Unlimited access >

Where do TBs really stand now

It’s really not. I’m from Europe and they custom breed horses in enormous numbers for just this market. Most horses in Europe belong to kids and amateurs too remember.


TIP nationals was a super popular goal for us when I was in GA - every C show had the classes and the prizes were NICE. We treated it like Pony Finals for the average amateur - relatively easy to qualify and just a fun trip. One trainer went most years and everyone knew to call her up if yours wasn’t going to the finals but you wanted to - she is well respected in the area anyways, so it was a great experience.

I don’t see as much about it here, but I would hope it would grow if people wanted to do it. Start with the nationals and go out from there.


The kids and amateurs in Europe are an entirely different type of rider than in the US. And it’s an entirely different discipline. Being from Europe, you would know this.

We see it here all the time, people importing for the first time and then realizing that the horses are not easy to ride - they come off the plane having jumped bigger fences but lacking the basic education and rideability we expect for the “.65 and .90 hunters”. If you go through an established trainer that imports all the time, you’ll have a much better experience because they have the contacts and experience to pick suitable animals.

Sellers get a whole lot of money selling jumper flunkouts to Americans - it’s that simple. They want them off the bill asap, and sale barn riders are quite slick in making horses look calm and easy to ride. That’s why it’s best to use someone with the ability to pick through the rabble and find a good, suitable horse.


Maybe 30 years ago. Now there is a very well developed industry of producing horses for American buyers. Most US barns cannot start young horses, that is a fact. They buy them going under saddle because they have to.


It’s much more expensive to start a horse in the US. Even the people who would LIKE to, it doesn’t always make sense.

Your disdain for the American hunter rider is clear, but that doesn’t make your opinion universally true


A lot of things have changed in the show horse world. TBs used to rule, and there were also some nice and successful TBX horses, hunters and jumpers, as well as 3 DE. Most riders purchased TB horses right off the track, and learned how to develop them into whatever sport discipline they were best suited for. And in doing so, became actual horsemen and trainers and riders in their own right, to one extent or another. But things changed as the world changed, and those with money behind them were able to buy what others actually worked for, and those with skill and experience to ride horses and train riders hung out a shingle, promising success at the shows by “producing” success for patrons, without the patron actually becoming a fully fledged horseman and trainer and rider in their own right, and all it would cost is “money”, rather than effort.
The coach does the work, produces the horse who is forgiving of mistakes, who knows his job if his pilot can at least steer. TBs are often perhaps not the best candidates for this. Half TBs might be better. The sensitivity of a full TB may not be as suitable, or as forgiving. But that’s OK, because the client has money. And the more it costs, the better it is. Right? So the thought of buying an OTTB for cheap holds no attraction. And the “best horse” is going to be “very expensive”, which is absolutely an acceptable situation. Therefore, the “client” is told that a TB, off the track or not, just won’t be the winner they need. And it’s all gonna cost a lot, because we have to buy that “special” horse, from exactly the “right” source. The “right” source may be a breeder trainer in Europe, or the coach’s friend at a nearby stable, but guess what? The price of that horse is just slightly above the client has indicated, but if they stretch that just a bit more, everyone gets a fat commission. And the client is happy. The vet keeps the horse sound enough, and the coach keeps it functional, until it breaks, then it is “placed”, and disappears, and the client buys another one. We don’t tell the client that there are other ways of doing this, that affordable horses of full TB blood are available and are capable of doing the job, and that becoming a horseman and actual rider and trainer in your own right in time and with work and some basic intrinsic talent would open up a whole new world of possibilities, because that would be counterproductive, wouldn’t it? No, no, no! A TB just won’t DO! Because you just don’t see them winning at the shows, do you? Of course no one checks registration of every horse at the show in the open divisions, and the TBs have to have their own divisions at the shows, so that they can win a ribbon without having to compete against the “fancy and expensive” horses, right? Because they just aren’t as good, not as talented and athletic as a sport specific bred horse. That is what the “industry” wants people to believe, anyway. And because of this, the very talented and sport competitive TB horses do not often get into the “right” hands to develop into the sort of sport athletes they may have the potential to be, thus continuing the story.
That’s just my take on the situation. You may not agree, and that’s ok. I’m old, and have always ridden TBs in sport, OTTBs and unraced TBs. And still do. And wouldn’t trade one for a different breed, no matter what someone paid for it. A couple of years ago, I was at a show, sitting on my horse next to another TB affectionado, and we watched a non TB lumbering around the course, incurring faults and breaking rails. My friend cast her eyes skyward and opined “WBs, I just don’t see the attraction”. I nearly died laughing. Of course, I am fully aware that there are some lovely and talented sport specific bred horses who have only some TB blood. If you are rich, you might be able to buy one. But you will still have to compete against me on my TB to win. Good luck.

