Convincing people of the need for thoroughbred blood in the event horse is the easy bit in this series of articles. Ireland has been the World Breeding Federation number one country for event horses for the past 14 years with horses that are almost exclusively 3/4 to full thoroughbred, as have been the majority of the greatest event horses in history. The key component and value of the TB is obviously speed……and safety.


Cross-country horses must be able to gallop and jump well within their maximum speed for safety reasons. This is possible with a thoroughbred or 3/4 bred. However if a horse has to go close to their maximum speed then the margin for error is reduced, the scope of the vertical jump reduced and they are almost certain to tire more quickly. Modern cross-country courses suit the TB, because with frequent sections requiring a show jumping speed or even slower a much faster cruising speed is needed for the rest of the course. This applies to horses at all levels and is particularly important to riders who compete predominantly at novice level and slightly above. This is a vital point as most people do not ride at an elite level.

When this is combined with the thoroughbred’s higher proportion of fast twitch muscles, and ability to function anaerobically (without the use of oxygen), I believe the thoroughbred is undoubtedly the safest option as a breed for cross country…although adding some X factor with a dash of native breed or pony blood is also probably of real benefit.


I have spent far too many hours researching the breeding of the most successful event horses over the last fifty years. It shows strongly not only the continuing vital importance of having a majority of thoroughbred blood but also the extraordinary strong genetic connections between these horses. It has also thrown up a number of wonderful stories. The story of the thoroughbred MERELY-A-MONARCH, ridden by Anneli Drummond Hay, winning first Burghley three day event as a six year old and then Badminton a year later in 1962 is well known, but there is so much more to tell. He won his first show jumping Grand Prix in the same year he won Badminton and was short listed for both the Horse Trials and Show Jumping for the Tokyo Olympics. Unsoundness stopped these dreams and he was directed to high level show jumping thereafter and was a regular member of the British team. He remains one of the handful of best event horses of all time.

What many people don’t know is that his dressage was also so good that Rosemary Springer, the five time German champion and Olympian, tried very hard to buy him as a dressage horse and later on in his life he was also short listed for the British senior dressage team! Now British dressage was hardly flourishing at this time but Rosemary Springer’s knowledge and eye as an international judge are unquestionable. So what a horse! But there’s more…his sire HAPPY MONARCH (whose grandsire was Pharos and great grandsire was Son-In-Law) became one of the first recognised great event horse sires, but Merely-A-Monarch’s dam was a pony...believed to be a thoroughbred crossed with a Fell pony. (X factor once again.) A pony whose temperament was so appalling that after Merely-A-Monarch was weaned they put her down. So much for professional assessment! (In my experience this sort of extreme bad behaviour is usually related to cronic pain.)


Happy Monarch also sired the individual Gold Medalist in the Munich Olympics, Lauriston, and continues to influence horse trials breeding at the highest level through his sons Just-A-Monarch, who is the sire of Andrew Hoy’s top horse Master Monarch, and Rock King. So Merely-A-Monarch joins the handful of horses that have been successful at an advanced level in more than one discipline. Other examples are Durlas Eile, a grandson of Gainsborough, who won International show jumping classes with the Irish Army Equitation School before winning Badminton in 1965 with Eddie Boylan. Then after a long career in horse trials at the highest level they won an international dressage class in the UK. In more recent times the Irish bred thoroughbred Hand In Glove, the sire of Jaguar Mail, also competed in both international dressage and show jumping, winning at Prix St George level in dressage and competing at World Cup level in show jumping.


I am proud of finding the three Olympic horse trials medalists GILT EDGE (7/8 TB), CUSTOM MADE (3/4 TB) and BIKO (TB) for Karen and David O’Connor of the USA. Gilt Edge won more medals in championships than any other horse in USEA history, Custom Made was individual Gold medallist in the Sydney Olympics, and Bico was voted horse of the century by the USEA. In each case I was sure of their brilliance as young horses, however I paid very little attention to their breeding. It was not something I considered very important at that time. What is extraordinary is that when I did eventual compare their breeding I had a big surprise…..I discovered there was a strong similarity in their TB genes:

Phalaris x 4, Gainsborough x 2, Blandford x 2 ), Teddy x 1, Hurry On x 2 + (Rialto x 1)

Phalaris x 1, Gainsborough x 2, Blandford x 2, Teddy x 1, Hurry On x 1, + (Rialto x 2)

Phalaris x 6, Gainsborough x 3, Blandford x 2, Teddy x 1, + (Rialto x 2)

A great shot of Karen O’Connor with the full thoroughbred Biko, who I bought as a three year old with my brother John Micklem,

Certainly the right genes do not guarantee high level performance but it certainly increases your chance of success if the training is also high class. It is simply staggering how the same thoroughbred families keep reappearing in championship horses from ALL disciplines.


