I've been working with a trainer that will not accept a TB on his farm let alone train one. He said he has tried in the past and they are not worth the time and money. Also, he feels that they can never be reliable as far as safety.
I've seen a couple of really scary (crazy scary) Morgans at the local CDE's and think that it's not the breed, but the horse itself. Are driving TB's the exception rather than the rule? Do they bolt more easily than other breeds?
I ask because one of my three horses is a TB and I had hoped to one day introduce him to a carriage. He rides and ground drives just fine. His tendency to spook is limited to jumping in place and looking at the source of his fear. I've never had him try to run away.
For the same reason that is easier, in general, to break a Saddlebred or Hackney to drive than an Arabian, even though all three are usually considered "hot" horses. There are some breeds that people have been breeding for decades and even centuries to be suitable for work in harness. Physically AND mentally suitable for work in harness. There are exceptions in every breed, but by and large if you want to be most successful at any equine activity you are usually better off to choose a breed that has been purpose-bred for the activity you intend to do.
When I competed fei singles, pairs and tandems it was with hot bloods. An anglo/arab and a t/b. I also drove a team of them at National level. At that time I was the only person to so do. To my certain knowledge there's another 3 folks now compete fei level with them. I don't personally know of anyone at the lower levels though.
I train people to drive at all levels and up to high level competition standard. I've only ever had 2 other people drive my hot blood pair what I would call really successfully and they're top teams drivers and I mean TOP. I've had other fei pairs drivers 'have a go' with them and they've been fine walking about and doing dressage but they've 'bottled out' and given me the reins and said I was mad for driving them cross country and cones and they've dessimated cones courses in the process.
I am going to tell you "why not" but first of all I must declare that if I could only own one horse that it would most probably be a Thoroughbred, or maybe a pure bred Arab or if I could cheat then perhaps roll them up into an Anglo Arab.
I must also declare a long standing and inherited passion for the breed. My ancestors (and namesake) were responsible for importing Darley Arabian into the UK in the 18th century and of course it was that horse (and 2 other stallions) that led to the development of the Thoroughly Blood Bred horse - which in turn got shortened to become the Thoroughbred. My father, grandfather and great grandfather all trained point-to-pointers and steeplechasers and I've done the same.
So the purpose of this posting is to discuss their conformation and type and I guess to open up the opportunity to have a debate about its qualities and why its so good at what it does and also why there's a lot that aren't that good at all.
The t/b is the fastest horse over its distances in the world and its the most expensive of all breeds and as such forms the basis of the multi-million racing industry. Its the supreme equine athlete.
Despite many efforts, no-one has been able to develop a faster breed over the distance and there's been nothing at all done in the past 100 years to improve the t/b itself - racing times have not become faster, in the same way as human athletes. Records are rarely broken.
It took about 200 years to develop this breed and maximise its potential as a superb racehorse.
There was most definitely a certain amount of luck in its early development and including diarised occasion of Darley Arabian escaping and serving a farmer's mare! However she was a useful sort and the resultant foal was a cracker.
It was the development of the t/b that led to the real understanding of the part that selective breeding played in producing a purpose bred horse.
In the context of conformation and purpose the T/B is testament to the fact that this is critical and its not chance that the t/b is the fastest breed. Early development meant that they all had to prove themselves on the track and breeding aims were purely focussed on speed.
Up to the early 1800's race distances ranged from 4 to 12 miles and weights carried were up to 170 lbs! And horses earned their places in the finals by running a series of heats. So this meant that the horses had to be mature and endowed with tremendous courage and stamina. They only stood to about 14.2.
Then distances shortened and so the type was changed. They didn't need to be so tough and so were given more warmth and food as well as selected differently to breed and gradually they became taller and faster and in the 19th century their height increased by 6 inches to an average of 16 hands and speeds increased. By the 1850's they'd already reached their zenith for speed and type and there's been little change since then.
So its been developed into several types:
As a flat racehorse and at their best as 3 year olds over 1 - 1 3/4 miles. Known as "classic" distances.
