Thoroughbred Thursday

While it’s been no secret that I’m a warmblood enthusiast, my first and main love has always been the thoroughbred.

my first horse Charlie, a TB

I grew up at a h/j barn, which meant that it was occupied by mostly thoroughbreds and warmbloods. I was horseless for most of my time there, which meant that I rode… well… anything my trainer let me ride, which was usually the more sensitive or hotter ones that other people weren’t clamoring over. That meant I rode a lot of thoroughbreds. That meant I got a lot of practice at riding a forward, sensitive, and sometimes quirky horse.

Quirky, who’s quirky?

Of course, to this day I am really freaking terrible at riding a horse that doesn’t have it’s own motor. I really cannot. It’s sad. Give me some fire or I don’t want it.

And that’s not to say that there aren’t thoroughbreds out there that are dead quiet, bombproof kick-rides. I’ve ridden PLENTY like that. There is definitely a lot of diversity in the breed, from temperament to phenotype and everything in between. But what I really love about the thoroughbred in general is their innate desire to please, their drive to find the right answer, and their willingness to work. Those are qualities that I have come across in almost all of them, without fail. Unless they had a physical reason to behave otherwise, or if they have been treated – in their opinion – unfairly… those two things are game changers for horses like this. But I truly believe that if you do right by them, make them happy, and find what they’re good at, they will turn themselves inside out for you.

He lives for this job

Throughout my life, thoroughbreds have always been the way for me to have a quality sporthorse at a reasonable price, with just a little time, patience, and elbow grease. Since I was lucky enough to grow up riding them, I understand them pretty well. I didn’t appreciate them enough then, and remember longing for the days when I could afford a big fancy warmblood. That was a silly mistake on my part.

It’s no secret that without the thoroughbred, warmbloods would still be nothing more than fancy cart horses. They have been absolutely instrumental in building the modern warmblood as we know it – which is why I always get so amused to see people arguing over which “breed” is better, or when someone sitting on a warmblood says that they hate thoroughbreds. Girl… your ignorance is showing, just like mine used to.

best seat in the house

Good luck finding a showjumper these days that doesn’t have Ladykiller, Uppercut, Rantzau, Cottage Son, or Furioso in it’s pedigree. Or a dressage horse without Sacramento Song, Angelo, Donnerkeil, Laurie’s Crusador, or Lemon.  You can’t throw a rock at a 4* event anywhere in the world without hitting a horse carrying the blood of Heraldik or Master Imp or Hand in Glove.

I appreciate the thoroughbred a lot more these days, as I’ve become more educated and as I’ve learned more about myself as a rider. This is exactly why I chose a stallion with such a high % thoroughbred to be Presto’s sire. Most of the best event horses in the world are at least 70% thoroughbred, and while a lot of that has to do with gallop and speed and efficiency, I also think that when it comes to cross country, you really need a horse with a lot of heart and a lot of try. Something that can dig down deep, even when it’s bone tired, or even when conditions are terrible, and get the job done. And that’s not to say that warmbloods with low percentage of TB blood don’t have this quality… some certainly do. But it’s something that has been bred into the best thoroughbreds for centuries. I wanted a horse that had plenty of that.

he’s not the fastest, or the fanciest, or the most talented, but there’s plenty of try in this one

So while I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about warmblood breeding and looking at warmblood stallions and mares, I wanted to take the time to appreciate the breed that has been, and always will be, my true love. They are not for everyone, and they have their own strengths and weaknesses, but they are the horses that have molded me as a rider and a horseman. They are the horses that have served to improve other breeds to make them into the successful world class sporthorses that they are today. I’ve been lucky to own a lot of good ones, the current one of which is by far the most golden horse I’ve ever sat on. I’m even luckier that my next prospect carries the names of so many of the world’s best examples of the breed.

Whether you love them or you hate them, I hope we can all at least appreciate them. And I hope that, at least once in your life, you also have the honor and privilege of owning a really good thoroughbred.

24 thoughts on “Thoroughbred Thursday

  1. Love my TBs! I am like you – I cannot – and will not – ride something without a motor because I grew up on TBs and pushing every. single. stride. is not cool.


  2. I find it entertaining that every horse in my barn is at least 25% TB, and that is absolutely not on purpose. My 25yo QH (who went to the AQHYA World Championships in reining then concluding his riding career as a fox hunter, with a few years toting my Mom around in open shows in between) is an Appendix. His Mom was 1/2 TB. My “fancy” warmblood is by Coconut Grove so she’s half TB. The other 2 are Jockey Club registered. I giggled a bit at your comment about the more forwardness that *most* TBs have bc my 4yo by Ghostzapper is so NOT forward! Nevermind that last year and it appears this year he has siblings running in the Kentucky Derby. He missed the “forward” gene and that is part of what I love about him. I’ve only had TBs for 10 years (Sterling was my first), but am loving getting to know the breed and intend to have many more in the future!


