This week I had the opportunity to go to Rolex again. It was an amazing experience, I mean it is the best weekend ever! I was able to see Michel Jung make history by winning Rolex 3 years in a row. I was also able to help out C4 belts during the busiest times there and I may have splurged and bought some things for my ponies. But that isn't exactly the reason I am writing this blog.
I attended a talk that the Retired Racehorse Project had that was on future things that could be happening as well as Makeover plans for this year. One of the biggest things though is making sure people see Thoroughbreds not just as fragile horses, but instead as useful sport horses in all disciplines.
So I decided I would look at some statistics from the Rolex completions from the past two years. I wanted to go 2-3 more years back but I can only find 2016 and obviously 2017 results.
In 2016 eighty-six percent of thoroughbreds who ran around Rolex completed the event. And it was a rough muddy course. 71% of the other horses completed the whole show, but like I said the cross country was rainy, slick, and an absolute mess. So last year 75% of all the horses who started completed. Derek Di Grazia and the weather made sure to make it a tough 4* course.
this year the cross country killed a good bit of people. The questions were rough, and there were a few falls, as well as many issues with fences. The Land Rover Landing definitely added it's fair share of problems with the skinny arrowhead after coming off a sharp turn to a skinny arrowhead.
This year 66% of the TB starters completed the course. A few falls, a few issues, but anyone who made it through cross country continued onto show jumping. 65% of the others completed the whole event, two were withdrawn before jogs, and one more was spun at jogs. This cross country course was brutal and prove it time and time again.
Rolex first timer, pictured above, Woodge Fulton won the best conditioned horse award. Captain Jack came off the track and proved himself to be a cross country machine yesterday. And a fit one at that. He still had go in his tank at the end of the cross country course.
I wish I could find the results for the past 5 years for the complete show. But I can find the best conditioned horse. This year a OTTB won it. In the past Opposition Buzz and Donner have won it. I'm sure as have many other thoroughbreds. They are horses who are slightly easier to get fit than the warmblood counterparts like James Alliston said in the Off The Track Thoroughbred magazine.
The Thoroughbreds, even those raced, have proved they can do it. So who are we to rule them out? That's what my barn is and I have some talented young horses. We just have to be willing to take the time to make our horses and not buy made horses from over seas.
Last year I had the chance to go to Rolex and see some pretty amazing horses. I am extremely interested in the OTTB aspect of things. Out of 72 horses who competed, 24 were thoroughbreds. Out of those 23, 16 of those horses had raced.
The completion rate of Rolex was rather high. 54 riders out of 72 completed. 1 withdrew before dressage, 1 withdrew before XC, 2 were eliminated, and 19 of the thoroughbreds completed. 82% of the thoroughbreds completed the 4* track. 71% of the others completed the course as well.
The long format left eventing in 2004. That is when Rolex ran their final long format event. 2004 is when more rotational falls were occuring. People think rotational falls are caused by riders going to fast at fences. But that does not explain why steeple chasers can go out and do the same. While a chasers fence is a brush through fence, so it isn't completely the same comparison, we can still understand that these horses are able to think on their feet and judge. While most rotational falls are happening on a square faced jump, we need horses who aren't afraid to tell the rider, I have a sense of when I need to take off and this is when we will do so. We can't think completely for out horse. Because sometimes we do mess up. That is my point between the chasers and xc. We can't completely think for them. One of our biggest problems right now is the lack of thoroughbred blood in our eventers.
Think about a steeple chaser. They have to think for themselves. In Eventing we are now expecting the riders to think for the horses. We want an amazing mover to win dressage. But the horse has to be calm. We want a horse who we collect and have to make think in the show jump ring where they need to jump around clear. But what about cross country. Sure, those horses can make time on Beginner Novice, Novice, and Training cross country. But then horses who aren't meant to gallop take on bigger fences and faster times. As they continue to move up the levels the jumps get higher, the time gets faster, and it becomes harder on the Warmblood's.
So what happens? We switched the format. We went from 4 phases, roads and tracks, steeple chase, and the actual cross country course. Warmbloods take a lot more time to get fit, they aren't built for the speed and strength, but they are built for the dressage phase. We start that from a young age now too. I took my 3 year old OTTB mare to the Future Event Horse show. And not really to my surprise, the thicker built, lofty movement of the young warmbloods trump the thoroughbreds. And that is where the problem is beginning. We judge by the Warmblood build from the start!
So when we get a warmblood's brain. Which can't think completely on its feet completely. A warmblood tends to be quieter, less hyper, and we have to analyze fences now.
We need to integrate more Thoroughbred blood toward eventing. Our horses don't have to go through the rigorous fitness we used to for a long format. I am not saying bring the long format back. But lets bring the TB's back and less warmbloods. This will begin to help with the falls due to heart issues, the rotational falls from being tired, and not having other major issues. Guess what! Thoroughbreds have falls too! I don't want to name riders but in the horses I researched a few were tbs, a few were warmbloods, and a few were mixes. But it could help with the heart attacks on course, which again also happen with TB's, but they don't happen as often there.
The biggest cross country power houses tend to be thoroughbreds because of the ability to have an amazing gallop. If we as Americans start to bring back the thoroughbreds, we will be able to build a field of horses where there isn't so much emphasis on the dressage phase and the movement of it all.
Denny Emerson put out a Facebook post a few weeks ago. Basically what he said was, " You should take a 1 year old colt, and train him through advanced while he stays a stallion. Then you breed the stallion to a very well thought out mare, and you get a foal. Then you raise that foal and you compete it through advanced." It is a long plan but for the people who try, it is very much worth it. Why don't we try that? Not even exactly what Denny said. But why don't people search for the OTTB's that we can bring up from the beginning.
The Retired Racehorse Project is beginning to let that progress. Now we are beginning to move forward in bringing Thoroughbreds out into the world. They don't have to be pure, but a majority of TB blood. I have decided that my barn is going to be "American Made." I don't want fancy imports, I want horses that I have purpose bred for eventing and I want to bring OTTB's. So I want to be the start of a change.
Why import when you can find amazing horses in America, who run stronger longer.