No thoroughbreds please

Well done on reducing your chances of finding a great horse tenfold.  The most bred, readily available and highly undervalued group of horses around today.  The thing is, most people who put ‘no thoroughbreds’ have often had very limited experience with them and think they’re all the same, which is kinda like saying all Aucklanders are the same, or all white people are the same, it's a very broad generalisation that wouldn't be accepted if we were discussing humans.  You are, in fact, talking about an incredibly diverse group and each individual should be assessed as such. 

People who don’t know better often buy in to the ‘typical thoroughbred’ generalisation which is so far removed from the truth of this vast gene pool of athletes.  So I asked a few people what does ‘typical thoroughbred’ mean to you?  The answers I got the most were:

  • Skinny
  • Shit feet
  • Hot/Anxious/Nuts 

Followed by - but not my thoroughbred, mine is nothing like that!  Where did this huge generalisation of the breed come from?  I have had a fair few thoroughbreds come through my care, and although, as athletes, they may be light in type there are just as many ‘good doers’ as not.  Some don’t have the best feet but no worse than plenty of other breeds, many inquisitive, often with a touch of sensitivity/anxiety that is generally very easily managed and not ONE that I would call nuts.

When I think about this breed in general terms I think of their incredible work ethic and how they are generally way more forgiving to the rider than your average warmblood.  They are almost always willing to learn and keen to please.  This classy breed comes in all shapes and sizes and have excelled in lots of incredible disciplines plus been worthy companions around the farm, forest and beach.  Like most horses, they love getting out and about, they’re always willing to try something new given a little encouragement - whether it’s jumping or going into water, and they are the absolute best to canter along next to a buddy and then come back to walk on a long rein.

Confirmation bias is our tendency to search for, interpret, favour and remember information that confirms our choices and beliefs.  If you’re already not a thoroughbred fan and you hear some horror stories of foot issues, weight issues or behaviour issues, you will remember those stories over any positive ones, disregarding the positive stories and completely overlooking the fact that a very small percentage of this large group are being discussed negatively.

And dare I say it, I think we might create some of these issues due to our handling of thoroughbreds in general. I mean, if you ride (this is relative to any breed) a horse expecting it to be a hot mess, you’re all uptight and nervous and hanging on its face waiting for it to spook or bolt or misbehave then there’s a good chance that your horse is getting pretty wound up wondering what the hell we are supposed to be terrified of and consequently behaves like a bit of hot mess!

Where else can you buy a broken in 3 yr old with some pretty serious life exposure for a few hundred dollars?  Not everybody can train one straight off the track, but with such a low purchase price perhaps you could pick up one you like by type and invest in its first 3 months of schooling?  Or you can find one that’s had years of re-schooling and outings with a proven track record and a still rather low price tag.

There’s definitely some wisdom in the saying ‘horses for courses’ and you do need to select carefully (no matter what breed), keeping in mind your level of confidence and your ability but this is an incredibly large group of horses and includes some absolute gems and superstars.  Perhaps before you declare ‘no thoroughbreds’ you could get to know several up close and personal or ask for people’s fantastic, happy stories?  You just might get a very different picture painted…

Hit me with your photos and success stories, because I know there are a million! I will choose one to win a 250ml bottle of Betavet Prepare.

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