Then there's sprints - 5 - 7 furlongs. Best suited to horses that mature early and have great speed but little stamina
Races that test stamina are for later maturing stayers. Those are more angular and leggy than the compact sprinters with their powerful quarters. Consequently there are 3 categories of flat race t/b: the sprinter, the classic or middle distance horse and the stayer.
Then there's the fourth category - and my personal favourite - those who also jump. They race in steeple chase also known as point to point or national hunt - so called because originally it was cross country races by gentlemen from one village church (steeple or point) to another and the horses were always hunted too to prove their fitness and ability to qualify for their race. Or there's the final category: hurdle racing. (often used as an early proving and training ground for steeple chasers)
These ones must have stamina, toughness and boldness and an ability to jump exceptionally well at speed.
t/b's are purpose bred for each of the disciplines and hence its why they vary so much in type and temperament and to a minor degree in conformation. There are distinct different requirements for each category.
Of course t/b's are often used for other disciplines: and hunting and eventing and jumping and dressage spring to mind. It goes without saying that a purpose bred and trained steeple chase horse is highly likely to make a good eventer and cross country jumper but its less likely to make an exceptional purist dressage horse. For the latter substance and a good temperament so the horse can work in harmony with the rider are required and its difficult to breed those criteria into a t/b because the major criterion for breeders for 300 years has been speed so they can beat other horses. So consequently they're often bred most successfully with other breeds of calmer and more robust horses to produce a horse for sport rather than for racing. Of course if your passion is classic horse trials or 3 day eventing, then a t/b of quality steeplechase type is going to be in the frame because they will generally out perform at the cross country phase, should be high end in show jumping element and if they're competing with other t/b's they'll do fine at dressage. However if there are the likes of Dutch Warm Bloods, they're going to out perform at the dressage phase and lumber round the cross country course. All things being equal in relation to training and riding skill that is.
Then when it comes to driving - it depends what sort of driving you want to do and what you are like as a driver. Arabs and T/B's are quick and sharp - and I just know that someone is likely to post and tell me their's is the quietest and best behaved in the world, but if it is, then that's different to quick and sharp and if its not those 2 things, then its not well-bred and true to type and purpose.
Personally I've never had more of a problem with a t/b doing the likes of spooking and being stupid than with a lot of other breeds, but they're quick and when they do act its quick. They're quick to learn and that is bad and good and you tend to have to do everything spot on right with them. Trust me you don't get away with things with a t/b. Everyone who's owned them in number knows that you HAVE to always handle them properly and the day you don't, they have accidents or cause you to or even to have a close shave. They're just not forgiving of error, slowness, incompetence, sloppy technique. So when it comes to a carriage horse, you wouldn't get away with harnessing a T/B up without heading it, without have good experienced people to help you, without REALLY good, quick and precise rein handling. Without approaching 'obstacles' correctly and accurately. And at the risk of being contentious with having your reins as if you were a rider - and incidentally the 2 other people I know that drive them fei also don't drive rein in each hand.
With my welsh section D's, warmbloods, friesians, Lipezzaners indeed all the other traditional carriage horses you've time to think, give a command, wait for it, and then the horse acts. T/B's go as you think and the VERY second you put the command on. I joke about my others and often say "come left" and add "any time today" but I tell you something, now I'm getting older and my reaction time is a little slower, I'd rather drive them any day of the week. Its more 'pleasurable' and I don't have to have my wits about me every second.
I used a hot blood pair because they competed with each other and I used that so that they absolutely blew other competitors away over cross country and cones and could produce decent dressage tests compared to other competitors. But same as in ridden work, they don't have the flashy, showy higher knee action with good forward movement at trot and its that which tends to mark a good carriage horse.
Would I recommend a T/B for a driving horse. NO WAY.
Last edited by Thomas_1; Jun. 10, 2007 at 08:54 AM.