    1. I think it’s pretty difficult to find a mid to high level sporthorse (for the olympic disciplines at least) these days who isn’t minimum 30%, by blood. Most are more like 40-60%. I bet your Coco is a lot more than just half. 😉 The TB has been so important… I think a lot of people are always quick to give credit to the warmblood lines a horse has, but much slower to recognize the importance of the thoroughbred parts. Even all the way up to the highest level riders and breeders (like a recent comment made by KOC that was disappointing to say the least). But the best, most successful ones tend to be the ones that really understand it. Michael Jung, for example.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re probably right about Coco. I’d have to look more closely at her damlines to be certain. As a hunter/jumper it is common for people to act like the TBs are the peasant horses. Most people at shows are surprised to learn that Sterling is a TB and not a warmblood. He’s, to me, the perfect mix of what makes a great hunter. He’s ALWAYS in front of my leg, he’s seldom if ever “hot” and he’s extremely sensible and honest to fences. Plus he’s cute over jumps. I don’t know that he has the scope to go much higher than 3′, but by golly he’s toted my I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing self for the past 5 years like a champ! I would LOVE if Simon (or some other TB) were fancy enough to be competitive in the AO hunters. I don’t begrudge the warmblood, but I find people’s uppityness about them to be especially grating. And don’t even get me started on my disdain for people who import warmbloods mostly just so they can say they imported their horse.


  3. I grew up on TB’s too. My junior hunter was actually an appendix, but his heart was all TB. (His somewhat laziness definitely came from the qh side though!)
    I’ve never been a warmblood snob. I mean, I do own three of them currently… but I’ve never turned my nose at a TB, and never will. (I mean, certain ones sure, but there’s a lot of wb’s I’d turn my nose at also, to be fair.) Despite common opinions, I think the TB brain is a lot more focused. My warmbloods are always checking out in the middle of whatever we’re working on. Rio wasn’t so much that way, but he has a lot of TB in him too.
    I’m really bummed things didn’t work out with Romey, as I was pretty excited to be back riding what I grew up with. Hopefully the next one will have all working parts!

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  4. Our barn is chock full of TBs and my trainers are always looking at new prospects from nearby tracks- one of our OTTBs is now about 2 years off the track and is doing the 1.20m classes with scope for way more. Homeboy has springs in his feet and is going to make one hell of an AO/Jr Jumper for someone. He has try like you wouldn’t believe, it’s amazing to watch. And of course Frankie’s mama was a TB and I think that’s gotta be where he got his heart from. Maybe not his motor, but definitely that desire to go and do a good job no matter what.


  5. I have always been fascinated by TBs. Racehorses mostly..and I grew up with the myth that they are all hot, hot, hot and hard to handle as riding horses.
    And then I changed to a different barn where a lot of the horses had high TB content (one of the boarders bred Sport horses) and I eventually free-leased a TB stallion. THE most bomb-proof horse I have come across to this day. Even when other horses shied, bucked, reared and did god knows what around him, he didn´t even flick an ear. I could even ride him with Mares in heat around.
    He was forward, easy to handle and could jump, too.
    I think people who sniff at TBs or think they are “lesser than” WBs are pretty ignorant. I am not a bloodline aficionado like you but I learned early on about the importance of TB horses , mostly stallions to lighten WBs to what we know today.
    Just look at them 70, 60 years ago…they certainly looked a lot heavier and less athletic than they are now. Do people think this happened by sheer luck?


  6. I just rode my first TB this week and really loved her. She was a complete push ride too, so not the stereotypical TB I was so hesitant to dabble in. My biggest concern with TBs is the (generalizing here!!!) higher level of care they seem to typically need. I’m coming from the Arab world where my mare has rock hard perfect feet, loads of hair and could eat air and get fat. TBs seem to require more groceries and attention to detail to keep the same level of hardiness although I am sure there are plenty who don’t fall into that category. Their heart more than makes up for it though and I’m interested in sitting on more of them in the future.


