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Can we get the substance back?

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  • Can we get the substance back?

    Another discussion on COTH got me thinking. Someone was mentioning about their horses lineage that was pretty far back. Another poster responded that the lineage was too far back to have merit on the present TB. The early TB sires that shaped the TB breeding and racing industry (ex. Princequillo, Native Dancer, Bull Lea, Man O' War (and many many others) seemed to have more substance, stronger bones aka the "old Thoroughbred" look.
    TB breeders have been breeding "down" (not referring to height but to bone) fueling the demand to make a lighter horse that will have more speed.

    My question is: Is there a "point of no return"? If the industry were to change, will we be able to get that "substance" back into our TB? If so, where do you begin?
    Last edited by scpezold; Feb. 24, 2009, 06:22 PM. Reason: spelling

  • #2
    Originally posted by scpezold View Post
    ...If so, where do you bagin?
    Breed for racing (preferably with some distance in mind!) instead of sales.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by scpezold View Post
      The early TB sires that shaped the TB breeding and racing industry (ex. Princequillo, Native Dancer, Bull Lea, Man O' War (and many many others) seemed to have more substance, stronger bones aka the "old Thoroughbred" look.
      TB breeders have been breeding "down" (not referring to height but to bone) fueling the demand to make a lighter horse that will have more speed.

      My question is: Is there a "point of no return"? If the industry were to change, will we be able to get that "substance" back into our TB? If so, where do you begin?
      I would absolutely disagree with your premise. I've been looking at Thoroughbreds in person since the 1950s--those that were alive before then I've only seen in pictures--but I've seen a lot of horses over a lot of years. I don't think that the majority of today's horses have less substance than those that came earlier nor do I agree that breeders are breeding for light bone. Certainly none of the breeders I know (probably more than a hundred or so) would agree with you about that. Could you please supply some facts to support your statements?
      www.laurienberenson.com

      Comment


      • #4
        I agree with LaurieB. Not only do I not know any breeder trying to breed a lightboned horse, but I don't know any buyers looking for them. What sells the best at the sales are big, powerful horses - the lighter, more refined horses (for the most part) do not do as well.

        When you want to produce a speed horse, you look for a big hip, powerful rear end, big shoulder, etc. - and the frame and underpinnings to carry all that mass. I don't know anyone that actively looks for the light horses.

        Comment


        • #5
          I measured the bone on my three tbs for galloping boots and got: 8 1/4", 8 1/2", and 9 1/4". None of these horses is above 16 hands, making them pretty substantial. Yes, I've seen twiggy tbs, but that has been the exception more than the rule.

          The fact is, racing tbs have always broken down and for a multitude of reasons. But because no records were kept on how and why they broke down, we really have no historical perspective to shape our current opinions. Much of what we believe is assumption based in guesswork, not fact. Now the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium is trying to keep records on horses breaking down and that will contribute to more educated assumptions in the future. Even with that it's just about impossible to discern the degree to which genetics, environment or a combination of the two caused the breakdown.
          Last edited by SEPowell; Feb. 25, 2009, 01:44 PM. Reason: edited to add an omitted word

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by SEPowell View Post
            The fact is, racing tbs have always broken down and for a multitude of reasons. But because no records were kept on how and they broke down, we really have no historical perspective to shape our current opinions. Much of what we believe is assumption based in guesswork, not fact.
            Thank you.
            Anyone who reads contemporary accounts of racing of ye olden days will see that plenty of horses brokedown back then.

            If anything I'd say TBs have gotten stouter and bulkier than 60-70 years ago, which is probably in no small part due to Northern Dancer's ability to pass his phenotype to many of his sons and they likewise to theirs.

            Comment


            • #7
              FWIW, I don't see many horses today with anything but zeros as the last two numbers which represent stamina and endurance. I don't think many breeders are taking that into consideration when they make their breeding choices. I believe that is to the detriment of the horse industry.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by trakmom View Post
                FWIW, I don't see many horses today with anything but zeros as the last two numbers which represent stamina and endurance. I don't think many breeders are taking that into consideration when they make their breeding choices. I believe that is to the detriment of the horse industry.
                On the other hand, I don't know any serious breeder who puts much stock in dosage numbers.

