The World of Living with Horses

Thoroughbred Jumpers: Thriller & Thrilling by Todd Minikus


Starting in the late 1980s, two exceptional Canadian thoroughbred jumpers, Thriller and Thrilling, changed the course of my career.

At the time there were more thoroughbreds than warm bloods on the jumping circuit. Of the two, I think thoroughbreds are easier to train because they are a little smarter. Warm Bloods dominate the jumping circuit now because, for decades, they have been bred as jumpers while thoroughbreds have been bred to race. That’s why finding the right thoroughbred today is like finding a needle in a haystack. Not then.

My first Canadian thoroughbred was Thriller. I bought him from Glenn Cudmore, who had brought him down from Canada directly off the track. He was 16.1 hands, a brown bay.

Thriller was tragically injured in a trailer accident on my way home to Kansas City from a Grand Prix show in Tennessee. The trailer got off the edge of the road and flipped over. A peace officer had to shoot him and another horse on the side of the road, they were that badly injured.

I was devastated. Thriller, to me, was irreplaceable; the horse of a lifetime. Cudmore told me to stop moping and we went together to Canada to find another horse. We were at a racetrack in Winnipeg when someone who had heard about Thriller told us there was another horse out of the same mare. We went to check him out. I jumped him over a few hay bails and liked his technique.

Thrilling became my first Grand Prix horse. He was 7 years old, 16.1 hands and, like his predecessor, fresh off the Canadian track. I trained him for nine months and then started competing him. It was 1985. He was immediately successful. At the time I worked as an instructor and trainer for Steve Haight at Lake Forrest’s Horse Forum, who generously allowed me to compete.

Glenn Cudmore originally bought Thrilling. I  then bought the horse from Glenn for $2,500. Our first win in 1988 was a Grand Prix in Mason City, Iowa. Thrilling started my competitive career. You see, it is really unusual to get into the business this way, at this high level. 

The first time I rode in a big indoor arena was in 1990 with Thrilling at the Washington International Horse Show. He won all open jumper classes including the President’s Cup – still an unprecedented feat. I earned the Ennis Jenkins Award as Leading Rider. This show was truly international, attracting the premiere European and United States riders. So, Thrilling and I were now on the map.

I rode Thrilling for about 10 years and then had to retire him at 17. As is sometime the case with grays, he started having issues with melanoma.  He retired on the Kentucky farm of Dr. William Fishback and his late wife, Betsy. Thrilling is buried at the Kentucky Horse Park.