In a column for the San Diego-area North County Times, Jim Trageser makes a good case for horse racing losing popularity due to the lack of familiarity most people have with farming and horses.
That is obvious and true. Most people do not grow up on farms, do not have personal experience with horses, and scarcely know which end to feed.
Trageser comes up with a couple of suggestions for what might improve the situation, but unfortunately one of them is a nonstarter, both historically and practically. He wrote that racing should be “getting back to the roots of the sport in this country and racing more than just thoroughbreds.”
There seems to be some level of misinformation coming through because he claims that the “American quarter horse and Arabians have been raced in many parts of the country and world for generations.”
Trageser is trying to be helpful and is pointing the way to greater popularity for racing through the most populous breed in America, the Quarter Horse. Problem is … the racing Quarter Horse should rightly be called the Quarter-Racing Thoroughbred.
The Quarter Horse, in particular the strains of the breed used for racing, was developed from Thoroughbred lines laid on Thoroughbred lines time and again from colonial times to the present. And the most popular strains of Quarter Horses for show and what not are slower than me. Many of them are comfortable to ride, docile, and cute. But slow.
Trageser’s comments should set us thinking, however. What can we do to make Thoroughbreds more popular, not simply racing? There are strains (and individual horses) that are as docile and friendly as any Quarter Horse; there are Thoroughbreds as well suited to showing, equitation, jumping, trail riding, and any other pursuit (OK, not log pulling) as other breeds; and there are plenty of Thoroughbreds out there.
But we need to bridge the gap between what Thoroughbreds can do and what they can be for many people … and what most people expect them to be.
The Jockey Club has even made strides to allow greater access to tattoo information online so that owners can identify and track down the registration of their Thoroughbreds. This is a small but very important step. The more that people know about their horses, the better they understand their potential, and the more they enjoy their horses, the stronger the breed is. The stronger our sport is.