                While several of the premier distance races have been shortened, at the same time you also no longer see many 2f races and there are fewer TBs running the 870. So, I don't think it's completely accurate to say we're decreasing the modern TB's stamina.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by SleepyFox View Post
                  So, I don't think it's completely accurate to say we're decreasing the modern TB's stamina.
                  I agree completely. A good example of a tb with zero dosage ratings in stamina and distance is Good Night Shirt, the 2007 and 2008 eclipse award winner in Steeplechasing. Steeplechase and hurdle horses typically run two or three miles.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by trakmom View Post
                    FWIW, I don't see many horses today with anything but zeros as the last two numbers which represent stamina and endurance. I don't think many breeders are taking that into consideration when they make their breeding choices. I believe that is to the detriment of the horse industry.

                    But why would anyone breed for stamina, when over 80% of all races in the US are a mile and under, and of the remaining 20% the vast majority of those are 8.5f or 9f, which for all intents and purposes are extended miles. The number of races run above that distance is tiny. It has ever been thus, except for a handful of distance races (like the 2m JCGC up until the 70's), US racing has always been about speed. The number of horses that will run longer than 9f in their careers is more or less confined to the elites that will contest a small number of G1 races (Derby, Pac Classic, Big Cap, BCC etc).

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Hey guys, sorry it took so long to respond. I have tried to find articles that are not from May 2008 (there are some). I am not trying to make this anther "Eight Bells thread". That is not my intention at all. I have just come across some articles and in some breeders are confirming the TB have become more fragile over the years due in part to line breeding and the quest for more speed. I do not want this to be a train wreck. I wrote this to get your thoughts on something that I perceive as a problem. If this is not the case and I am totally off base then lets do a hypothetical. Sorry I do not know how to properly quote from articles.

                      Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

                      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/11/sp...1breeding.html

                      http://www.chef-de-race.com/articles/mckeon.html
                      For instance, many believe that if real, long-term solutions are to be found, the industry must deal with breeding practices that some say have created inherent weaknesses in the bloodlines that lead to dangerous defects.

                      http://www.usatoday.com/sports/horse...s-reform_N.htm
                      Among the potential solutions mentioned most frequently:
                      - Breeding soundness into thoroughbreds, rather than speed. "We've crept to a less durable horse," said Larry Bramlage, a prominent equine orthopedic surgeon from Lexington. "... Now a horse's value as a stallion is determined principally by how brilliant they were in a few events, not how many years they ground it out."

                      http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/hammertime/archive/2008/05
                      /13/Soundness-of-Thoroughbreds.aspx
                      As Thoroughbred breeding has become more commercially-oriented over the years, it has become increasingly difficult for horsemen to put soundness ahead of such considerations as speed, precociousness, and the popularity with buyers of certain sires whose offspring are known for their brilliance but not their durability.
                      Unless The Jockey Club makes rules that prohibit the use of some animals with soundness and conformation issues as breeding stock, the hardiness of the Thoroughbred won't improve much, even with crackdowns on medication and improved racing surfaces.

                      http://www.horses-and-ponies.com/bre...oughbred.shtml
                      Due to the desire to increase speed by selective breeding it is possible that many Thoroughbreds have more muscle mass but decreased bone density. This causes a horse to be faster but also more fragile.

                      http://www.grayson-jockeyclub.org/ne...lkNZ122808.pdf
                      Questions over racehorse durability have focused on whether breeding practices have
                      played a part in the shortening of race careers.

                      http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/24468641/page/2/
                      In the old days of the sport, he wrote, horse owners bred the animals that they then raced themselves, often for several years. They had an interest in breeding animals that weren’t going to break down.Now, he wrote, breeding syndicates pay millions of dollars for the top sires and dams, then sell the offspring at auction. They have no long-term interest in animals they no longer own. And because of all the money to be made by breeding horses to be ever more fragile, they’re not looking to the future of the sport.
                      They do care that the horses are fast. Just as in a race car, the lighter you can make the frame, the quicker it will be. Over the years, thoroughbreds have gotten increasingly fragile as the breeders select for horses with less robust but lighter bone structure.

