Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"I'm Not A Thoroughbred Person..."

That's what I used to think, and I probably even said it out-loud occasionally. Of course, I've since re-evaluated this position, and I've even written a blog post to dismiss the notion. It would be really easy for me to say I was just a "Chamie" person (my first horse, a QH/TB, or appendix Quarter Horse), or an "Ebony" person (my first full TB) or a "Miles" person (no descriptor needed;). Their breeds were incidental.

For the longest time I've had this idea in my head that I like calm horses. Very sane. Not unpredictable-a horse you can have fun with. Certainly ex-racehorses are the last thing that come to mind when you're looking for a horse you can count on to keep you safe.

Well, I'm here to tell you that's wrong. Hear me out.

First of all, the fact that all 3 of the horses I've owned in my life were TBs or half-TBs should say something about my level of ignorance and denial. The reason for such denial is this-I'm not a confident rider. I know, none of us are supposed to admit that, but there it is. I work on it everyday, and you know what? So do lots and lots of other riders. I have no hard facts whatsoever, but most of us have had bad falls, injuries, or at the very least real scares in our work with these large beasties. The fear, if you want to call it that, is always there-something bad could happen.

Of course, that doesn't stop us now, does it? ;) Just because I have a nagging in the back of my head reminding me of my mortality doesn't mean I don't absolutely love riding. It's a weird push-pull; life is short, so do what you love and live in the moment. Then the old survival instinct kicks in.

Naturally, then, one might conclude, "Well, if you're going to ride, and you don't have all the confidence of let's say, Lucinda Greene (eventer extraordinaire), perhaps you should at least ride a horse that decreases your chance of death". I hear this attitude everywhere, from various places on the Internet to some people I board with. Give me a good old Quarter Horse any day, they say.

To that I say you take your Quarter Horse, I'll take my TB. While I may not be brimming with confidence, I can usually fake it when things get a little hairy and I really need to, for Miles' sake. My TB may be a little spooky at times, but he has never offered a buck or a rear under saddle. After he settled into the routine at the barn, which took him about a month, he has been nothing but a gentleman to deal with on the ground. More than that, he has been a delight to work around, and to work with. His heart, and his try, are something I've never encountered in any horse I've ever ridden. He's so happy when he knows he's been a good boy. He loves to work, and to learn new things. While he can be lazy, I can always fix that by engaging his big TB brain with something interesting. I've never used spurs and never done more with my whip than tap his shoulder. I've had him for over a year now, and without a trainer we've progressed and improved together.

And you know what? He's not the exception. While of course I think he's special and amazing, most TBs are more like him and less like...whatever it is that "non-TB" people think they are.

Is he sensitive? Absolutely, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I have to be a good rider to ride him well. That same sensitivity, I believe, is also the reason we have bonded so well. We can read each other's needs to a certain extent and react accordingly. That sensitivity is also what keeps us safe in certain situations. I can't wait to see him in the woods-no, that's not a joke:)

Is he flighty and spooky occasionally? Sure. Still, it's very rare for him to spook, so rare that it's an event to blog about when it does happen. I've also found that I actually prefer this to a horse that offers a cow-hop or a buck when they don't feel like working on any given day. I honestly don't think Miles has ever considered such a thing-the only time I've seen him buck is when he's feeling good on the lunge (or he has sheath issues, ha ha).

Thoroughbreds, and OTTBs in particular do indeed have their own idiosyncrasies and quirks that other horses may not. Said another way, I don't think any other breed has their heart, their try, their love of "work"-why would you want to ride a horse that would rather be in the barn or their pasture? I dig the fact that Miles looks forward to hanging out with me, and he really is happiest in regular work. TBs require a light hand and a quiet ride, and experienced leadership above all. So, maybe they're not for everyone. Still, I wouldn't have This One any other way.

Yeah, I've used this pic before. Still, I loves it. Also, it was about 60 degrees warmer back then, siiiiigh.

Edited to add, in the harsh light of day: This post reads an awful lot like "Quarter Horses suck, TBs rule!" Sorry about that. I love me some Quarter Horses, really. This is a pro-TB post, not an anti-anything post.


  1. Although the only psycho horse I ever owned was an OTTB, I have to admit that I still adore TBs. In contrast to the psycho horse, the best trail horse we ever had was also an OTTB. Jackson is a Paint but he definitely favors the TB lines over the QH and I love that. Brett's Paint is pure QH I think and he loves Flash's stock horse look. We both love our horses and that is the most important thing. Mostly, I love the diversity and I love that there is more of it at shows these days.