The favourite for the show jumping Gold Medal in advance of last years Hong Kong Olympics was LATINUS ridden by Ireland’s Dennis Lynch. Latinus failed a drug test and was unable to complete the competition but he remains one of the very best jumpers in the world. He is almost 60% thoroughbred, having Ladykiller as both a grandsire and great grandsire, and also having crosses of the thoroughbreds Anblick, Cottage Son and Manometer, and a cross of the incredible RAMZES.

Ramzes, 50% thoroughbred and 50% Arab, was not only sire of Raimond, the sire of Ramiro Z the show jumping super sire, but also of the influential Dutch jumping sire Rigoletto, and the hugely successful dressage stallion Radetzky. He therefore features in a huge dynasty of European showjumpers and dressage horses. He was also sire of Remus and Mariano, Harry Boldt and Joseph Neckermann's two great Olympic and World Championship dressage champions, and sire of those four great German jumping champion horses, Robin with Fritz Ligges, Retina ridden by Fritz Thiedemann, Romanus with Hans Günther Winkler and Ramona with Alwin Schockemöhle. Not a bad team for one stallion!


After Latinus’s disqualification at the Olympics most agree there were three outstanding horses left in the individual final…Shutterfly (50% TB), with Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, the eventual individual Gold medallist HICKSTEAD with Eric Lamaze, and IN STYLE with the incredible 61 year old Ian Millar. Both Hickstead and In Style are 43.75% thoroughbred, which is a lower percentage than many, but the thoroughbred genes they carry is the interesting thing. Hickstead’s dam carries the thoroughbred genes of three of my five Gods of the warm blood world, Lucky Boy, Furioso and Cottage Son, and his sire goes back to Hyperion & Phalaris among others. In Style also has crosses of 3 out of my five Gods, with two crosses of Rantzau, two of Ladykiller and three of Cottage Son.


In addition In Style’s grand dam on his sire’s side is Ribecka, whose sire is Calypso 1, one of the six famous Calypso full brothers sired by Cor de la Bryere the influential jumping sire. What is so interesting is that the dam of all these Calypso sires, Tabelle, is a full sister of Samei, who is the dam of GRANAT, Christine Stuckleburger’s great dressage champion and double European Gold Medalist. In addition Granat’s grand sire was Cottage Son…so there are strong genetic connections between the top Grand Prix showjumper In Style and the top Grand Prix dressage horse Granat.


…And there’s more…..Margot Otto Creppin’s famous European dressage champion CORLANDUS was also ‘jumper’ bred and a relation, being by Cor de la Bryere with the thoroughbreds Rantzau, Furioso, Ladykiller and Cottage Son close up in his pedigree. He was therefore just under 60% thoroughbred….the best jumping thoroughbred blood in a dressage horse that many judges consider to be one of the very best in dressage history.


The one other horse of this period who bears comparison with the champions of today was Reiner Klimke’s best dressage horse AHERLICH, who was World and Olympic champion.

…….A little digression because I think this is important regarding the training of our riders….Reiner Klimke remains one of the greatest dressage riders ever, however what many people don’t know was that he also competed internationally in both horse trials and show jumping. In three-day eventing he was German Eventing Champion in 1960 and European Eventing Champion in 1959. He participated in the 1960 Olympic Games of Rome as an event rider and with his 18th individual place he was the best German combination. In addition a victory in the Berlin show jumping Grand Prix proved his exceptional all round ability although he is quoted as saying that “the best test of riding ability is the three day event.”……

Back to the main story….Although Klimke and Ahlerich competed in the 1980’s much of their work is still available on film so the quality of his work is there to be seen. Aherlich’s piaffe and passage, the quality of all his paces, and his overall athleticism were all exceptional, yet as we now know he was half thoroughbred, being out of the thoroughbred Angelo, also grandsire of that ball of beautiful energy and Olympic and World champion, Rembrandt, ridden by Nicole Uphoff.


