Thoroughbreds in Sport 

Boyd Martin, aboard off track thoroughbred, Blackfoot Mystery, competes in the Stadium Jumping Finals for the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event. Blackfoot Mystery would go on to represent the United States of America at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. (photo by Samantha Bussanich/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)

Boyd Martin, aboard off track thoroughbred, Blackfoot Mystery, competes in the Stadium Jumping Finals for the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event. Blackfoot Mystery would go on to represent the United States of America at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. (photo by Samantha Bussanich/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)

A thoroughbred’s racing career can last anywhere from two to five years on average, but sometimes older horses can still race and win at the lower levels. Inevitably, all horses come upon retirement at some point. Those who are not a good fit for breeding due to their physical build or their bloodlines will often go on to find new careers as performance horses.

As a whole, the thoroughbred breed is known for their speed, honesty, and versatility, making them an ideal candidate for the sport of eventing. Eventing is a three-phase competition comprising of dressage (a sort of “ballet” on horseback), cross country, and stadium jumping. Cross country and stadium jumping are both jumping phases with cross country being in the open over natural-looking obstacles. Stadium jumping is in an arena using bright and colorful jumps; both phases are timed and refusals or knocked down rails are penalized. Because of the varied phases that comprise the sport, the thoroughbred is an ideal candidate due to their ability to carry speed over long distances, as well as their versatility. Many eventers will take thoroughbreds right off of the track, sometimes for free or for a small purchase price, to transition them into new careers.

Another group of people who embrace the thoroughbred are hunters and jumpers, especially at the lower levels. Hunters is a class that is judged solely on the horse, how he moves, and how well he jumps over natural looking-obstacles. Jumpers is a timed class over a course of colorful jumps. Several of the bigger hunter/jumper shows offer special divisions for thoroughbreds for the purpose of promoting thoroughbreds in the sport. In years past, thoroughbreds were favored over the currently popular European warmbloods. Thankfully, with awareness from both riders and show officials, thoroughbreds are starting to be en vogue once more.

A small sect of thoroughbreds have been used for western sports such as barrel racing and even team penning (a western sport used to sort cattle). Many also go on to become quiet and trustful trail horses for people who enjoy horses for pleasure.