Eventer Jennie Brannigan is no stranger to the winner’s circle. Alongside her longtime partner Cambalda (owned by Nina Gardner), Jennie has earned CIC3* wins at The Fork, Great Meadow, and Fair Hill, and just last month, she and “Ping” finished second at the CIC3* at Red Hills International. Yet along with her successful coaching and training business and busy competition schedule, Jennie has always made time for one more thing: her love of Thoroughbred horses.

In addition to the OTTBs and non-racing Thoroughbreds who Jennie has ridden throughout her eventing career (among them, TwilightsLastGleam and Woodstock’s Little Nev), she also gets her fix as a part-time exercise rider for Michael Matz’s Vintage Farms racing barn and as a sometime steeplechase jockey.

On April 2nd, 2017, Jennie even earned her first timber race victory with the Thoroughbred, Joshua G, at the Brandywine Point-to-Point Races in Northbrook, Pennsylvania. In addition, she works closely with the South Jersey Thoroughbred Rescue, a non-profit organization that assists in finding new homes for young, rescued horses.

So just what is it about Thoroughbred that makes them unlike any other breed? We sat down with Jennie to find out.

1. A heart of gold. 

Thoroughbreds have a heart that tends to be bold and willing… you cannot beat a horse with a huge heart.

2. They make you earn it.

It takes someone with good horse sense and feel to bring out the best in an OTTB. It’s like anything in life… when you earn it, it makes the reward so much better. Twighlightslastgleam’s success has been so much more rewarding because of how tough he was to start.

3. It’s all about adrenaline. 

I’d take the rush of breezing a good racehorse over jumping out of a plane or any other adrenaline rush any day!

4. They’re resilient.

Most OTTBs have been through the ringer before we even get them as sport horses, and that toughness comes in handy. Look at what Neville Bardos did at Burghley—he certainly didn’t look like he has survived a barn fire a few months before!

5. OTTBs level the playing field. 

They make giving it a shot in eventing really possible, even if you don’t come from a lot of money. The option of an OTTB proves that you can get a free or cheap horse and still compete at the top of the sport. For evidence, just look at Laine Ashker or Lynn Symansky.

6. They’re taught to be versatile.  

I gained a lot riding them at the track and realizing exactly what they do before they are even three years old. It has helped me to understand how their minds work and how amazing it is that they can be retrained.

7. Pure athleticism.

For our sport, and particularly cross-country, horses need to be good at galloping for a long time and still have the power to jump and gallop after going for 10-12 minutes. Nothing beats being on a Thoroughbred in the mud or when you’re on the last few minutes of a three day. You know you can have a crack and make the time… they have the ability for that whereas most warmbloods don’t.

8. One good turn…

Last but not least, I love the underdog, and I feel like when you find a good OTTB and believe in him or her, they will always pay it back.

-Photo credits: Shannon Brinkman.