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Equestrian Advice & Guides Beginners Advice
Of all the breeds of horse to have perhaps the greatest and most far reaching influence on not just other breeds but the development of the modern sports horse, the Thoroughbred must take the accolade. As the supreme equine athlete, the Thoroughbred is beyond compare and it is for this reason that its influence can be found in so many other breeds and cross breeds.
During the last century, the Thoroughbred was exported to Europe to introduce lightness and quality to modern warmblood breeds; Thoroughbred influence is found everywhere amongst modern continental warmblood sport horses. In the UK, the Thoroughbred has also been a popular choice for similar reasons, to cross with the heavier draught and Irish draught horses, to produce a faster animal with a lighter frame whilst still retaining the power of the heavier breed. And there is also evidence of Thoroughbred blood in some of the British native ponies such as the Welsh Sections A and B.
Crosses can be split fifty fifty or there can be a dominance of the Thoroughbred element often seen with event horses where the speed and the endurance qualities of the Thoroughbred are needed in more than equal measure. It is therefore not uncommon to find horses which are 7/8 TB (usually the remaining 1/8 is Irish Draught or sometimes Shire) or described as three quarter bred. This is where one parent is full Thoroughbred and the other is a Thoroughbred crossed with another breed. The Thoroughbred crossed with some of the UK’s larger native breeds of pony has long been regarded as making for a fantastic small competition horse suitable for a teenager or small adult.
Registration of a Thoroughbred cross would largely depend on the chosen route for that particular horse. Full Thoroughbreds are registered with Weatherbys who oversee the racing Thoroughbred in the UK but there are a number of different options for a Thoroughbred cross. A TB x Irish Draught for example could be registered in the part bred section of the Irish Draught Register or, as what may be described as an Irish Sports Horse, registration could be sought with an organisation such as Sports Horse Breeding of Great Britain which would bring a variety of breeds and cross breeds under its umbrella. The Thoroughbred crossed with Irish Draught is often now described as an Irish Sports Horse; this term can include a multitude of breeding lines. Using the term Irish Sports Horse is a bit like using the description “sports car”; there are many types and specific brands or in this case breeds, that fall within it. A native pony crossed with a Thoroughbred could go into the part-bred register of that native pony society studbook. But remember, a crossbred TB could potentially register with several different organisations and it is possible to register principally with one body and then have that horse’s passport recognised and overstamped by other equine groups. Registration is driven principally by what the horse is destined to do be it breeding or competition and how much of its parentage is documented.
It is important to remember that whilst the Thoroughbred is an excellent choice of breed to make a first cross with many other breeds of horse, it does, like all horses, have some conformational issues that are less than desirable, principally foot structure. Some Thoroughbreds exhibit a flat foot with low and underrun heels so despite their prowess as an equine athlete, the old adage of “no foot no horse” still holds true.
Cross breeding like all breeding, is challenging. A Thoroughbred cross Irish Draught or a Thoroughbred cross New Forest pony may not present as straight fifty fifty split. The outcome may lean towards one breed more than the other and can also pick up traits for animals further back down the breed lines. It is therefore important to remember if you are breeding to “breed up” and try always to cross the best, with the best. There is never any guarantee genetically of the outcome and it would be a shame...