Reason: spelling errors
This should be required reading for all newcomers who are wondering if their <insert breed of choice> would make a good driving horse. It's not simply a matter of whether or not your horse is suited to driving. You also need to carefully consider where you are in terms of your own temperament, age, goals, reaction times, etc. The paragraph below sums this up very well. I took up driving 5 years ago at the age of 48, after a lifetime of riding. I can tell you that with all the novice errors I've made along the way and the unexpected misadventures that seem to weave themselves into the fabric of my days, I probably wouldn't be here to tell the tale if I were driving anything other than my very forgiving, laid-back and purpose-bred Haflingers. As it is, I can honestly say I go out expecting to have fun every day with my horses. I contrast that with people I see who are ashen-faced and looking very nervouse when they set out for a drive and I'm glad I'm not in their shoes. It's supposed to be fun, isn't it? My horses aren't going to set the world on fire with speed and agility but at my age and driving experience level, that's perfectly OK with me. Be realistic and honest about evaluating your horse AND yourself and you'll have a perfectly wonderful time with driving.
Originally Posted by Thomas_1
With my welsh section D's, warmbloods, friesians, Lipezzaners indeed all the other traditional carriage horses you've time to think, give a command, wait for it, and then the horse acts. T/B's go as you think and the VERY second you put the command on. I joke about my others and often say "come left" and add "any time today" but I tell you something, now I'm getting older and my reaction time is a little slower, I'd rather drive them any day of the week.
In this area, we have 2 X-ADS presidents who drive TB. Barbie Black drives a single and Lyle Peterson drives a pair. Althought Barbies guy can do a great dressage, cones, and marathon, he is an internal worrier and she does well to keep him composed to show how nice he is. Lyle's pair can be very nice or very scarey.
Neither makes me want to get in the box with them.
Many people who poo-poo the TB breed don't have the mind to train or live with them. They definitely can be quick to react, and often times are two steps ahead of the trainer when being worked with. Some can be very opinionated and you had best find a way during training sessions to improvise work arounds so they believe what you want them to do is THEIR idea.
Of course, each horse is an individual and it might take a few false starts to find a TB that works well as a driving horse. Our driving club has a couple who not only drive a 4 in hand of TBs, they also double duty as their hunt horses too. Not bad for hot cha cha TBs!
I can tell you that with all the novice errors I've made along the way and the unexpected misadventures that seem to weave themselves into the fabric of my days, I probably wouldn't be here to tell the tale if I were driving anything other than my very forgiving, laid-back and purpose-bred Haflingers. As it is, I can honestly say I go out expecting to have fun every day with my horses. I contrast that with people I see who are ashen-faced and looking very nervouse when they set out for a drive and I'm glad I'm not in their shoes. It's supposed to be fun, isn't it? My horses aren't going to set the world on fire with speed and agility but at my age and driving experience level, that's perfectly OK with me. Be realistic and honest about evaluating your horse AND yourself and you'll have a perfectly wonderful time with driving.
SOOOOOOOO true and an absolutely profound piece of rock solid advice based on what is clearly real and relevent experience.
Althought Barbies guy can do a great dressage, cones, and marathon, he is an internal worrier and she does well to keep him composed to show how nice he is. Lyle's pair can be very nice or very scarey.
Neither makes me want to get in the box with them.
I can entirely relate and I always feel that driving my hot bloods is a resonsibility and a challenge and exciting. You're always on the edge of brilliance or disaster. Driving 'proper' driving horses is a pleasure and enjoyable and fun and if I choose to, I can make it exciting and challenging.
All my driving horses are ride and drive and so all do ridden work of different sorts too. My t/b's have either evented or raced over jumps
And since posting I've had my wife find this old photo and scan it to show just how much fun you (I ) can have with them .... or to put it another way .... how much trouble you can get in to.
Who on earth had the stupid idea to make a marathon hazard just the same as a hurdling fence! As you can see though, from the nonchalant look, I'm not a person who panics!
