TB Takeover (and let’s discuss live feed commentating)

Thoroughbreds are seriously having a moment this fall. First we had Unmarked Bills running clear around a tough Burghley on his first ever attempt, on a course where many other very experienced horses came to grief (Indy 500, another american OTTB, also ran clear across that controversial and influential course). Then we had Paddy the Caddy, a fan favorite, winning the Fair Hill 4*L in October. Plus Mucho Me Gusto‘s win the West Coast 5yo YEH Championships, and Not Ours going from kill pen to second place at the 5yo East Coast YEH (a mere 0.04 points behind the imported warmblood winner). It’s been a fun time to be a TB fan.

This past weekend provided ample opportunity to keep waving that Thoroughbred flag with enthusiasm. Willingapark Clifford, a full TB, won the Adelaide 5* again – the first horse to ever win Adelaide 3 times. Third place at Adelaide also went to a full TB, Sky’s Da Limit.

Image result for willingapark clifford
Willingapark Clifford

As if that weren’t enough, Ocala Jockey Club also had thoroughbreds making headlines, with full TB’s taking the win in both the 3*L and the 4*L. They offer great prize money for thoroughbreds at this event, and boy did the horses deliver. Campground won the 4*L, Il Vici won the 3*L, and Bogue Sound was 2nd in the 4*S. Phillip Dutton’s mount Sea of Clouds had one of only two double clear XC rounds in the 4*L on Saturday despite being new to the level and was my personal favorite in the division on that phase. Steady Eddie also carried Mike Pendleton to his second 4*L completion in a month, making them qualified for Kentucky.

There were so many great moments with thoroughbreds this past weekend, I can’t name them all or we’d be here all day, but those were some of the highlights for me. It was a great weekend of sport, especially if you are a thoroughbred fan, and I greatly enjoyed having live streams available. I can’t thank events enough for doing that, it’s really great to be able to watch from home when you can’t make it to the event in person.

Just spending my weekend stalking Mighty Magic offspring on live feeds like it’s my job

I did want to talk a little bit about the commentating though. It’s often painful to hear the commentators, who tend to be upper level riders, try to talk about breeding. I don’t know if they just need to be provided with more/better information or what, but boy was I cringing. First they didn’t have the sheets with the horse’s information on them, then when they got the sheets a lot of it was incomplete. This isn’t their fault or the fault of the person who printed the data, which usually comes from the FEI or USEA listings – best case scenario all you get is the sire and dam name, plus so many horses are listed without any registry or pedigree information by their owners or riders. Even though it’s actually quite easy to find with a tiny bit of digging… I was successful in tracking down most of the “unknown” horses within 30 seconds. SIGH. Come on people. Please put in accurate data for your horses.

A lack of info led to a lot of missed opportunities to point out cool things, like “this horse is by the same sire as Deniro Z” or “this horse is out of the same dam as Tim Price’s 5* winner Ascona M” (yes, both of those scenarios were true). You know… things that, at least to me, are really fun tidbits to know and say out loud on a commentary, and can lead to good discussions or comparisons of horses. But they have no way of knowing most of that from the limited info on those sheets, and most people don’t carry those facts around in their head (ok I do but that’s because I have no actual life, those people are busy riding like 10 horses a day and showing every weekend). There was also no breeder information discussed, not even once, which made me sad. So many of those horses were American-bred, many produced by actual event horse breeders specifically for this sport, and none of them got acknowledged on the live feed. Some breeders even had several horses present. Missed opportunity for some conversation (and great self promotion) there.

Image result for bred in the usa

I also don’t think that top level riders tend to be great at commentating on the breeding aspect in general anyway. At one point both of them discussed that they had never heard of a “German Sport Horse” and the conclusion was that it must be something that people made up because they didn’t know what the horse really was. Yeah no. It’s an actual thing. One commentator also said that Oldenburgs can be a combination of many different things, which… is actually true of any of the warmblood registries except Trakehner. Trak is the only one with a closed book (they don’t accept anything but trakehner, arabian, and thoroughbred).

