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Why is there such a division between showing thoroughbreds and warm bloods?

Hello! I’ve been thinking a lot about this upcoming show season. I will be taking my ottb to his first shows doing hunters and eq. I’ve been pretty nervous because I will be against those stocky warmbloods with tons of experience, who always win even if they pick up the wrong lead or knock a rail.

I just wanted to know, why do most judges always pick the warm blood over the thoroughbred?

The warmblood will absolutely not win if they pick up the wrong lead or have a rail. If you are pinning below horses with major mistakes you need to review a video of your round and see what happened. I can guarantee it’s not because the horse is a thoroughbred and blaming it on your horses breed is passing up an opportunity to learn and improve.

This has been discussed many times. Judges are looking for big strided horses who can lope the lines, flat kneed movement, and jumping form with knees up and legs tight. If your horse checks these boxes, you will be competitive regardless of breed. You see less thoroughbreds because they are not being bred or developed as hunters as often as warmbloods.


Keep in mind that until about 20 years ago all hunters were TB. Also that the genetics that make WB horses into sport horses and not carriage or cavalry or light draft horses is TB blood.

The WB were developed to do everything a very good TB could do, plus have a bit more bone and height and be a bit more uphill compared to racing lines of TB.

They are related breeds. It’s not like you are taking a Shetland pony or quarab into the hunter ring. If you have your TB going well, and he is a nicely put together example of his breed, there is no reason he can’t hold his own especially at the lower levels against riders who are making big faults on their WB.


If you find all eight jumps, get your lead changes, and make the strides in the lines, you’ll be in the ribbons, if not close to the top, at almost every venue except for maybe WEF, Devon, or indoors. It doesn’t matter what breed your horse is.

“A”-Circuit Hunter Rider Bringing Along a TB Baby


I would not focus so much on who you are riding against. Focus on having a good round and good experience for you and your horse. The best round will (and should) win - but I agree, it’s not the WB who pulls the rail. A rail is a 45 and considered a major fault. It shouldn’t beat a TB with no major faults.

Trend now is big stride, slow canter, big athletic jump. If your TB has these, he will be viewed as in style, too. If your TB has to run to get the strides and isn’t as stylish with his form, that’s why the WB is pinning ahead of him - not necessarily because he’s a TB (though the two are often related).

Regardless - focus on good goals that YOUR horse can accomplish. If he has good rounds with a good pace and 8 nice jumps, you will be judged fairly (I hope!). Good luck!


OP posted videos of her horse in another thread and it’s a nice little horse. I don’t think she has much to worry about. :wink:


thank you!!

Most judges pick the horse who best answers the questions asked by the course and the division. Since they don’t ask to see the registration papers, breeding doesn’t enter into it, unless that breeding produces horses that do not fit the hunter profile.

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OTTB can bulk up nicely as they grow up, even if they start as weedy 3 year olds. Many nicer adult TB are mistaken for WB.


Do others believe this is true? If so, it gives me hope. I’m looking at a horse Friday, but he’s not the Horse Of My Dreams. I can’t afford the Horse Of My Dreams. But this horse jumps well, has a giant step, and has a pleasant way of going. Maybe that’s enough (if I can find 8 jumps, get my changes, and make the step)?

FWIW, pigs will fly before I ever show at Devon, WEF, or indoors!


I believe this is pretty accurate. You can watch all the rounds of Thermal on demand- take a look at the amateur divisions. Most people can’t do these 3 things consistently.


Indeed. Out of curiosity (and to uphold my own hypothesis), I watched a class of the middle-age group adult hunters at Thermal.

Of 13 horses, the top 3 all had nice trips with just one slightly deep/long jump. No one was completely perfect. Those top three, IMO, were placed based on the judge’s preference and that’s the only deciding factor where, perhaps, a Thoroughbred, with a comparable round, could’ve fared worse (or better!) based on the judging that day. Let’s say the judge hates the TB-type but you did all the above: worst case, you’d be 4th. This is at a top-tier national show. The 4th-placed horse took a flyer on the out of a line and was deep in one spot, and all rounds below that had more serious mistakes in some form—a swap, a late/missed lead change, multiple so-so distances, etc.

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You can easily compete against the warmbloods with a TB and win at the rated shows. Here is a video of my TB winning both of his over fences arounds at an a-rated show against over 20 very nice horses who were mainly warmbloods. Like someone said before, finding all of your distances, getting your changes, having a nice jump, getting correct strides, etc is what is important.

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