                      http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story
                      /0,22049,23745450-5006070,00.html
                      "Thoroughbreds are muscularly more powerful than ever but their bone skeletons seem to be getting lighter and more frail,'' she wrote.
                      Earlier this week, Headley Bell, a fifth-generation Kentucky horseman, conceded "we have weakened our breed''.
                      You have to realise that the whole breeding industry has changed in the last 24 years ... it changed from being the sport of those successful in business, to being a business.

                      http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniont...6injuries.html
                      While the scope of last year's tragedy at Del Mar was rare, the incident was part of a disturbing spike in the number of racehorse deaths around the nation. That spike, along with a slow but steady decline in the durability of horses since the 1950s, has racing officials and veterinarians questioning everything from breeding practices to training methods to track surfaces in their search for a solution.
                      Last edited by scpezold; Feb. 26, 2009, 11:45 PM. Reason: took out irrevelent parts of sentences and paragraphs

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Many of the sources you've cited are from non-industry media whose stories have proven repeatedly that they know little about horses or horse racing and a great deal about jumping quickly onto a sensationalistic bandwagon, ie: "Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins described Eight Belles as having "champagne-glass ankles''. A reporter may use any descriptive term he/ she likes to sell newspapers, it doesn't make the assertion true.

                        You also need to separate out the whole side issue of blaiming the permissive use of medication--as many of those articles do-- for the weakening of the breed. That has nothing to do with bone or lack thereof.

                        Citing the fact that TBs make fewer starts now than they did 30, 40, 50 years ago is a somewhat useless arguement. There are many many reasons for that which have nothing to do with the physical soundness of the horses: among them, the changing business model of the industry, and the enormous amount of money it now costs to keep a horse in training. For example, it costs me approx. 50K a year to race a horse. Therefore any horse that isn't earning that much (or showing the potential to increase its earnings) is retired. Again, that has nothing to do with a horse's soundness (or bone) and everything to do with me needing to run my stable like a business.
                        www.laurienberenson.com

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by LaurieB View Post

                          You also need to separate out the whole side issue of blaiming the permissive use of medication--as many of those articles do-- for the weakening of the breed. That has nothing to do with bone or lack thereof.

                          Citing the fact that TBs make fewer starts now than they did 30, 40, 50 years ago is a somewhat useless arguement.
                          I was trying to rush through quoting and did not break up some of the paragraphs and/or sentences. I also did not want to come across as picking through the sentences as though to make it appear skewed. The only thing I am concerned with is the fragility and lack of bone debate. Sorry 'bout that.
                          I will go back and change. Thanks!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I had to speak up whne I saw this thread. but there is more then just breeding involved when it comes to fatal breakdowns, JMHO
                            This article which evaluates the lineage of probably one of the best racehorses to grace an American track is pretty dead on with the breeding...Have you guys seen this?




                            RUFFIAN -

                            WHAT MADE HER GREAT MADE HER DIE


                            Was there ever anyone who saw the streak of black lightning known as Ruffian who did not love her? We think not. Nature seemed to know that there should never be another; her dam was barren to Reviewer when bred back to him.

                            Along with Ruffian’s greatness came great tragedy, of course. Some of it was man-made. She really did not need to run in a match race to prove her mettle. The race destroyed what should have been a promising stud career for Foolish Pleasure, as well, for there was an (idiotic) prejudice against him for ’winning’ the race after Ruffian broke down.

                            Twenty-twenty hindsight is a great thing, but there was most definitely some hint of what was to come when one considers that her sire Reviewer broke down three different times, and that her grandsire Native Dancer ran only 22 times at a time when horses routinely raced 40 and 50 times. We know now that it is Native Dancer whose bloodline is largely responsible for the fix we find ourselves in with the fragile modern Thoroughbred.

