The Challenge - Expert advice on horse care and horse riding

The Challenge

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Although this is a blog about the Thoroughbred and basically where are we going with that breed, it's also a reminder that here in America, we can barely claim to train any horses ourselves. The young jumper classes at WEF this past season were filled with maybe 20 horses in an age group. Do we really have 60 young horses we are going to represent as Grand Prix prospects for America?

Now to backtrack a little: If we are not producing much regarding the training of young horses we are bringing over from Europe, then perhaps it's understandable that we aren't looking in our own backyard for horses bred here in America.

The discussion that the Thoroughbred breed has changed or that in some way is compromised is a cop-out in my opinion. I say this because the very top American riders of the '60s, '70s, and '80s rode Thoroughbreds that were mostly rejects from the track. What that means is they either failed to run fast, broke down or just didn't like the jobs. So my question is: In what organized breeding program can you take the "rejects" and WIN against the best the rest of the world has to offer?

The courses today are in fact more technical, which was extremely evident in the World Cup Finals we just watched in Las Vegas. But in what way is a Thoroughbred incapable of jumping a fence, turning, condensing its stride, lengthening its stride and jumping again? When did overall basic training become a breed issue? Because people claim that they are hot? I would hope not;­ a hot horse to me was Hickstead, who rose to greatness under Eric Lamaze, and we wouldn't question his abilities or say the courses were too technical for him. So what is stopping us?

The way I look at it, we can either continue along the path we have been on (which, I believe, is slowly changing) or find more ways in the next three to five years to really jump start the pro-Thoroughbred movement. Life is all about change, and in that we have to find the best method to do this. I'm not certain I know the path yet and I do not have all the answers, but I definitely know that if we don't stop and look at how those around us perceive our efforts, then at what point are we only fooling ourselves?

My challenge to you is to keep training, keep riding in the classes that are for all horses and for the Thoroughbreds, continue to show good horsemanship, and most importantly, never give up! What I hope for most of all is that the respect for the Thoroughbred can be restored.

So I wish you good luck in your efforts. Remember that the only way to be heard is through your actions, your talents and your commitment. It will require a lot of patience to get where we want to go, and we cannot rush it because we cannot rush training—but we can look with a clearer vision at the efforts put out so far by those who are supporting us with the Thoroughbred classes and incentives. As trainers, owners and riders, we need to give those supporters even more reasons to continue by showing them we can rise to the top.

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