Holly Payne Caravella, an international eventing competitor and trainer, tells Practical Horseman why she is devoted to the Thoroughbred breed.
Thoroughbreds were ideally suited to the classic three-day eventing format, which included both roads-and-tracks and steeplechases phases in addition to the traditional cross-country, dressage and showjumping. With natural endurance, the Thoroughbred dominated this older style of eventing competition.
When eventing eliminated the steeplechase and roads-and-tracks phases, Warmbloods began to infiltrate the upper-level ranks.
Holly says that Thoroughbreds are often not as flashy in their movement as their Warmblood counterparts, which can negatively affect their dressage scores. Additionally, Warmbloods often don’t have to be as well-trained as Thoroughbreds to excel in the dressage and showjumping phases.
Eventing competitors are now seeking out “crossbreds” (Warmbloods with Thoroughbred blood), but many riders are truly interested in the horse’s breeding – they want to be sure their mount has enough Thoroughbred blood to be competitive in the cross-country phase.
Holly finds most Thoroughbreds easier to train than Warmbloods; they are more spatially aware of their bodies, their brains work quickly and they tend to stay naturally fit with less conditioning. Though Thoroughbreds can be more sensitive, this can become an advantage once a relationship is established, she explains.
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Thoroughbreds are making a comeback in competition rings in a big way. Holly says programs like the Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Incentive Program and the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover are highlighting what great athletes these horses can be.
This is a positive thing, she notes, driving up the price of retired racehorses, which in turn is a boon for horse welfare. It encourages racehorse owners to potentially race the horses a bit less in an effort to retire them sound and encourage a post-racing riding career.
Click here to learn what Holly looks for in an eventing prospect.