                            Reviewer’s entire female family, the Flitabout clan, has consistently thrown soft horses. Nothing was ever as bad as Reviewer, but Seeking the Gold, however gifted he may be as a progenitor, is just plain brittle. The family is trouble and it gets much of that trouble from Challenger II who appeared to throw a recessive soundness problem inherited from his paternal grandsire John O’Gaunt, and the mare Traverse. Traverse may be a purveyor of the so-called large heart gene, but if the legs cannot hold up the heart, it ends badly. Traverse could last only four starts and won not a one of them. Challenger II won his only two starts in Europe but failed to find the winner’s circle in eight U. S. efforts.

                            History tells us that Swynford’s sire line, even via a sire as well bred as Challenger II, was never very tough. Blandford, which was often used as an example of horrid forelegs, fared better in large part due to the Aga Khan’s use of him via *Blenheim II who in turn got *Mahmoud. Though *Mahmoud’s sire line is pretty well run out, any number of good horses, especially Halo sons, are likely to be inbred to him as he is a source of sound speed.

                            Ruffian’s bottom line also gives us more clues as to her eventual downfall. Traverse appears again and Ruffian is inbred to her via full siblings Traffic/Transmute on a 5 x 4 cross. The two unsound elements of Challenger II and Native Dancer also have something in common. Challenger II and Sickle’s dam Selene are very closely related. They are sired by half brothers Swynford and Chaucer and Challenger II’s broodmare sire Great Sport is a half brother to Selene’s dam Serenissima. This combination makes for a four-way cross of Pilgrimage (Canterbury Pilgrim x2/Loved One x2).

                            These explosive inbreeding combinations were both good and bad. And the bottom line of what Ruffian teaches us is the very basic truth that while inbreeding to great families (in her case Traverse and Pilgrimage) may strengthen a pedigree, attention must be paid to the individuals one is using for inbreeding. And that is where the ball was dropped.

                            Reviewer, let’s face it, should never have gone to stud. He was an accident waiting to happen. Shenanigans was a decent runner and from a good family, but you don’t cross Native Dancer on a horse like Reviewer. That is putting a match to the fire.

                            Sadly, it is Ruffian who paid the price. And as we know, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Nature has taken care of Reviewer for us; his bloodline is almost gone.

                            But in Seeking the Gold we have a horse who mixes the Bird Flower family with Native Dancer. No Reviewer blood is present, but three quarters of the formula is still there. And it’s still flammable. One of his stakes winners is a horse called Secret Savings whose second dam is by Reviewer! This ticking time bomb went to Australia to race thank heavens; we have enough soft bone in the U. S. already.

                            Keep in mind that Seeking the Gold has been bred to the very best mares in the world - they have a CI of 3.98! Mares who produce his foals will have the luxury of having their youngsters go to the very best trainers. If one of these individuals shows a minor problem, the fillies may be retired unraced since their catalogue pages will read well. If they are colts, they generally do best in Europe (Dubai Millennium, Lujain) where the going is softer and protects their fragile underpinnings. The only good thing about him at this point is that most of his best runners are fillies. His ’best’ son, Dubai Millennium, died young. With a little luck, not too many of his sons will go to stud and we will only have to worry about breeding around his daughters.

                            We all loved Ruffian and if there is any way to preserve her memory (other than banning match races), it is to consider what her pedigree teaches us. By all means, inbreed to great families. This is a priceless tool and one of the main reasons we publish Pedlines. But don’t inbreed mindlessly. You are creating a living thing.

                            Wouldn’t you rather have an inbred like Seattle Slew than Ruffian? Both had intriguing pedigrees, but the individuals used in Slew’s pedigree had the right kind of toughness needed to support the final result. So think before you sign that stallion contract or accept that mare into your stallion’s book. We’d love to see another Seattle Slew, but it would break our hearts to see another Ruffian.