…And there’s more…..RAVEL, this year’s winner of both the World Cup in Las Vegas and the Aachen Grand Prix, has a grand sire called Contender….. and Contender is by Calypso 11, the jumping sire and full brother of all the famous Calypso jumping sires who are related to Ian Millar’s In Style! In addition Ravel carries the thoroughbred genes of Rantzau, Furioso Ladykiller and Cottage Son. Now where did I hear this before?


And another connection…OLYMPIC COCKTAIL, the Olympic champion with Anky van Grunsven and hugely successful Dutch sire of dressage horses, including the top rated stallion Jazz, shares a grand sire, the thoroughbred Le Val Blanc, with…… Hickstead, as well as having Furioso close up in his breeding! Hickstead's dam sire Ekstein, stood in Ireland at Tom Reed's innovative Morningside Stud before his death last year. He is a big loss to Irish show jumping breeding, but they also stand two of his sons and the very successful jumper Condios at Morningside Stud. Condios, with three crosses of Ladykiller and both Lord and Cor de la Bryere in his pedigree, has top young horses competing in all three disciplines and looks set to make a major contribution to elite breeding.

....And a brief final connection as I look up Anky Van Grunsen’s web site…her Grand Prix stallion Krack C has a cross of Lucky Boy and Rantzau, three of Ladykiller, and a little pinch of Cottage Son! This is the great Ladykiller...four crosses of Chaucer, two of Pharlaris, two of the Tetrarch and one of Hyperion... and extraordinary spinal flexibility.


Now I do not set out to search for these connections…they are everywhere. They offer compelling evidence that there is a much closer connection between top warmblood showjumping and dressage breeding than many would admit and the connection is often the thoroughbred element. As these same thoroughbred genes are also in the event horses it puts a new value and level of importance on this thoroughbred blood. You will remember I started the second part of this series with the story of the breeding of current top event sire CAVALIER ROYALE, who is more than half thoroughbred, with thoroughbred genes largely made up of those four thoroughbred gods, Furioso, Cottage Son, Rantzau, & Ladykiller.


1 - What a small world it is.
2 - The multi- discipline approach to breeding already exists.
3 - What heart this should give to those with breeding stock with BOTH top performance and these genes.

Happy Days. William


Next week….the final part of this series….more surprising facts about Dressage and the thoroughbred…..plus a little summing up and some thoughts on the future. Thank you for staying with me in such numbers on this one…it is extremely gratifying that so many care about this subject.

