competing at the last 10 Olympics.  So, I like to think I know a little about what I am talking about.
    I really feel sorry for the  off the track tb, he gets all the blame for poor horseman ship by the owners trainers. They are over fed over trained and near burnt out by the time they are 4, which is about the time when a young tb should be started into his second level of education and people wonder why they are hot and tend to have tendon etc problems. Let’s see a WB try to stand up to that level of early training and survive. Then the poor tb  gets blamed for being hot….
    There are two types of Thoroughbred horse. The stayer with a long sloping shoulder ( the old breed of tb ) and the more modern type. The sprinter, shorter, straighter in the shoulder fast over short distances. We are seeing more of the sprinter type in Aus, more now than ever before. Young horses quick turnover more money……. Bad for the poor horse in my eyes and really bad for trying to find that special competition horse that will compete at the highest level.
    The European WB isn’t a superior type of horse at all, they have just marketed better than anyone else. They have been breeding for a specific type of horse for over 100 years and for the most part they couldn’t have done it without the TB. From what I read, if you are serious about fixing your problem then you need to go back to basics and look for that old style of TB like Gem Twist and start breeding Thoroughbreds for show jumping instead of racing and then bring them along slowly and train them for show jumping. You may just get a pleasant surprise at just how intelligent responsive and trainable a well bred, and well brought up tb can be
    Like I said at the beginning I am an Australian so you may just tell me to go mind my own business. But, the Europeans have done exactly to us as they have done to you, the American people, and it pains me to see that probably one of the most exciting horses in the world the Thoroughbred being overlooked because of slick marketing.

  53. BorderSmith

    I grew up riding, showing and training thoroughbred horses. We bought them all “off the track.” After a few years away from the business, I went to a horse show with nary a thoroughbred in sight, and I wondered why? I watched the WBs saunter around stepping over big jumps, and thought; “hmmm.” Then I rode one, and immediately longed for a smart horse, quick on its feet.

  54. Erin

    Wow! Don’t know how I am only coming across this fantastic piece now. The “demise” of the American Thoroughbred is a subject that is on my mind almost constantly! I have owned three horses, all three TB’s. The sweetest. Most athletic. Most willing. Most adaptable horses ever! I could go on and on about this amazing breed. And I also have Gem Twist in Breyer form, trotting around my house.