In actual fact that is exactly what we said at the time. He actually tried to race the horse next to him and that VERY nearly went over the jump with him. It was a miracle (though some said - really quick thinking and good rein handling etc) that I managed to stop the wheelers going too!
oh !!!!!!!!!!!! that pic made me laugh til I cried....the whole team is standing there wondering patiently why they are standing in the water....and the cause of it all not the least bit concerned broke horses are a wonderful thing....
In the Arabian world there's a saying that I think holds true for TBs as well: To train a horse, you must be 10% smarter than the horse. And with Arabs, fewer people qualify.
I grew up with TBs and TB/WB crosses. They are fantastic, intelligent, highly trainable horses.
We have a western trainer here who says that the only horse he will not even touch is a TB. He says there ain't a single of them that deserves the oxygen they consume to stay alive. And not surprisingly, this is also the same trainer who ruined a WB mare I know, and tried to ruin my Arab, but I stopped that party right fast.
Anyway - I love John Lyons. JL gives an interesting little story at his clinics that says this: Imagine you are a school teacher and you go to a parent and tell the parent, "I'm a great teacher. In fact, I'm a fantastic teacher. But I can't do a thing with your kid. Your kid is stubborn, dumb, bull headed, and worthless. If I were you, I'd just try to give that kid away to somebody else and get a GOOD kid. Bring that GOOD kid back to me and I'll gladly teach him for you."
And so we do this with our HORSES, who essentially are like children. They have to be taught, molded, socialized, cared for, and reared much in the same way you do a child. But yet we allow our trainers to talk about our horses this way. And we talk about the horses this way ourselves. And we think it's acceptable.
A good trainer NEVER transfers blame to the poor dumb animal. NEVER. A good trainer always recognizes his/her own shortcomings, downfalls, failures, and then tries and tries again until they get it right. A good trainer, just like a good school teacher, doesn't put the blame off on someone else but instead objectively approaches the situation and makes changes accordingly so that success CAN be reached.
I've worked with Arabs, TBs, WBs, TWHs, a Saddlebred, two Lipizzaners, QHs, an Akhal Teke, and various ponies, and I've never met a horse yet that I considered to be difficult, useless, or a waste of time. I used to exercise a pure Impressive bred QH gelding for a woman that everyone was afraid of because he was too big, too dominant, and too hot. I did some lessons on him, took him for trail rides, jumped him, and generally just had a blast! I didn't try to assign blame for his challenges, but just looked for more creative ways to address them.
I had a TB (Chesnut mare even ) that I drove. Before I got her she raced for 3 years and did some time in a show hunter barn, then I trained her for eventing and trail riding before she was trained to drive at 9. I remember the trainer that hooked the first time commenting driving her was like trying to turn a wet noodle. He was used to Morgans and she was long and supple with a nice long neck.
Her reaction the first time she was hooked (after extensive ground work) was to try to run backwards about 4 steps, got a look of "that doesn't work", kicked the cart ONCE with ONE hind foot, got the same look, and then drove off like she had been driving for years. I went on to show her in Pleasure and Combined driving and she even went in a few parades. Her last few shows she did turn into a smart aleck. She would warm up beautiful and then as soon as I took her in the ring she would go into giraffe mode .
I will agree that TBs are NOT the best choice for driving horses. I currently drive a pair of POA cross ponies and when I do want another driving horse it will probably be a STB, though I LOVE TBs I would only try driving another one if it had proven itself in other ways that it would be a good driving horse .
I've worked with Arabs, TBs, WBs, TWHs, a Saddlebred, two Lipizzaners, QHs, an Akhal Teke, and various ponies, and I've never met a horse yet that I considered to be difficult, useless, or a waste of time.
Interesting take. So are you saying the trainer is wrong for not wanting to take T/B'S as driving horses?
You also made much mention of John Lyons. I'm not really aware of his work, so perhaps you could help me, which hot blood driving horses has he trained?
And how would you train the hot bloods to drive and how did you find them? Or are you talking about riding horses and things in general??
Last edited by Thomas_1; Jun. 10, 2007 at 01:28 PM.