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Comment by William Micklem on August 21, 2009 at 7:57pm
You have a story and you have a belief ...keep going on behalf of these thoroughbreds....William
Comment by lisa rasmuson on August 21, 2009 at 7:30pm
super, glad to hear that : ) besides the initial training of the race horse, another important issue is retiring them soundly so they can go on to other careers. bobbie, my ottb, retired after he fractured a pelvis and blew out a suspensory. he came my way after being passed between 2 homes. his breeders had him his entire racing career, kept him for 8 months after retiring him, and then sent him to a dealer to be sold. the dealer called me prior to taking some ottbs to an auction. bobbie was one of the ottbs headed to a very notorious auction we have out our way in the new jersey area. so, bobbie has been a big inspiration for me and the primary reason why i am so involved with ottb rescue.
Comment by William Micklem on August 21, 2009 at 2:59am
Thank you Lisa...your point about horses off the track is so important and very closely related to this is improving the way race horses are trained initially,,,regarding this week being my last blog on this subject you will be glad to hear I had too much to say so there will be an extra blog next week...happy days..William
Comment by lisa rasmuson on August 20, 2009 at 7:37pm
my ottb bobbie is a fourth generation male line descendant of bold ruler. he's also the male line grandson of honest pleasure and inbred 4s and 4d ribot. on his dam side he's got princequillo, tim tam, prince john, high tribute right up front. a bit further back is war relic, tom fool and two lea. i think bobbie pretty much got a lot of the big names in tb bloodlines covered : ) i'm glad to see bold ruler mentioned. i'm amazed at how strong a bloodline the bold ruler line is. i can go to a horse show, spot a tb and tell if that horse is a br or not. they have a certain big bodied look as well as a big personality. bobbie, when he competed in dressage, was always mistaken for a warmblood. i used to tell the warmblood people when they would come up to me and ask me about bobbie's breeding that bobbie didn't look like a warmblood, but that the warmbloods were lucky to look like a tb : ) i didn't win a whole lot of popularity contests saying stuff like that, but oh well... i'm looking forward to your last installment and more information on the tb in dressage sport horses. but i'm very sorry it will be your last article. i don't think enough people can sing the praises of the tb, particularly if it encourages people to rescue horses off the track.
Comment by William Micklem on August 20, 2009 at 6:26pm
Another gem of a sire..no I did not know of this one..and yes I agree totally about mixing the foundation lines...the evidence is very strong...it is so sad to see the Matchem line disappearing in the UK/Ireland but too many racing people just look in the short term and are happy with the early maturing speed machines that only need to last for two years at most. Thank you for your knowledge and support and please keep feeding me this type of information. It is greatly appreciated. William
Comment by vineyridge on August 20, 2009 at 4:20pm
Do you know a KWPN TB sire named Sit This One Out? He's classic North American breeding, which as you know is half imported anyway. Here's his pedigree: http://www.pedigreequery.com/sit+this+one+out
As a KWPN sire he is in the bloodlines of GP jumpers ridden by such competitors as Markus Fuchs and Angelique Hoorn and Albert Voorn, International level event horses in Holland and Italy, and even some GP dressage horses. Most of his descendants have more TB blood through the damside.

When he was bred to a mare named Starting Point (pedigree here: http://www.pedigreequery.com/starting+point) his son Kokomo won the Dutch Derby.

You will notice that Sit This One Out has at least three lines to Fair Play, who descends from the TB foundation sire Matchem. Starting Point has My Babu fairly close on her dam side, and he descends from Herod through one of my favorite TB lines, the French Dollar line. Therefore, Kokomo has all three of the foundation sirelines close up in his pedigree.

I am absolutely convinced that the best TBs in both performance and the breeding shed will have all three of the foundation sirelines relatively close in their pedigrees. Since Mumtaz Mahal was by The Tetrarch (another Herod line) the TBs of old, at least in North America where Fair Play was so prevalent, were likely to show this breeding pattern quite frequently. Bold Ruler had Miss Disco by Discovery by Display by Fair Play; and Nasrullah had Mumtaz Begum out of Mumtaz Mahal by The Tetrarch. All the other sire lines are Eclipse.

I believe that one of the reasons Nearco was so successful was intense inbreeding/linebreeding to Galopin (and thus The Flying Dutchman through Flying Duchess) and Touchstone. His Dollar direct sire line on the first page of his pedigree comes from Amie, dam of Ajax; his Matchem line comes from Love Wisely's dam.

To my way of thinking, for TBs to continue to excel as sport horses, the Matchem sire line and the Herod sire lines (tail male) have to be preserved. It seems that the only living Herod line (outside France?) comes through Indian Ridge; NA still has a few of our Matchem line sires still active. I have no idea if the UK/Ire line from Barcaldine (Precipitation/Sheshoon/Sassafras) survives.

BTW, for what it's worth, except in the Trakehners, as far as I have been able to discover, there is not a single WB sireline that does not eventually trace back to a TB sire. And, of the horses who show jumped in the 2008 Olympics, all were tail male TB and 90 percent or more traced to the Darley Arabian.
Comment by William Micklem on August 17, 2009 at 4:41pm
Thank you for your support Janis...it's really all about accurate information and finding ways for more people to enjoy horses...happy days...William
Comment by Janis on August 17, 2009 at 11:16am
Part 3.....very interesting read......thanks very much. Very informative.
Comment by Janis on August 17, 2009 at 10:53am
Yes! in fact I do!...my 11yr old gelding has Bold Bidder and Mythical Ruler and T T Ruler in his gene pool. He has the best temperment and lots of heart and personality. I absolutely love the TB breed.
Comment by William Micklem on August 17, 2009 at 9:52am
Not forgetting Bold Bidder as well...see Part 3 of this series Janis...William

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