An Introduction To Thoroughbreds

Dark Bay Thoroughbred Running In A Field

July 22, 2022

Many people still believe the stigma which hangs over a thoroughbred’s head. Whilst some of them can be fiery and hot headed, many ex-racers out there have been known to be successful in the outside world in whichever discipline they have been put in. 

This blog will give you a great introduction to the breed and will answer some of the many questions you have surrounding them and the stigma attached to them…so sit back and enjoy the ride!

In This Blog: 

History Of The Thoroughbred

The thoroughbred can be traced back as far as the 17th century in Great Britain. This breed started with three foundation stallions which were imported over. These stallions included the Godolphin Arab, the Byerley Turk, and the Darley Arab.

They were put to native English mares, and this is where the thoroughbred came from. Nearly all the modern thoroughbreds out there today can be traced back to one of these three stallions. 

With lots of selective breeding from these three stallions with selected mares, the thoroughbred was introduced which was strong, quick, and had enough stamina to race. 

As the years have gone on, more and more selective breeding has taken place which has produced some of the famous racehorses we know today.

Breed Overview

Height 15.2hh – 16.3hh
Weight 450kg – 600kg
Lifespan 25 – 30 years old
Colour Bay, Grey, Chestnut, Black

Whilst these weights and heights are average, don’t worry if your thoroughbred is on the heavier side of this. It can all depend on how tall your thoroughbred is or if they are compact or broad for a thoroughbred.

We understand that it can be a struggle with some thoroughbreds keeping their weight on over the winter.

So, if they are going into winter on the heavier side, this is perfectly acceptable. Just don’t allow them to become too overweight which can result in different health issues arising.



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Weight Carriers



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Stigma Around Thoroughbred’s And Ex Racehorses

Unfortunately, thoroughbreds have managed gain stigma around their name due to their fiery and quirky personality.

But not all thoroughbreds are like this, in fact most thoroughbreds are great horses to own and can take you a very long way!

Ex Racehorses Are Too Feisty To Handle

You may have watched films with thoroughbreds in or maybe you have seen them misbehaving at the races. We agree that this can give you the impression that they are too fiery and hot headed to handle in day-to-day life. But what you see on films is quite often very different from the real world.

Of course, there may be some thoroughbred’s out there which are very hot-headed the majority of the time, and it isn’t uncommon for them to show their fiery personality.

However, this can be the same for any breed of horse, even the most chilled out breeds.

Remember, horses are not machines and they do have a mind of their own which makes them unpredictable, no matter the circumstances.

When you see a thoroughbred at a race and they are getting worked up, they are usually not misbehaving. They have a lot of adrenaline pumping around their body and the races are very often busy with lots going on which will cause them to be on their toes.

They are trained to run, and this is what they are about to do…so it’s only natural that they are excited!

Thoroughbreds Are Walking Vet Bills

Owning any breed of horse is always going to have the possibility of seeing the vet more times than you see your friends and family. Whether this is a thoroughbred or a Shetland pony, all our horses are susceptible to vet trips.

However, a thoroughbred may seem to be more accident prone as they have delicate fine legs which don’t have much protection if they have a knock.

They are also used to living within a very strict routine in racing yards, so any change to their routine can send them into a frenzy.

Certain ex racers can be more prone to vet bills if they have raced for an excessive amount of time over a long career, or they have sustained any injuries whilst in racing.

If you are interested in rehoming, try to gather as much information as you possibly can and get them from a reputable trainer.

Whether this is straight off the track or from a retired racehorse trainer who specialises in turning racers into riding horses.

You Can’t Let A Novice On A Thoroughbred

Due to their history, many people may think that an ex-racer is not suitable for a child, novice, or complete beginner. This is false!

There are many horses and ponies out there which include Welsh’s, Connemara’s, and even Shetlands. Some Shetlands can be a law unto themselves and may be wilder than any thoroughbred.

There are numerous thoroughbreds out in homes today which are brilliant baby-sitters for children who want to have a pootle around on their parent’s horse or maybe they are helping a beginner learn how to ride.

All Thoroughbreds Are The Same

Some thoroughbreds will not even reach the racetrack as they may be too slow in training, or they have been bred for a different purpose. Just because they are a thoroughbred doesn’t automatically mean that they have experienced the racing life.

These thoroughbreds will not know any different from what they have been brought up around.

In fact, many thoroughbreds which have raced can be a lot less spooky due to experiencing more interactions and stimulation at a young age.

What Are Thoroughbreds Doing After Racing?

There are so many successful thoroughbreds out there today who have turned their hoof to a new career.

Many racehorses today have changed their career to eventing and they have been quite successful at both the lower level and the higher levels.

One of these successful racehorses was Boyd Martins, Blackfoot Mystery, which successfully achieved Boyd’s ultimate dream of competing in the Olympic games in Brazil. He has since stepped down from the higher-level competitions after being sold on to a lower level eventer.

Other careers which our thoroughbreds have turned too can include show jumping, drag hunting, polo, and showing.

They even have their own classes at showing shows such as Horse of The Year Show in the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse.  

If you own a retired racehorse, you will be eligible to sign up with RoR (Retraining of Racehorses) which is an official charity which specialises in the welfare of horses who have retired from racing. They hold training and competitions in many different disciplines which are catered to ex racehorses.

Becoming a part of RoR, you will be joining a family which can help and support your through your journey of retraining whilst having access to competitions, training sessions, and training camps. This can be a great thing for you to do!

Throughout the years of racing there has been a number of racehorses which have been particularly successful throughout their racing career by winning multiple races and racking up an impressive amount of prize money:

Red Rum

We are going to start with one of the most famous racehorses to have ever graced this planet.

You may recognise Red Rum from the painting of “We Three Kings” which also include Desert Orchid and Arkle. This painting is said the be the three champion thoroughbred’s.

During his career, Red Rum won over £146,000 in prize money and was known for his incredible jumping ability, after not falling in 100 races. To this day he is still the only horse which managed to win the grand national 3 times. 

Desert Orchid

Another one of the championship racehorses, Desert orchid won 34 races out of the 70 starts throughout his career. Winning an astounding £654,066 in prize money.

Whilst he was a great racehorse, he was never entered into the Grand National held at Aintree due to how popular and loved he was by the public.

Kauto Star

Coming back to modern day, Kauto Star is hard to miss off this list of memorable racehorses. After winning five King George VI Chase and 2 Cheltenham Gold Cups, he earned an impressive £3,775,883!

Once he retired, he went on to live with event rider Laura Collett. Unfortunately, before he could become the next best thing in the ridden world, he sustained a life changing injury whilst out in the field and sadly had to be euthanized. 


Finally, the very famous Shergar. Not only is he famous for his races, but he’s also famous for his disappearance in 1983. 

Before he was stolen, he won 6 out of 8 races and this was all in one year of 1981. Due to how successful his racing career had been, he was retired in Ireland.

Unfortunately, he was then stolen, and a ransom was put out. Some people believe the IRA (Irish Republic Army) was responsible for this, but no evidence was ever found to prove this nor was his body. To this day, it’s still a mystery…

Any breed of horse can have their own quirks and personalities. No two horses are the same and it doesn’t matter what breed they are, they can all have that fiery side to them.

Thoroughbreds can be great horses to own if you understand them and work with them instead of against them, you will also learn a lot.

Offer your horse their basic care and attention and meet their required needs and you should have a horse which is willing to be your partner and friend!

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