  2. I've had a number of TBs and TB crosses, and they can be great horses. Our Dawn is an OTTB. I like all breeds and types of horses, and believe things really depend on the individual horse as much as the breed. Even my QH (and QH I'm hoping to get in March) are almost 1/3 TB, as was my wonderful old Noble. You're certainly right about the TB try and heart - it can't be beat. I think it's the sensitivity that a lot of people can't deal with - but in TBs there's a range of that too.

  3. Great post! I feel the exact same way! I love my TB's and all that they have taught and are teaching me. I'm a better horseman for it.

  4. Nice tribute to your handsome, Miles and TB's in general. Love the pic. :-)

  5. Well lessee, the horse I fell off of and then broke the bejeebers out of my ankle on was a quarter horse. Granted she's got a lot of TB in her, but not every quarter horse is a safe packer.

    Unfortunately the only full TB I've had any real experience with was bonkers, as was her appendix son who subsequently tried to kill me. They put a bad taste in my mouth concerning TBs, but all the bloggers like you who love their TBs are starting to change my mind.

  6. I love TBs too. I've only ridden 3, and all of them were calm, kind, willing and beautiful! There are always exceptions, but that's the case with all breeds.

    Also, I'm not as confident a rider as I used to be. I think you hit the nail on the head, when you said: "Just because I have a nagging in the back of my head reminding me of my mortality doesn't mean I don't absolutely love riding. It's a weird push-pull; life is short, so do what you love and live in the moment. Then the old survival instinct kicks in." I have that exact same push/pull....obviously the push is stronger than the pull :)

  7. aw luv that picture of you two. I think Miles certainly fell into the right (and appreciating) hands. TB's have been in my life since I decided to get off a Shetland's back and start riding as a small kid. They run the range of personality, yes, but overall, there is something sooooo special about them. I LOVE the fact, that when I get to the barn and call out to Laz in the pasture, he comes to me, ready and WANTING to work. I don't know many other breeds with the work ethic of a TB. and I love all horses!! Swear. But there is something painfully special about the TB. Some get ruined beyond savings of course and we've run across those that give all of them a bad name...but isn't it the trainers fault and not that of the TB? Eyup!

  8. Also u have to tell me when ur twilight show is so I can come cheer for u two!

  9. I'm in your camp. I used to say that I didn't really like TBs, but then I realized that every horse I've ever loved is AT LEAST half TB. Oh. Guess I love them after all.

    And let's face it--a deadhead would just bore us.

  10. My boy is more than half TB and is seriously laid back and super sane. I think every breed has their crazies.

  11. I love TB's and you explained a lot of the reasons in your post. Miles looks gorgeous :)

  12. I do enjoy TB's, though Morgans have ALWAYS been my favorite. Perhaps because I great up with them, perhaps they're the kind of horses that seem to agree with me the most. QH's usually get bored with me, TB's think I'm too good for them,... and anything else just thinks I'm crazy.

    I don't hate TB's. Never had, never will! I've always had crazy, hyper, out-of-control horses... always will!

  13. I think all horses can be raised to be good, quiet, and reliable. While I prefer the look of some breeds, I'm not quick to dismiss one based on stereotype. It seems to me that 'tb people' tend to be high strung, which makes me wonder if it's not the antsy owners that make the unpredictable horses. Arab riders tend to want to ride at break neck speed and the horses reflect that. So when you get someone like you, who wants a nice horse, who has a TB, you see something that doesn't fit the stereotype. Kudos to you!

  14. While there are calm and crazy horses in every breed, I think you can generalize that tbs are sensitive. But that's a good thing. It forces us to be better riders. They give such good feedback if we would just listen.

    You're preaching to the choir here - I love my smart, sane, very sweet ottb.

    Lovely picture of you two!

  15. I am not the most confident rider in the world either but I love TBs. They can be a little scary at times, but I have never sat on any horse that wants to work and please more than a TB. All that energy is about doing the job at 120% and not avoiding doing the job. And for a bonus, you learn how to fall and get back on.

  16. This is a great post. I am convinced that the safest horse is the one that is willing to work. And in my experience, that means TBs. They simply can't be beat for "try." The scariest horses in the barns I've been at have - strangely enough - been QH and Paints that have been so reticent to work that they prefer to evade their riders - in some cases, eliciting dangerous behaviors. Of course, I know that I'm making a general statement, and I do not mean to impugn all the QH and Paints out there, far from it. My point is that with the TBs I've known - and I've known a fair number - riders have never had to ask twice. Their willingness to cooperate with their riders is what makes TBs special in my eyes. I'm now totally committed to the breed and can't imagine having anything else.