I have read and participated in many discussions about speed and stamina in the Thoroughbred. Here is what Burchard Von Oettingen had to say about those topics 100 years ago:
…We have the interesting judgment of a practical man, who also lived in the times preceding and succeeding the above-mentioned zenith of Thoroughbred breeding. I am speaking of the well-known jockey, John Osborne, born in 1833, who rode his first race in 1846 and his last race in 1892. Osborone says (vide Ashgill & Radcliffe, page 428) : - “The method of training horses in the present day is quite different to what it was when I began. Horses are very much lighter now; they have neither the bone nor the substance that Thoroughbreds had fifty years ago. Of course, in the old times they were sweated a good deal. Heavy cloths were put on them and they were galloped three and four miles in them. That plan has been discontinued for many years. I don’t know that sweating is weakening to a horse. Old John Scott was a great believer in sweating and bleeding. I am certain that the constitution of horses of the present day would not stand such work; the modern breed is neither so robust nor so strong. Formerly it was quite a common thing for horses to run tthree and four mile heats. If they were subjected to that now they wouldn’t be able to come out of the stable for a month after. …I am fully convinced the constitution of horses of the present day is not as strong as it was forty or fifty years ago. It puzzles me to account for the degeneration in the stoutness of the modern racehorse; really, I cannot point to the cause of it.”
The well-known Malton trainer, Charles Lund, speaking about this question in the year 1899, expresses himself as follows (Ashgill, page 430) : “Racehorses in the olden days were, on the average, 2 stone heavier than those of the present day. Now, horses like Touchstone and West Australian were, if one might say so, twice the size in substance and power in comparison with the present day racehorse, most of which are light of bone and substance, and comparatively weedy in appearance. Present day trainers have gone in for speed too much, with the result that the great majority of horses are too finely built.” – Horse Breeding In Theory And Practice pages 192-193.
Sounds familiar – doesn’t it.
Oettingen, a world-renowned expert about Thorougbreds and breeding, published the preceding in 1909. Oettingen also was the Landstallmeister and Director of the Royal Stud of Trakehnen Germany. He was highly regarded and breeder Federico Tesio studied much of the writing of Oettingen.