Versatility and Heart. My Thoroughbred Partner.

Ken's Kitten - Photo by Terri Miller

Salute to the Thoroughbred!  This month on YourDressage, we are saluting the versatile Thoroughbred and Thoroughbred crosses of all kinds.

Dressage riders who choose Thoroughbreds as their mounts are eligible for Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards as The Jockey Club is a Participating Organization.

We recently asked our social media followers to share about what makes these horses so special.  Here, a lifelong equestrian in Region 7 shares about how she had never had a Thoroughbred partner before, but discovered their heart and versatility was the perfect match for her. 

By Karen Nocket

Barn Hello

I’ve known all my horsey life (some 50+ years) that Thoroughbreds were very versatile and hard working. But  they never crossed my path as a mount, or piqued my interest to “own” one. Over the last 30 of those 50 years, I’ve been riding dressage on the typical big warmbloods, as they are built for the sport. 

Then in 2016, I needed to retire my 17.2 hand warmblood mare due to some injuries and being a little too unsafe for an amateur to ride everywhere. At the same time, my trainer had received this Thoroughbred, sent  to him from his brother on the east coast as a sales horse. I learned that this handsome horse had a very diverse career. He is the son of Kitten’s Joy who is   Kentucky royalty – amazing racing bloodlines from the Ramsey Farms. Ken Ramsey  named the chestnut colt Ken’s Kitten because he was so beautiful and had high hopes for his racing career. After a year of racing, Ken’s Kitten was too high strung and did not enjoy running around the racetrack. The next discipline was to be a steeplechaser, and then on to jumping. In order to prepare for the Retired Racehorse Project, dressage was added to his portfolio. It was at this point that he was sent to Southern California. 

Kitten (as I call him, and yes, he is in touch with his feminine self) and my partnership started as a lease horse. First, just a 6-month lease so I could look for a new warmblood partner. Then the lease extended into a year. You know when you sit on a horse, hang with them in the barn, and spend those very long days of horse activities that he is your heart horse. When you walk down to the barn at night for barn check, and he is there with his head out the stall door looking for you. That chemistry tells a lot about how you can depend on each other every day or during challenging times. You know that you belong! At the end of the year,  I had to commit or send Kitten back to the east coast. I asked all the expert riders around me if I should buy him – they all said “No.” They said: “His canter is not good enough”, “He travels kind of funky”, “You won’t make it to Grand Prix on a Thoroughbred”, “Get a warmblood”, “You need a better horse”. Then on that weekend to commit, I was riding in a 2 day clinic with Melissa Creswick (judge, trainer, friend). I asked her  during our first lesson – “Should I buy this horse?”. She said no. On the second day of the clinic, she stopped the lesson and said “Buy him. He tries so hard for you. He shows an ability to understand upper-level work  easily. And he has a GO button!”. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Terri Miller photo

On any given day, Kitten and I could be trail riding, riding at home, a public or a friend’s arena, or loading in the trailer to go to a clinic or a show. We could be walking by the cows or the dogs, or with the women’s trail group, or the drill team, or the crazy horse show warm up arena. We could be doing a jog trot on the trail, or perfecting our piaffe and passage with an Olympic  rider. We could be in a halter and bareback pad or in our fancy dressage  saddle and double bridle. The Thoroughbred’s versatility is truly inspiring and wide ranging. 

Training from Second and Third Level to schooling Grand Prix over a couple of years has required a lot of time in the saddle doing lots of things wrong or struggling to develop that right cue. And finding teachers who love the nontraditional dressage horse, and are willing to support you in a way that works for the  team. Throughout all of this, Kitten never gives up on me. He comes out of the barn every day with a great  attitude, and works hard to understand and be a brilliant partner. I now know the Thoroughbred’s heart is  bigger than any horse I’ve ever had the pleasure to know or ride. 

I am blessed to have such an amazing partner on this journey.


  1. My father raced Thoroughbreds from the day I was born. It was the first horse I sat on before I could walk. However, their hot brains kept me from ever wanting to own one. I insisted on Quarter horses as my breed of choice my entire life. Until… I rescued a starving, neglected 17h Thoroughbred just to save him. I have never looked back. I now own 6 Thoroughbreds and only 1 retired Quarter horse. I have never known more love from a horse than a Thoroughbred. They love their people and have the try and heart of a lion. I encourage every horseperson to own at least one Thoroughbred in their lifetime and hopefully save one from slaughter.

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