Confessions of a Timid Rider,  Equestrian Life

For the Love of a Thoroughbred

Confessions of a Timid Rider: I’m in Love with a Thoroughbred

Thoroughbreds can get a bad rap. They are delicate, nervous, spirited…..and off track thoroughbreds? Forget it! So why then, are they so popular with equestrians? Even as a timid rider, I love a thoroughbred and an off-track thoroughbred (OTTB) at that.

I confess I used to be on of “those” people. Thoroughbred were not the right breed of horse for me because they would be too much for me to handle. Don’t you love stereotypes?

Funnily enough, the schoolmaster I started back on at the age of 32 was a thoroughbred. (You can hear all about that in Confessions of a Timid Rider: My Middle-Aged Equestrian Reinvention). So I thought to myself,  this is just a fluke. After all, Jupiter was on the older side. Just stick with a sensible quarter horse and stay in my comfort zone. Certainly, an ex-racehorse would never be a good choice for me.

After several years of riding again as an adult, I became a working student. I worked on the ground with a lot of thoroughbreds and other breeds doing turnout, feeding, etc. My favorite horse to spend time with while working came to our barn as a retired racehorse. Earthly Delights is Kentucky bred and was retired from racing after he had surgery to remove a bone chip in his knee at 3 years old. He spent about 6 months in rehabilitation and then came to our barn to be restarted as a hunter/ jumper.

For the last year, I’ve been riding Delight regularly.  I was very nervous at first but ultimately excited.  After all, I knew this horse well. But I had this misconception of riding a young OTTB (off-track thoroughbred).  My trainer/therapist reminded me of that and assured me he is the same on the ground as he is under saddle. We have had our ups and downs, sure. But he is steady and patient (mostly), even when I’m going through a funk.

I had this misconception of riding a young OTTB. Share on X

Earthly Delights has so much personality and while he knows his own mind, he is forgiving and smart. His biggest foible is that he is totally grouchy while saddling, but once he’s tacked up he’s a puppy dog. We have figured out it is behavioral. When distracted by my daughter and hay, he is quite as a mouse during tacking. He has a lot of personality.

I love that I can ride Delight on the trails, jump him in the ring, and then watch him play with my daughters. He is very careful and tries his best for his rider. I’m in love with Delight and officially a convert to OTTBs.  His owner told me the other day that he likes me! This is the biggest compliment because he only likes 2 people. I thought it was unrequited love, but apparently I have a chance.

So I was curious what other OTTB owners and riders love most about their horses. I posted a request on the Facebook group OTTB Connect and asked for their favorite traits.

Here are some of my favorite responses

“His eagerness to do anything I ask of him- even if it’s new and scary. He’s a smart boy and would do anything I ask!” 

“Smart and brave. Both have saved my bacon so many times. Quirkiness and attitude a plus.”

“Their heart – my thoroughbreds never say no, they always try to do what I ask of them.”

“Their heart, willingness to give 200% quirky quirky personalities lmao! And of course their beauty and strength.”

“Work ethic, strong connections, versatile.”

“Their huge hearts! I love that they will keep trying and trying. I also love their competitiveness and Their stamina. Its fun that they love their work.”

The responses were fast and furious, including amazing photos. OTTBS and thoroughbreds are often misjudged. One thing that really stands out to me is their heart. Many people find that it is their desire to form a connection with their human, and always try that is most loved. But let’s not forget those quirky personalities!

I know that Earthly Delights is a sassy, funny boy who makes me laugh. Hard to forget too is that he’s absolutely stunning to look at. He’s turning 6 in April and is showing me some of his adolescent high jinks. He reminds me so much of my kids that way, but when I tell him no he listens better than my daughters.

My trainer knows that I want to steal Delight away, now if I could only get my husband to finance it…….my 40th birthday IS coming up this fall. Hint hint. There is always wishful thinking.

So forget the reputation of OTTBs that you think you’ve heard. Give one a chance. Just like with any breed of animal, keep in mind some personalities need a more experienced “person”. Thoroughbreds and OTTBs  are popular and it’s not just for their athleticism. Thoroughbreds are smart, willing, versatile, and love bonding with their human.

    Do you have an OTTB? what is your favorite thing about your horse?

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  • Amy Hempe

    My mom had an OTTB back in the 60’s and loved him! I grew up riding an Arabian and an American Saddlebred, and they get bad raps for being silly. Now as a returning adult I’ve ridden a few OTTBs and now a quarter horse. I’m learning d prejudices have to be thrown out the window. I’ve seen silly Dutch Warmbloods and sturdy Thoroughbreds. It’s really all about their personalities and getting to know them.

    • Heather Wallace

      Amy, I love that! I’ve always loved Arabians for their spirit. One thing I’ve learned working with horses is that horses are just like any other species. Personality is much more important to behavior than their breed. Today Delight was unfazed by a plastic bag, chipmunk running under his feet, and a doberman puppy barking at him. But any horse under the right circumstances can react. I rode a quiet, trail master QH a few weeks ago on the road and when a car kicked up some gravel he spooked. You just never know.

  • Jana Rade

    No horses here, just dogs. I always admired horses, I think they are amazing. Would I care whether it was a purebred? Not really but that could be because I don’t know enough about them.

  • Kamira Gayle

    Who knew thoroughbreds have a sense of humor? I love the “tongue out” pic. This post was interesting. Honestly , I’m a cat lover so I never heard of these misconceptions of OTTB before.

  • Letti LoCasto

    I was on a horse before I was one year of age, of course with my Wonderful Dad!He taught me how to ride and I always had horses from my palamino Buckskin to my quarter horse Toby ,I treasure my youth and always having horses in my life as a child they made all the difference in the world !!I was the only child for 11 years ,They were then and still now my true love of life riding horses.Ive always been closer to horses,dogs,and nature in life !

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