I’ve never competed in a division at a horse show that is restricted to TBs only. At the track, this is known as a “restricted” race, not “open”. This makes it easier for a horse to win, because some horses who have already proven their talent are excluded. When this is a breed restriction, it implies that the breed is not as competitive as other breeds. It’s the worst thing you can do for a TB at a horse show, IMO.


I don’t have any disdain for the riders, most of whom just want to have fun and ride a nice safe horse. My raised eyebrows are entirely reserved for the professionals and especially for the second and third generation of professionals who really are not capable of improving a horse from what I’ve seen.

If they just told people “we don’t really train horses here, you need to buy one that is largely finished and we’ll support you in showing it” then I’d have more respect for them.


This, I agree with. On an individual level. I would love more honesty in general.

I just think we need to be careful in making sweeping generalizations about people and horses, and saying things like

is just not fair and not true. It is just the reality of the money in the sport right now. Just like the breeding of TBs is not geared towards the modern H/J crowd - it’s not where the money and the sport is going.

We do need more young horse starters and breeders in the US, it’s just the cost of showing is outrageous here. It makes more financial sense for a lot of people to buy something already going in a similar discipline (and thus some sort of idea as to what the horse will be like) vs invest in an unknown like an OTTB or unbroke horse.

I love a good TB. I’ve had 2 myself, and ridden countless others. They really are great horses, if they’re managed correctly!


I would add that many registered WB are half TB. And that a nice mature TB that’s bulked up a bit can be indistinguishable from some lines of WB.

I think people do worry about early physical stress at the track, about nondisclosure of injuries, and about a horse that’s been trained to go super fast. It does take some special skills to pick and restart an OTTB successfully, and I’ve certainly seen both adult ammies and juniors come to grief in the process.

On the other hand, I’ve also seen registered WB break down in lower level training or develop unpleasant behavior. You can get into trouble with any horse.


There are so many horse shows for different breeds-from AQHA to the saddle seat-it saddens me there just isn’t this serious platform for the TBs. Maybe I’m missing something. Someone else here mentioned how the retired racehorse project ends at the makeover-then what?

It would just be nice to have the same set up an A show has-for all TBs. Now you’ll have some TBs priced higher than others-but it sounds lovely. Although I guess that’s what the TIP hunter and jumper shows were. The problem with the TIP also is it’s not really run like the HJ shows exactly. It’s limited classes. Doesn’t hunters only go to 2’9?

I think the catch is that the breed shows like QH and Arab etc are all strongly supported by the breeders. They have foal in hand classes etc. They are as much about breeding standards as they are about performance for adult horses

With OTTB the breeders are out of the picture. They only get rewarded within the race track system.

Almost all TB these days are race bred, whether or not they make it to track training or an actual race. I don’t even know if you could get access to a top sire to breed sport TB. Most of the TB crosses out there are OTTB mares (retired but not kept for breeding) with the other being the QH or WB Percheron or Arab stallion.


I would have to strongly disagree that the QH world is as much about breed standards as anything. Not sure I agree on the Arabian side either, I’m just not quite as familiar with that side of things.

Halter/in-hand shows tend to reward pencil necks, upright pasterns and post legged hocks

Arabians have trended towards super-flat croups, super dished faces, tiny (thin) legs, and more.

I know there are some, I just don’t keep up on it. A Fine Romance may have a TB son? Sea Accounts may also have one. There are certainly some out there, and sadly, not often enough used on TB mares, but bred to WB mares usually

1 Like

Oh I didn’t mean that the breeders support good breed standards!

