The Thoroughbred is a breed of horse whose ancestry traces back more than 300 years to three foundation
stallions -- the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian and the Byerly Turk. Named for their respective
owners -- Thomas Darley, Lord Godolphin and Captain Robert Byerly -- these stallions were imported into
England from the Mediterranean Middle East around the turn of the 17th century and bred to the stronger,
but less precocious, native mares. The result was an animal which could carry weight with sustained
speed over extended distances.
On average, the Thoroughbred stands a little over 16 hands (1 hand = 4 inches) to the withers and weighs
approximately 1,000 pounds. The Thoroughbred's conformation, or physical makeup, enables it to reach
speeds up to 40 miles per hour. At that rate, the Thoroughbred covers nearly 60 feet per second.
The Thoroughbred's rear legs act much like springs as they bend and straighten during running.
This tremendous "spring power" helps thrust the Thoroughbred forward as its front legs provide "pull."
The head and long neck also help to make running smooth and rhythmic. The neck moves in synchrony
with the forelegs, aiding the Thoroughbred in its forward motion and extending the "arc of flight" -- the
time the Thoroughbred literally is airborne.
Blessed with agility, grace, speed, stamina and courage, Thoroughbreds are ideally suited for any
number of disciplines beyond the racetrack. Thoroughbreds compete at the highest levels of international
competition in eventing, show jumping and dressage, and also make outstanding hunters, steeplechasers,
barrel racers and polo mounts. They are also used by mounted police patrols and recreational riders who
appreciate their intelligence and versatility.