Which kind of tied into another comment about how a particular stallion was originally an Selle Francais but was sold to Germany so now it’s a Holsteiner. Much laughing ensued, because they thought this was hilarious. Sigh. No. That’s not how that works. See, a horse can only have one actual REGISTRATION, and that happens when it’s a baby. That registration will never change. That SF stallion will always be a SF. Stallions and mares can be APPROVED for breeding with multiple registries though, and that’s where it gets confusing. They can produce offspring for a different registry than their own. Registration and approval are different.

For example, Presto’s sire Mighty Magic is registered Holsteiner. This will never change, he will always be a Holsteiner. However, he has also been approved for breeding with Selle Francais, Anglo-Arab, Hanoverian, Oldenburg, Mecklenburg, Rheinland, Westfalen, and Swedish WB. That means he can produce offspring eligible for registration with ANY of those registries. To make it even more complicated, there are some registries that will accept foals for registration if they are by a stallion that is approved with certain other registries. For example, sBs (Belgian Sporthorse) is Presto’s registry. While Mighty Magic was not expressly presented for breeding approval with sBs, they accept foals by him for registration based on his other approvals and his sport results. Presto’s dam Sadie was not born sBs either, but she was presented for inspection to sBs and they approved her for breeding in their mare book (she is also approved Westfalen – just like stallions, mares can have multiple approvals).

a pony at his sBs stallion inspection in Gesves (he was adorbs)

Presto’s sire and dam were both approved for breeding with sBs, and that’s the registry we went with for him, therefore Presto is Belgian Sporthorse (even though yes, he was born and bred in the US, he actually has a Belgian passport and papers). Presto will always be a Belgian Sporthorse, even though his sire is registered Holsteiner and his dam is registered German Sport Horse (to make it more fun, HER sire was registered Hanoverian and her dam was registered thoroughbred).

This is very convoluted and confusing to an non-breeder, I get it. It’s why these are registries, not breeds. It’s also why the registry ultimately matters so very little, and tells us almost nothing about the horse. To know anything about what you’re really looking at, you must look at the actual pedigree. Most people have no idea how any of that works (as evidenced by a podcast I listened to last week when a big name rider said “well she’s Dutch, so we knew she would jump”. God, cue a massive amount of twitching.). It’s really not THAT hard to learn though, especially if it’s something you comment on to the public. Or if you buy young horses.

Another pet peeve, since I’m on a roll – one commentator kept saying that Zangersheide was German. It’s not. It’s a Belgian registry (there are 3 in Belgium – BWP based in the northern Flemish part, sBs based in the southern French part, and Zangersheide which started off as a private studfarm and turned into it’s own registry later).

that time we went to Zangersheide and saw so many stallions and it was awesome

I don’t know how to help with any of this though. Part of me wishes they’d throw a breeder in the commentator booth, with the express job of saying who bred the horse, where it was bred, and maybe a quick tidbit about the bloodlines. That would be my absolute dream come true. Let the riders commentate on the horses and the riding, and let the breeding person talk about that part. At the very least it would be nice to provide the commentators with some kind of pre-prepared fact sheet, with more detailed and accurate information about the horses. Show/live feed organizers, I personally volunteer to provide that. Dead freaking serious.

I love having the live feeds so I’m not complaining at all, don’t get me wrong. The quality was super and it was really really really well done. I’d rather listen to wrong information all day long than not have a live feed, that is 100% for sure. But I also feel like if we’re gonna do something, it’s worth doing the best we can. The live feeds especially are such a great opportunity to get more information out there, to recognize our breeders, and to really talk about the horses. It would have also been cool to discuss the thoroughbreds in more detail and what lines they shared – valuable information for people picking up horses off the track, and fitting with the ties to the Ocala Jockey Club. It’s how we learn, and we’re missing a good opportunity for some “free” public education.

