More TBs please!

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how to better market TBs to the show horse crowd; to get them to the point of popularity as an all-around sport horse that they used to be 15-20 years ago. It’s a point that keeps coming up again and again; if we increase the demand for TBs once they’re done racing, we really start to take a big bite out of the after care problems the industry faces.

There was a forum recently held by the United States Equestrian Federation to discuss the problems the sport of show jumping faces in this country; from the very first article that was published by The Chronicle of the Horse on the issue my response was: “Simple, needs more TBs”.  Natalie at Retired Racehorse wrote this awesome post yesterday commenting on part three of the series.  Again, the refrain; “Simple, needs more TBs”.

A link to the story on the CANTER NE Facebook page spurred a lot of discussion; many people heralding the benefits of a TB; their intelligence, their athleticism, their heart. And there among the compliments were also the myths “I’ve heard they’re too hot.” “TBs are harder to ride.” “They’re too fragile.” But, again and again, the comments come back to a hearty and emphatic “YES. We need more TBs in the sport horse world.”

So, hundreds of TB enthusiasts can’t be wrong, right? No less than George Morris (love him or hate him, he’s a force) in his typical no nonsense fashion says that the American Thoroughbred is the greatest sport horse in the world. So…why haven’t we seen an increase in popularity of the TB? Why do these negative generalizations so stubbornly persist? Why are people spending thousands of dollars on rejects from other countries?

All the retirement groups, blogs, etc. are preaching to the choir. Of course our followers and readers are going to say “YES. More TBs please.” But, here’s the rub: how do we reach everyone else? How do we shout to the rooftops “Slavish followers of George Morris buy a TB because your leader says so!!!!!!” Have we lost an entire generation of horse folks to the Warmblood; can we get them back?  I know there are plenty of influential trainers out there who love the Thoroughbred, who lament the influence of European horses in our show rings. But they have businesses to run, and need to give their customers what they want; I can’t fault them for that. How do we change what those customers want?

Natalie has since posted a follow up “Suggestion Box” post, and I can’t wait to hear everyone’s ideas on spurring the retirement movement in racing. Mine? There are so many people with the same idea of increasing the demand for TBs after they’re done racing; let’s get them all together.

  • Establish a task with the most influential people we can get in the sport horse world. Leadership is critical here. Get the USEF involved.
  • More support for retirement organizations to form stronger retraining programs.
  • Ask the racing industry to be a part of that task force. Yes, its main business is racing, as it should be. But these TBs have so much potential after they’re done racing. Let’s teach the racing community about the jobs these horses can do. Let’s make the lines of communication better between the race track and the show ring.
  • Coordinated marketing and resources. There are already so many groups doing this good work. But we need the marketing and the leaders of BOTH industries to get out there and say “Hey, there’s a benefit here for both of us.”

I know this isn’t a surprise to a lot of us. We’re all aware something needs to be done. I suppose my question to you is, HOW. How do we get these talks going? Who knows someone who knows someone who can get everyone on board? Until we get that spark we’re just sitting here on great ideas. It’s time to get this ball rolling.

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