Opinion Piece About American TBs in Eventing

Cross posted in Eventing. Bound to be controversial.

I started reading it, but considered it to be “tripe” quite quickly. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but that doesn’t mean that I have to agree with them. I can show ya pictures of poorly conformed horses of every breed. And the TB is still the ONLY breed that is subjected to the “severe” culling process called “racing”, as it has been for 400 years. With TBs, at least the culls are identified. In other breeds, the culls enter the breeding shed unidentified. It’s a free country, people are allowed to breed culls if they want to.


I already responded on the eventing forum.

TB racing definitely has its problems. But I get tired of the lectures from outsiders who don’t know enough to fully understand the issues or solutions, and just regurgitate others.

I have been saying for 5 years that the overall “sport quality” of the breed is increasing, not decreasing. Look at any sales catalog and I can pick out dozens of likely prospects.

As for aftercare, yeah I wish it was better. But what the author doesn’t know, is that there are many ethical owners and breeders who rehome their horses privately and quietly to knowledgeable riders. There are resellers who have excellent connections to get first pick of the sound, well bred OTTBs. If random state CANTER and crappy Facebook resellers are your only experience with available OTTBs…yes the pickings look slim. But that’s a very small (and poorly filtered) sample of TBs.


@EventerAJ and @NancyM I’m with you.

When the article came across my social media news feed, I couldn’t even get through it before my eyes started doing that twitching thing and my blood pressure started rising.

What shut me down automatically was England and Ireland being held up as paradigms. I am not knocking European breeding programs, but it’s apples and oranges. Not to mention the fact that your average GB or IRE bred racehorse today is going to have umpteen crosses to Northern Dancer. :roll_eyes:

It’s hard to form a cogent response to the article when the author makes it apparent that she has a very limited and out of date perspective on the situation.


I replied to someone of Facebook that if the author has better ideas on breeding, raising, and training thoroughbred racehorses, then by all means she should step up and show us all how to do it.


True confession–I didn’t read the opinion piece in part because I have seen so many of these diatribes from the sport horse world about Thoroughbred breeding in the last 30 plus years that I have had my fill. But one thing I have noticed in the ones I have read and the responses to this one makes it sound like the author suffers from the same point of view–generally they fall into the trap of celebrating the elite. However, elite Thoroughbred breeding is coveted because it produces elite racehorses. High level racehorses are different beasts from high level sport horses. The first can run fast and the latter cannot. So don’t look to Into Mischief or Medaglia D’Oro to sire the next 4 star competitor. Instead it could be some weird ass obscure regional sire that no one ever heard of and the horse could have been plucked from failure at Canterbury. Purists may sniff about overbreeding and bad breeding and pony mills and the rest of it but horse professionals know that “bad breeding” does not always equal “bad horse” by any stretch and concentrating production to the same handful of big name sires might help the breed aesthetically in some rarified circles but it is not necessarily a good thing.

Years ago, a friend of mine had an Arizona bred Thoroughbred by a stallion I never even heard of and I was theoretically in the business and that horse went up the levels in the white hot competitive CDS shows before topping off getting consistent 50 % + at 4th level and Prix St George- and yes he was in open against warmbloods. I looked him up at one point and he had run badly at Turf Paradise–an obscure Arizona bred claimer. But he was a helluva amateur dressage horse in the end.

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Pronzini, my viewpoint on “G1 racehorse cannot be a good sport horse” changed in 2011. I met an older gentleman who was an early founder in TB biomeasurements. He measured various points of conformation, length of neck, shoulder, back hip, depth, stride length, and ultrasounded heart size. He studied all the great stallions, from Northern Dancer, Affirmed, Storm Cat, AP Indy, basically every stallion in KY from the 70s to current. He charted the results, and found marked similarities in stakes winners at certain distances, and he used the data to help select yearlings at the sales. Of course, he said those measurements aren’t everything…training and mental aptitude are important. But what was most interesting to me: he also studied Bruce Davidson’s 4* horses back in the early 90s. Those eventers measured extremely similar to graded stakes horses! He said elite TBs are ELITE atletes, and could possibly succeed in any sport where gallop and power is necessary.

Prior to that day, I sort of turned my nose up at successful racehorses as sport horses. That changed my mind, and I have found it to be pretty true. My 2017 TB Makeover horse (by Bernstein) was a G2 winner of $300,000, and was extremely athletic and classy. No doubt he could have been a Rolex horse, if he hadn’t retired with a big suspensory at age 7.

I think some top equine athletes are like Michael Jordan…yes he was a basketball star, but had he done baseball instead in college, maybe he would have been a MLB star instead.

Slow, unsuccessful racehorses still can make good eventers too! But given the choice between relatively similar physicals, similar movers, I would take a good KY pedigree over a weak, obscure state bred pedigree. Mare family still matters IMO. :slight_smile: