What’s the difference between racehorses and show horses?


One of the most frequent queries posed by enthusiasts of competitive sports and horse lovers is this one. Why are some horses more suited for flat or jump racing, while others are more suitable for display work? We’ll look at the subtleties of producing show horses and racehorses in this post.

Do racehorses have superior breeding than do exhibition horses?

The unsoundness of today’s thoroughbred racehorses is one of the largest developments in breeding practises. Many in the field think that compared to similar foals a century or more ago, today’s thoroughbreds are significantly more unsound. In the early months of a foal’s life, the finest horse racing breeders of previous generations would let Mother Nature take her course. Colts raised more organically and with more kind parenting would “put on muscle and gain in strength” as soon as they started racing training, according to 1920s horse breeder Abram S. Hewitt. They were “much sounder and harder,” according to Hewitt, than the “auction fattened yearlings” prepped just for sale.

Some breeders of thoroughbred horses even went so far as to maintain two farms: one for the spring and summer and another for the fall and winter. This method was used by breeders like Federico Tesio.

A very different path leads to success for show horses than for their counterparts in horse racing. In actuality, their breeding isn’t just focused on showjumping and dressage as the primary goals for an owner. Furthermore, show horses are not usually limited to a single breed. Furthermore, show horses are often older than racehorses and are recognised to be easier to handle due to their lower workload and simpler body language. Comparing show horse grooming to that of thoroughbred racehorses is also worthwhile. Because they are expected to look the part in live events, show horses are groomed to an even higher degree. Anything to enhance the overall look and health of a show horse, including plaiting their manes or tails contrasting horse racing and equestrian competitions.

Although there are numerous differences between the kinds of competitions where horses and racehorses participate, there is also a little commonality. The Badminton Horse Trials, held in the magnificent grounds of the Badminton Estate in Gloucestershire, are regarded as the “World Cup of showjumping.” These trials include cross-country and dressage competitions in addition to showjumping.

A few showjumping competitions are time trials, meaning the winner is the horse that completes the course the fastest and with the most perfect jumps. This is the closest thing to a National Hunt horse race, in which the horses with the greatest speed and durability who can clear the fences have the best chance of winning. The Cheltenham Festival is the closest racehorse analogue of badminton. Cheltenham is the most popular racecourse for online betting, with major events like the Queen Mother Champion Chase drawing a lot of interest from both sponsors and racing fans.

Show horses diverge significantly from racehorses in dressage competitions. In a dressage, riders must be able to ride around the course with grace and composure while also exhibiting the general discipline of their show horse, which is supported by their bond with the animal. To rate and determine which double acts are the finest performers, these competitions need certified judges. A judge is only needed in horse racing when determining the winner of a photo finish involving two or more horses at the finishing post.

A few racecourse jockeys have even surpassed the gap.

Recently, two former National Hunt jockeys, Paul Carberry and Oisin Murphy, have transitioned from horseracing to equestrian. The two are really scheduled to participate in the Hickstead Speed Derby this summer. Murphy surprised everyone by finishing second in the Hy Equestrian British 1.10m Amateur Championship. Murphy made his debut at Hickstead in 2021. The Irishman proved that he was just as well-prepared for show days as he was for racing days. Murphy was directed into horseracing after originally wanting to be a showjumper, as it was subsequently discovered.

Since retiring in 2016, Paul Carberry, a previous Grand National champion, has also been participating in showjumping competitions on a regular basis. For National Hunt jockeys, however, it’s a more natural move in some respects since Carberry is used to clearing big hurdles quickly.


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