“Thoroughbreds are the best. They’re lighter, quicker and more intelligent. The best of any breed is the Thoroughbred horse, the best of that breed is better than any other breed." -George Morris
Longer ago than I care to admit, I was offered a scholarship for the crew team at Washington State University. I only bring it up here because I will never forget what the WSU coach told my basketball coach. She said "I can teach her to row, I can't teach her athleticism." It didn't matter that I knew absolutely nothing about the sport, just that the ability to do it was there.
I believe in the same theory when it comes to Thoroughbreds. They are bred to be athletic. If there is athleticism, movement and form can be developed.
The horses at the track endure so much from a young age that, if they make it off of the track sound and sane, it gives you an advantage. Most of them have seen it all and aren't spooky. A rider doesn't have to spend time worrying about exposing them to everything. Usually, the focus can mostly be put into the training itself.
Obviously, I am also a fan of warmbloods, but there is just something very rewarding about taking an OTTB and moving them on to a second career. The horses I have worked with seemed to appreciate a new challenge. They had an amazing work ethic, eagerness to learn, and a desire to please. I haven't been run off with by an OTTB (the ones still in training at the track are a different story) or dumped by one, knock on wood.
Thoroughbreds are also affordable. Usually, straight off of the track, they are going to be free up to about $4,000. Those that have never raced typically are easier to sell and can cost a little bit more. Even with training, they will usually be about half the price, or less, of a warmblood at the same level.
There are tons of horses coming off the race track that have the potential to have very successful second careers, yet it can be almost impossible to find them homes. For the most part it is no longer prestigious to own a thoroughbred as anything other than a race horse. They aren't very popular in the competition world anymore. There isn't much of a demand for them outside of racing.
I've always believed that the breed doesn't matter, if the horse can do the job you want them to. For the most part I have had pretty good luck with thoroughbreds off of the track. With programs like the Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program, The Retired Racehorse Training Project, the Thoroughbred Classic Horse Shows, and several others that are now out there, I hope that thoroughbreds can make a comeback in the competition world.
Here are few OTTBs I have worked with: