Will Rogers said, “Things ain`t like they used to be, and probably never was.” When I hear people like George Morris talk nostalgically about the great thoroughbred jumpers of yore, I think it`s key to understand that most of those horses came about by accident. They were bred to race, mainly, not to jump. The good jumpers were discovered by winnowing through hundreds of off the track horses, to discover the precious needles in the haystack. They, the great ones, were out there, but there was very little breeding aimed at establishing jumper lines.
Don`t get me wrong, we had some good jumper stallions, but we let the lines fade away because nobody with the economic clout to preserve them did preserve them. Take Bonne Nuit, probably the best thoroughbred jumper stallion. He sired the stallions Night Lark, and New Twist, and some other open jumpers. New Twist sired Frank Chapot`s Good Twist, who sired silver medal winning Gem Twist. Now there`s a Gem Twist clone, but where else can you find that premier line?
The Hammer sired the great jumper, Sympatico, and Maryland Hunt Cup winner, Tong. Where is The Hammer blood?
Wait A Bit sired Mary Mairs` Tomboy, and other hunters and jumpers. Try to find that line today.
Cormac sired an Olympic gold medal winner, Bally Cor, plus MD Hunt Cup winners Burnmac and Eastmac. Fragments of that line remain.
Hunter`s Moon 4th sired the great `chasers and timber horses Neji, Peal, and Mountain Dew. He`s gone.
Touch of Class was an Olympic gold medal mare. Where is she in modern pedigrees?
Meanwhile, over in Europe, while our jumper lines were fading away from benign neglect, breeders from Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, and to some extent England and Ireland, were selectively breeding jumpers. Most of the leading show jumpers of modern times are warmbloods, the big native mares which survived World War Two, crossed with English and Irish thoroughbreds, the resulting produce culled and culled again, to provide most international show jumpers, including those from the USA and Canada, with the horses that they`ve taken into the show grounds of the world in this first decade of the 21st century.