Am I being crazy? Does the public not really care about any of this? Am I the only one getting twitchy about these things? Maybe so…

29 thoughts on “TB Takeover (and let’s discuss live feed commentating)

    1. I don’t think it’s quite as dire as that. People care, but typically only about their own horses…and only if they can understand what it all means. They know their horse is registered Holsteiner, they know they are known for jumping ability, but that’s about as far as they get. Understanding that all but one WB ‘breeds’ are just registries and how one can be approved by another gets too complicated too quickly. Add in the different levels of mare books, European vs. North America, breed standards, etc and eyes glaze over VERY quickly.

      Amanda: Why’d you choose German Sport Horse for Sadie?


      1. It was the closest and most easily available option for me at the time. If I have any future foals I would really like to register them North American Studbook but so often it comes down to which registry is easiest to get the mare and foal to, or which will accept the stallion you’ve used. No one wants to be hauling babies all over the place.


  1. When I first got Cinder and was the barn with the Arab trainer, I’m pretty sure I fried her brain trying to explain warmblood breeding/registry. She couldn’t comprehend how Cinder would be registered American Warmblood when her mom was registered Hanoverian and her dad was Swedish. And then I started talking about stallion testing and approvals and smoke started coming out of her ears.


  2. I 100% agree with you on all the breed stuff. I’ve heard many a hunter/jumper who knows NOTHING about registries vs breeds brag about their Holsteiner and how they would never own a Belgian Warmblood (or some other stupid statement) which just tells me that they have no idea that Holsteiner isn’t a breed. Unless maybe it’s a cow…..


  3. …I guess tgeyneverheard of DSP Alice? I mean, she is only the current WC in show jumping. She even won in the US.
    That said: I feel the same about wrong information re. a horse’s breeding and registries as you do. When it comes to anything shown on television, most people don’t care about that info. When we’re talking clipmyhorse.tv or something similar, more peopleare interested in this information.
    I do think that commentary here in Germany focuses more on the horse’s prior achievement than it’s breeding.


    1. One thing about germany though, they tend to show the horse’s sire, dam (and sometimes damsire), and breeder on the big screen, when there is one available. That’s REALLY nice. For shows here I always have my phone open to the database and a few pedigree sites, to try to look up any horses that catch my eye.


  4. Thank you for that explanation about breed vs registry. That information has never really clicked for me until this post (even though I do read all your breed recaps and um, well, everything lol). To be fair, I’m pretty new to being interested in breeding and bloodlines so I have a lot to learn – so YES I would love it if that kind of information was coming through on live feeds!


    1. And see, I feel like most people I talk to are more like you – they’re interested (at least in basic information) but they don’t have the background to understand it and wade through it all themselves. I so rarely find an eventer that says they genuinely do not care one bit about breeding. I feel like, especially in this sport where we’re always trying to source affordable horses, having any and all information possible to help us find a good one is useful (I mean, a lot of those big OTTB resellers buy mostly on pedigree…). Breeding definitely isn’t everything, but it can help tell a part of the story, especially when you’re talking about a young or green one.


  5. I’m really interested in bloodlines and breeding as well, and I loathe misinformation. I agree that the live feeds would benefit from commentary on breeding, and it’s a slippery slope wading into the subject of warmblood registries. I don’t think many riders truly understand that the registries aren’t actual breeds but they should. I’d also be willing to compile information for the live feeds if it meant that breeding/bloodlines made it into the conversation!

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  6. Think I’m in a similar boat as centered in the saddle… I’ve been really interested in tb bloodines since I was a kid, but don’t know where to start (and don’t have that much drive/time…) re warmbloods. This was super interesting though – as is all the breeding stuff I’ve seen from you, and I would love to read more whenever I’m able (and hear something on any livefeeds I watch in the future!) so thank you!


  7. How do we get your hired for this job??? For someone who doesn’t have the brain space for this I need someone like you to point it out to me.


  8. They don’t care. They pretend to care but they are really uneducated in breeding for the most part. They care more about the name out front it seems.

    Also, Canadian Holly Jacks finishes 12th at Pau on her OTTB More Inspiration 🙂


  9. I’m glad you brought up the German Sport Horse… since that’s what Jack is. I hadn’t heard of them before either, but now I’m seeing more and more pop up (probably because now it catches my attention). Jennie Brannigan has one that is nice nice nice. But still probably the best comment when told Jack is a GSH is Boyd’s- he said, ah, that’s how my kids are bred too. XD


    1. Several smaller south german registries voted a while back to come together under the one name. Before they were DSP (Deutches Sportpferd/German Sporthorse) they were Zweibrucker aka RPSI, Bavarian, Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, or Saxon. Now RPSI has merged with Westfalen. So convoluted! lol


  10. I distinctly remember one Rolex (or maybe it was called Kentucky by then, I don’t remember. It might’ve been 2016 or 2018) where Karen O’Connor was commentating the live feed of the dressage. Lauren Kieffer and Vermiculus were up, and Karen spent then whole test pointing out that everything they did wrong was clearly because he was half-Arab. Ok, I get it, Arabs aren’t usually high-level eventers. But no need to dis them on the life feed (especially when most of the little mistakes weren’t related to breed at all, except the “high tail carriage”…..which isn’t technically a mistake as he wasn’t swishing it or anything).

    I pointed this out to a friend of mine who knows way more about eventing than I do, and she said, “Really? Karen O’Connor? But, she and Teddy O’Connor did so well, and he had a lot of Arab in him!”

    Maybe they should just leave off talking about breeding altogether, and just mention the horse’s registered-with-USEF/FEI breed.


  11. When you ride something that gets as much attention as mine, you get asked a lot! How is he bred? I have considered answering. You don’t really care what do you really want to know? When I answer truthfully, their eyes glaze over.


  12. I think you have infected me because when I’m also starting to get interested in pedigreeds. I have no interest in breeding a foal myself, but I’m thinking about my next horse who I want to be performance bred (for jumping and/or eventing). It will have to be a youngster so I can afford it, and I’m a bit overwhelmed by the choice out there. I’ve got a few years until I’ll be in the market so I’m starting by watching the horse in my local scene and trying to figure out who’s related to who. Then hopefully I can find some lines that produce mounts that an amateur can comfortably ride around a 1 meter course…
    During the stream for the Adelaide XC the former course designer for that event came on board for a bit of a chat, and it was really interesting and informative. I’d LOVE to hear a breeder do some commentating as well!


  13. I would also love to know more about the breeding side of things, purely because I find it interesting and a nice change of pace from the usual prattle you get when a rider comes on screen.

    Quickly though (and sorry to be THAT person), Willinga Park Clifford and Hazel Shannon won Adelaide for the third time, but it wasn’t in a row. They won ’16, ’18 and ’19. Clarke Johnstone won ’17. They are now the first horse, first rider and first combination to win the event three times. Shane Rose and Wendy Shaeffer have both won it twice but not on the same horse.

    They’re also the fifth combination to win a single 5* event three times in history which is just incredible. She is a super humble and incredibly hard working person and I desperately hope they make the Australian team for Tokyo 2020!


  14. I’m not sure how much people who aren’t breeding care about breeding, honestly. However, I think it’s worth a mention for sure, and I VERY MUCH agree that the breeders should be mentioned. And maybe if all that info was provided regularly, people might start caring more.


    1. I do think that (aside from breeders) it would be more relevant to people buying young horses, especially 3yo’s and younger, or people trying to pick out good TB’s off the track. People like that are more common in eventing, I think. I’ve heard way more conversations about bloodlines in this sport than I EVER did in any other. Which is kind of ironic, because it’s the sport that very few people actually breed for. Maybe that’s why we have to know more?


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