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Are Thoroughbreds Good Horses? Let’s Explore This Breed

Last updated: June 17, 2022

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

When you think about horse racing, the breed of horse that comes to mind is thoroughbred. These horses are legendary racers, but are they good horses?

Thoroughbreds are good horses; they have superb agility, fantastic speed, and an exceptional spirit. Although best known as racehorses, they excel in many other equine activities.

Thoroughbreds are feisty, athletic horses that can be used for multiple purposes. They are good horses, but are they the right horse for you?

Picture of a two year old thoroughbred in training

Thoroughbreds are intelligent and sensitive

Most Thoroughbreds are bred for speed and are athletic ability, but they’re also intelligent, and willing horses, which make them ideal for a variety of equine disciplines.

Sensitive horses are often misinterpreted as reactive or unruly. But once you develop a relationship with the horse, its intelligence and sensitive nature work to your advantage. (See my article on Seabiscuit, an extremely sensitive horse)

They react to riders’ subtle movements and have an uncanny ability to read situations and respond accordingly. For some riders, the horse can be overwhelming. They are intuitive horses that work best with a confident and steady person in the saddle.

This racing horse breed has an innate desire to win and please its rider. This desire is referred to as “heart.” Thoroughbreds are known to have heart, and when they understand what is being asked of them, they try to do it with all they have in them.

These horses are athletic, intelligent, and willing horses, which are characteristics that make them good at the racetrack and beyond.

Thoroughbreds are good show jumpers?

Thoroughbreds are good showjumpers, they are natural athletes and love to compete. A good showjumping horse must have a combination of courage and athletic ability. They must be able to clear high obstacles, negotiate sharp turns, and sprint.

Thoroughbreds are tall horses, the average Thoroughbred stands 16 hands and has a long neck, high withers, a lean body, and long legs. Their height and conformation are advantageous for running long distances and jumping fences.

The criticism of these natural racehorses on a jump course is they jump flat and quick. The criticism is likely justified because the horses are bred to race on flat tracks and carry their natural tendencies into the jumping arena.

Regardless of nitpicking, they are excellent jumpers, and many have competed at the highest levels. And most top showjumpers have Thoroughbred in their pedigrees.

The top nine jumping horses in 2019 have at least 50 percent Thoroughbred blood; however, the first place in a lineage that a full Thoroughbred shows up is in the fifth generation.

Thoroughbreds are good dressage horses.

Dressage is a competitive art form that displays a horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to perform. A rider and horse must carry out a series of movements from memory while in an arena.

These horses have a willingness to learn and desire to please, which makes them perfect horses for dressage competition. They have reached the highest levels of competitive dressage. Sea Lord, an ex-racehorse, became a Grand Prix dressage horse.

With patience and a light touch, they can be outstanding dressage horses and a lot of fun to compete with. Remember, horses are individuals, so know what to look for when choosing a natural-born racehorse for dressage.

You want a horse that displays the purity of his gait, the looseness, and freedom of movement, and an uphill way of going. These traits will make training your horse far easier than if you choose to start any random horse.

Picture of a two year old thoroughbred in training

Thoroughbreds aren’t typically good for beginners?

A good horse for a beginner has an even temperament and doesn’t easily spook. Remember, safety is paramount when purchasing a horse for an inexperienced rider.

However, there are great resources for beginners who want to try a Thoroughbred. Retired racehorse rescues retrain horses off the track in various equine disciplines. (You can click the link to learn more about retired racehorses)

Respected rescue agencies put horses through a rigorous process and can tell you if they have any Thoroughbreds they deem safe enough for a beginner rider.

Rescue volunteers start working with the horses shortly after they arrive from the track. The horses are ridden often, making their transition from racer to pleasure riding. As the horse advances, they are introduced to other equine activities, such as jumping or dressage.

A rescue agency’s goal is to place a horse in the best environment possible. They do not want to put you or the horse at risk for injury. If you are patient, a rescue agency can likely match you with an excellent Thoroughbred.

Three agencies with excellent reputations are CANTER Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program. 

Other organizations offer similar services, but these groups have a sustained model that has shown success over a long period. You can also contact the horse humane society for information about horse rescues in your area.

Picture of horses

Thoroughbreds aren’t typically good for trail riding

Some Thoroughbreds can be good trail riding horses; however, you need to pick the right one. Most people enjoy trail riding as a means to relax. Hot-blooded horses, like Thoroughbreds, are typically not ideal for a peaceful ride in the woods.

Trail riding is a popular outdoor past-time for horse lovers around the world. As the term states, it involves riding your horse on paths or trails. Trail rides could include rides through mountains, on beaches, or down a bridle path, really just about anywhere outdoors.

Unless you are an experienced rider of hot-blooded horses, Thoroughbreds aren’t an ideal horse breed for trail riding. Thoroughbreds are intelligent, energetic horses that enjoy working and training.

Because of these traits, they need to be ridden with authority, or they will frustrate quickly. However, an experienced hand will find them easy to control and are very responsive. Thoroughbreds demand competent guidance and will exhibit their displeasure when left wanting.

Overall, Thoroughbreds are good horses!

Thoroughbreds are fast, athletic, versatile, and intelligent. When ridden by an experienced hand, they can do almost anything. However, because of their high spirit, they are not the best breed for inexperienced riders.

Check out the YouTube video below to learn more about Thoroughbred horses.

YouTube video

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