I meant that breed show world is important to the breeders of that type of horse as a place to get out and show, market, display their horses. In a way that performance based competitions are not.

So the breeders are central to the breed organization and to the shows. There’s a real incentive to make it a big deal by those in the industry of that breed.

Whereas the energy and attention of the TB breeders is all on track related things, yearling sales and breeders incentives and etc. They aren’t going to get deeply invested in a breed show circuit for second career OTTB.

So there will never be the energy and sustained focus behind a TB show as there is behind the breed show circuits.


ohhh, I totally misunderstood! 100% agree that there’s a LOT of money in the weanling halter classes, yearling lunge line classes (wth), and halter classes in general.


“Hunters” (I use the term loosely) in the saddleseat shows are there as a place for low end horses. At least they started out that way. Now if your Morgan hunter doesn’t break his knees, you aren’t likely to pin. Saddlebreds aren’t quite as bad, but getting there.

Freedman’s has started making huntseat saddles that sit back further to allow for basically saddleseat motion. I got a flyer in the mail the other day, it had me scratching my head a little bit. The testimonials were kind of funny, in a warped way.

It might be a good thing that TB breeders don’t support TB shows. Heaven knows what a TB hunter would end up looking like.


At the championships, hunters go to 3’, jumpers go to 3’6", and dressage through FEI. The New Vocations all thoroughbred show is extremely popular and so is the TIP championship show. It’s unfortunate there aren’t more because it was actually really affordable for me to go to, at least when they were still in KY.


While some definitely are, I’ve seen plenty of TBs that are not.

For me, as I’ve aged I have started feeling priced out of heavy showing. My day to day riding and relationship with my horse are paramount to my enjoyment. I’ve enjoyed lots of different breeds, and some of my best horses have been TBs.

My current TB mare is an amateur’s .85 to 1.0 hunter most likely. She is quiet, rhythmical, has natural changes, and is a very easy keeper with a substantial body. I keep saying I should market her to the H/J crowd - but she is just so nice to ride and deal with… She’s willing and fun and I feel safe, after a variety of horses the past few years who’ve been unsound of mind or body. So I’m my target market :laughing:


I am the last to condone dishonesty, but even in my own experience Ive noticed people love my horse until they learn he is a TB. It’s made me aware of how unconsciously bias can creep in. People aren’t biased if it looks and acts the part - as long as it doesn’t say “TB”.

There are many TBs filling various levels of every sport well; some may list their breed, and some are listed with “unrecorded” breeding- especially in the HJ and now unfortunately, eventing circles.

I’ve noticed a bias in riding , showing, clinics, and lessons against TBs. It is not that TBs are bad; it is that very few programs exist to make a quality horse, and TBs aren’t always lucky enough to land in these programs. Since they are cheap and readily available they end up in a lot of poor quality barns with inexperienced people; unfortunately, this is how most people get exposure to the breed.

In fairness there is a lot working against TBs too. But I think people hear the word TB and their mind immediately jumps to all these conclusions; for most people, even judges, perception is reality. Judges are not exempt from breed bias in my experience. There’s several of them in my area.


Turn of the century, I would have agreed with your statement. The trendiest bloodlines were smallish and racey.

But the pendulum has swung back pretty spectacularly in favor of a much larger horse.

Sure, there are still the small, fine-boned types out there… but it’s not hard at all to find TBs who will mature into “warmbloody” behemoths. Problem is they don’t move like a WB, so you’re still at a disadvantage in the hunter or dressage ring even if they look the part.


Have you looked at the top US sires of the last several years? This couldn’t be further from the direction TBs are going. Yes. Some TBs are toothpick legs and thin. But the breed has been trending towards beefy with thick bone for a long time. Take a look at Keeneland Sept sales top selling horses and their sires if you want a picture of what the modern TB is trending towards. Spindly, small TBs are a thing of the past.

Some of racing’s best runners have even made some pretty good moving horses - that yes, can move like a warmblood. There’s tons of examples but the ones that come to mind that are accessible to a broader market include Seville, El Prado, Frost Giant, Curlin, Big Brown, and Johannesburg. I wouldn’t call any of those horses small either.