Because Thoroughbreds try harder. You often hear comments like: “You need a warmblood if you want to compete seriously in dressage.” Or, “Thoroughbreds are all hot and crazy and only know how to run”. Some people hold the view that the best sporthorses are warmbloods crossed with Thoroughbreds, but in my opinion, you can’t beat a good Thoroughbred and here’s why.
Thoroughbreds are bred to be athletes. They come out of the womb all muscled up! They literally hit the ground running and they are born wanting to compete. I honestly don’t think you can say that of any other breed. So, most people will agree that Thoroughbreds want to win and have that intangible attribute often called “heart”. But, the interesting thing about Thoroughbreds is that it doesn’t have to be winning as a race horse. They will bring that massive effort and determination to whatever discipline you choose. In fact, “racetrack rejects” as they are sometimes referred to, are desperately looking for a way to excel.
Take my little mare, Lola. She came off the track to me as a 4 year old. She was skinny, stressed and demoralized. She had run in 8 races and placed close to last in all of them. She was built like a sprinter and indeed she would race out to an early lead, give it everything she had and then some, but couldn’t close. It took about 6 months to get her back in shape physically and mentally and she was terrified of being asked to run and lose again. But we introduced her to dressage and she found that she COULD do that and do it well enough to succeed and she blossomed. She was happy in her lessons, learned quickly and easily and retained what she learned. The work changed the way she looked and moved, by building up her top line and getting her off the forehand. She became a happy horse and one that really wants to please. Will she get to Grand Prix levels or win at the Olympics? Probably not, at least with me as her rider. But she has made a wonderful riding partner for her older, amateur owner and provided countless hours of joy and pride.
Another popular misconception is that Thoroughbreds are inherently unsound and fragile. You often hear that they are bred to peak at 3 years of age and won’t hold up to the rigors of the sporthorse disciplines. While it is true that the downhill build of the sprinter that is prevalent today is not ideal for some disciplines, it most certainly does not preclude that type of Thoroughbred from doing well for an amateur rider as they often make up for deficits in their conformation in other ways. Lola is a case in point. She is somewhat downhill and toes in slightly in front, but she presents a pleasing picture overall and is an elegant horse and she is a lovely mover with a great personality. There are however, many Thoroughbreds bred for the track who are the epitome of the modern sporthorse. I am trying to take that type of Thoroughbred (my stallion is a perfect example) and breed Thoroughbred foals that will excel in dressage, eventing and hunter/jumpers.
As for the injuries suffered by race horses? If you took any other breed of horse and subjected them to the grueling lifestyle that is typical for a racehorse, whether they are competing at the stakes race level or just as an everyday claimer, I am pretty sure you’d find that Thoroughbreds are in fact, sounder under stress than any other breed. I have a broodmare who ran in 57 races, retired sound, carried me faithfully on the trails for several years and is still sound after 3 foals. She is 19 years old and looks about 8. I bet she could still run a pretty fast race!
This is why I own, ride and breed Thoroughbreds. Thoroughbreds try harder, don’t know how to quit and in my admittedly biased opinion are the most beautiful of all breeds. Click Here to read the second part of the article!