                            Copyright © 2006, Ron & Ellen Parker. All Rights Reserved.
                            Mai Tai aka Tyler RIP March 1994-December 2011
                            Grief is the price we pay for love- Gretchen Jackson
                            "And here she comes. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's ZENYATTA!"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Ok, so I'll throw my 2 cents in here. First, I've known both Doc Harthill and Doc Copelan and both would tell you that there is less medication and illegal drugs used in horses now than in the past. The difference is that they can test for it now, and with the modern information technology, this information can be broadcast quicker and easier. It appears there is more drug use, but that's not necessarily fact. Secondly, I don't think we are breeding less sturdy thoroughbreds. My opinion is that the training has changed. Like Laurie B said, the entire business model of the industry has changed. Thoroughbreds are born with speed, it's the stamina you need to develop and stamina is expensive. There are also a lot more trainers out there that don't have a lick of horsemanship skills. Any moron can get a trainers license now and there are plenty of them out there.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Las Olas View Post
                                Ok, so I'll throw my 2 cents in here. First, I've known both Doc Harthill and Doc Copelan and both would tell you that there is less medication and illegal drugs used in horses now than in the past. The difference is that they can test for it now, and with the modern information technology, this information can be broadcast quicker and easier. It appears there is more drug use, but that's not necessarily fact.
                                Exactly. Despite popular Internet fallacy, drug use has significantly declined. Today it is much more difficult to get a questionably sound horse to the races - which has a direct impact on the number of starts. I think many of you would be very surprised at what used to be commonplace medications.

                                As for the number of starts a horse has - the expense really does play a big factor. It is getting harder and harder to keep a horse in training because the bills keep escalating. It is also getting harder to get horses in a race. Where I run, it is almost impossible to run more often than every 6 weeks. It doesn't mean my horses are unsound - they're ready to run, they just can't get in a race because we have so many horses trying to enter.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by SleepyFox View Post
                                  Exactly. Despite popular Internet fallacy, drug use has significantly declined. Today it is much more difficult to get a questionably sound horse to the races - which has a direct impact on the number of starts. I think many of you would be very surprised at what used to be commonplace medications.

                                  As for the number of starts a horse has - the expense really does play a big factor. It is getting harder and harder to keep a horse in training because the bills keep escalating. It is also getting harder to get horses in a race. Where I run, it is almost impossible to run more often than every 6 weeks. It doesn't mean my horses are unsound - they're ready to run, they just can't get in a race because we have so many horses trying to enter.
                                  What's the average field size in your neck of the woods... 12, 14 horse fields?
                                  I see an awful lot of races around the country with 7 or 8 horse fields, hard to believe they are oversubscribed.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Drvmb1ggl3 View Post
                                    What's the average field size in your neck of the woods... 12, 14 horse fields?
                                    I see an awful lot of races around the country with 7 or 8 horse fields, hard to believe they are oversubscribed.
                                    The average depends on which track and how big of a gate they have. I'm not sure Evangeline has an average of 14 horse fields, but it is very, very common. You seldom see short fields here, except at the very top levels. And, drawing in is a real issue.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by SleepyFox View Post
                                      The average depends on which track and how big of a gate they have. I'm not sure Evangeline has an average of 14 horse fields, but it is very, very common. You seldom see short fields here, except at the very top levels. And, drawing in is a real issue.
                                      Fair enough, not being able to get into a race may be an issue where you are, however looking at the paltry fields in many other places it's hard to believe that not being able to find a race is a big reason horses run less.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Drvmb1ggl3 View Post
                                        Fair enough, not being able to get into a race may be an issue where you are, however looking at the paltry fields in many other places it's hard to believe that not being able to find a race is a big reason horses run less.
                                        You might be surprised to know how many horses in KY take the most of the months of April, May, June, and October and November off--because that's when Keeneland and Churchill are open and unless owner and trainer are willing to ship out of state, the most you can hope for is 1 start, if you're lucky.

                                        One year we had a 2YO filly looking for a MSW. When Keeneland opened in October there were 85 2YO fillies trying to get into the same race we were--and most weren't even that fussy about the distance, because none of us could afford to be. We all just wanted to run. It took until the end of the Churchill meet for all those fillies to cycle through and get 1 chance to run.
                                        www.laurienberenson.com

                                        Comment

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