  7. TBs were instrumental in starting the QH breed! Three Bars anyone? lol And as I’ve come to understand just horses in general better, it’s helped that while Amber and Whisper are the same breed, they are both so different. Whisper is more TB than Amber, but you are totally right in that Whisper will turn herself inside out for us. She desperately wants to please and wants to do what we ask, and reading about people’s OTTBs have helped me understand her better. But I think even Amber, who’s pretty removed from immediate TB influence (I think 4-5 generations back while Whisper’s granddad is TB), that fire and heart and desire to please is one of the things I adore about Amber. She never looks “hot”, but she can very easily get riled and I personally think that’s the cow horse influence. So many really good cow horses (Peptoboonsmal and Cat Ichi to name 2) come directly from (among a few others I think but these 2 are the most notable) Doc Bar or Grey Badger III – both were half TB! They were also 2 huge influences in the foundation of quarter horses. From people around me ensconced in the western world, they pushed the “I hate TBs” thought on me, but the more I’ve looked at bloodlines, the more I’ve realized how many qualities in my QHs that I love are directly influenced by TBs, and that makes me appreciate and really like them. And quarter horses with more cowy blood have been some of my favorite to ride ❤


  8. The most saintly lesson horse I’ve ever ridding was a thoroughbred. Such a huge heart in his chest, I didn’t know it was possible for a horse to have as much love and forgiveness as he did. Such a good boy! Bless the TBs.
    Also these pictures of Henny are amazing!


  9. Similar to you, I was the one who got stuck on the crazy things and was willing to ride the greenies (aka came off the track yesterday). I’m at the point where I’m at a barn full of warmblood lesson horses and I really don’t know how to ride them. Flatting them is making me feel like a little pony kid all over again! As much as I’d love to buy a fancy baby warmblood I have deep concerns as I have zero experience in ‘installing’ forward.


  10. i’m always amazed at the shade thrown on TBs. people love to tell me that i got “lucky” or that my quiet, kind and reliable OTTB is the exception rather than the rule. which like… flies in the face of reality where almost every lesson barn i know of is packed full of sweet bombproof OTTBs, and just about every schooling show with riders of all experience levels is likewise populated in large part by this breed. there’s a reason they’re so popular and it ain’t just bc they’re cheap and readily available.


  11. The only horses I have ever owned have been Thoroughbreds. I’ve loved & ridden many other breeds. But Thoroughbreds are where my heart lies. Sensitive and quirky are definitely two of the best words to describe my boys, but intelligent and incredible are up there too. A Thoroughbred’s heart and drive seem unparalleled to me.
    I have a couple of trainers, and love them both, but I was incredibly disheartened to hear one of them once say “I don’t like thoroughbreds” and she “doesn’t understand why so many people buy them”. She is an upper level eventer, and it saddened me to hear her think so little of the TB breed.


  12. I honestly don’t care that much about breed — for me, it’s all about the individual. You can definitely make some generalizations about various breeds that can be pretty accurate, but for myself, I like certain qualities. What package those qualities comes in is of much less concern to me.

    I will say though that I love how you point out how much Thoroughbred is in a lot of modern warmbloods. Niko is at least 25% TB, if not more!


  13. My appendix mare was always called a TB. But her QH side was out of Artful Investment/ Artful Move who had TB dam. They are a really refined, pretty line of QH. All the offspring are a little quirky like my mare, but SO much personality and love. I grew up with blocky QH and little arabs, took me a long time to not judge TB on the few, probably utterly mishandled TB I had ridden or been around.


  14. I love thoroughbreds, and always have. Pig is an excellent example of the will and try bred and fostered in these horses (especially track horses, but not exclusively!). Bast will get there, too. I think a lot of people don’t realize how often the breed can be “one person” horses (something I love about them). Meaning they take time to build trust with their person. Before that trust is built this type can seem imperious, skittish, wild, or stand-offish. Once you get that trust tho? Magic. 💖


  15. Nothing has resonated with me quite so much as the line ‘But what I really love about the thoroughbred in general is their innate desire to please, their drive to find the right answer, and their willingness to work. Those are qualities that I have come across in almost all of them, without fail. Unless they had a physical reason to behave otherwise, or if they have been treated – in their opinion – unfairly… those two things are game changers for horses like this’ I currently own my first TB, after having had WB mares so far. I always thought my old retired WB mare had a strong opinion on how she ought to be treated, little did I know my TB would have that attitude x1000. She thrives on being told she’s a good girl, and so that desire please really does shine through, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a more genuine person in a horse. She’s really converted me into a TB lover!


  16. I love this! Im a thoroughbred person from way back. They get a bad wrap but they are agile, intelligent and willing. You are so right!!! They respond to kindness, a kind hand, a leader and a person who is responsive and consistant. They get overlooked all the time! I’m not saying they are for everyone because they aren’t. Some ppl aren’t built for the thoroughbred, but those of us that are love them amd see their awesomeness!!! I always say to ppl, Australia has never won a medal at the olympics on anything that didn’t have a thoroughbred background and breeding. I love this post. I love following u guys and this post shows why u are kicking butt out there! Enjoy mate

    Mel x


  17. Though he is technically registered and papered as an Oldenburg, Ax’s damn is pure Thoroughbred and I think that has a good deal of why he looks like a warmblood but doesn’t act like one. I wouldn’t want it any other (aka non-quirky) way.


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