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