Happy Birthday, Thoroughbreds!

According to the Jockey club a thoroughbred’s birthday is considered to be January 1st (Unless you’re in the southern hemisphere).  Fortunately I know the true birthdays of my three amigos so I will be able to celebrate them as the individuals they are, but it gives us a good discussion about thoroughbreds, the Jockey Club, and some things you might not yet know.

  • The average gestation for a horse is 320-370 days; that is about eleven months to a year.
  • The average thoroughbred foal is about 100 pounds, about 10% of the mare’s weight.  Remember horses can’t really get off their feet, they don’t sit to relieve the pressure.  Can you imaging carrying that around with you 24/7 for a year?  Too little love is given to the broodmares that carry these prized foals.

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  • All thoroughbred racehorses are registered through the Jockey Club.  In order to be recognized and registered each foal must be a product of a live breeding.  While many horse breeders use artificial insemination as a means to breed horses separated by many miles the Jockey Club says this is a major “no, no.”  Too many things can go wrong with A.I. through shipping; it’s difficult to prove that the stallion is in fact the stallion that was used. Therefore thoroughbred mares travel to the stallion’s farm for the “live cover.”

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  • The foal’s parents must also be registered in the American Stud Book or an approved foreign stud book, and all horses including the foal need to be genetically typed (or re-DNA typed).  This was very useful with Vai Via and Zeno Bay since they were pulled from a kill pen at age 20.  By this age the lip tattoos become illegible and the DNA test is the only way we are able to identify them.  Beginning in 2017 thoroughbreds are now microchipped.  They also receive a tattoo in the upper lip.  The tattoo begins with a letter associated with the year of birth.  For example 2017’s letter is U, 2018 is V, and 2019 will be W. After the letter comes six numbers.  When this number is researched you’ll get a full description of the horse including it’s markings and even its cowlicks.

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  • Once the thoroughbred foal is born it is assigned a birth-date….January 1st.  It doesn’t matter that it was born in April or May, it’s birthday remains January 1st.
  • If you live in the southern hemisphere that birthday is August 1st (New Zealand and Australia).
  • This means that all thoroughbred racehorses will turn 2 or 3 on the same day.  To give the foals the best start possible most breeders will aim to have the foal born as close to January as possible.  The closer to January it is born the more developed it will be.

What kills me is that this means some horses are racing with jockeys on their backs at only eighteen months old.  Don’t get me started on the racing industry or I will tell you how I really feel!

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  • In 2018 21,500 thoroughbred foals were produced in North America.  This is good news since the number was doubled in 1990.
  • Over-breeding is a major contributor to the  nearly 20,000 thoroughbreds that make it to slaughter every year.  I don’t intend to make this article preaching about slaughter, but while we are discussing breeding it is a situation that MUST be given attention as the two go hand-in-hand.  It SHOULD BE the responsibility of everyone involved to ensure a quality of life for their horses.  From the breeder, the owner, the trainer, the aftercare SHOULD BE of great concern.  Unfortunately the grim reality we see is the owners considering these magnificent beings as business deals.  Commodities.  Most owners never even meet their horses so they throw them away to unload their financial burden.

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  • The thoroughbred lineage can be traced back to three foundations sires: The Darley Arabian, The Godolphin Barb, and the Byerly Turk. This dates back to late 1600s/early 1700s.
  • The Darley Arabian sired a horse named Eclipse whose Y chromosome can be found in 95% of today’s thoroughbred male horses.
  • The General Stud Book in America was lost during the Civil War so from 1913-1949 the Jersey Act only allowed horses from previous editions of the stud book to be registered.  This limited the breed harshly.
  • The Jockey Club has controlled thoroughbred breeding since 1894
  • Mr. Prospector sired 1195 foals.
  • The highest stud fee to date has been reported at almost $700,000 to Galileo.
  • In America the current highest stud fee is for Tapit at $300,000, American Pharoah is $200,000

Thoroughbreds are amazing creatures.  Just ask the three amigos in my backyard.  The thoroughbred industry is a little wacky but without it I would not have these horses in my life.  Today is their Jockey Club birthday so Happy Fake Birthday fellas!

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7 Comments

  1. Such an interesting post! i had a TB off the track when I was 16. I went to the track to try hi and asked them to place a couple of straw bales where I could jump them. They said he’d never jumped before but he did it. So I bought him ( well my Dad paid for him) and it was steep learning curve for the first few months. A few years later I was at university and couldn’t keep on riding ( time/money) so I sold him and he went off to California and did well in the hunter ring. TBs are great horses I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. TBs are wonderful and can excel at anything put in front of them. I’m glad you had a good experience with one, what a cool story that you could jump an OTTB straight off the track. How fearless we are when we’re young, right?

      Liked by 1 person

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