TSFkristin

When To Start Riding A Young Horse?

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Of everything I've learned and read in over all these years of working with and owning horses, there is a large variance of when it's safe to start riding a young horse (2? 3? 4?) after saddle breaking.

Thoughts? Opinions?

(I know a horse is generally considered "adult" and grown by 4 yrs)

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Usually I like to see them saddled and sat on at some point in their 2 year old year, then tossed out to pasture. Brought in an have 30-60 days their 3 year old year, and then formal training at 4.

Of course that is all a sliding scale depending on the breed, build, and your plans for the horse. Obviously I'm not raising futurity horses here.

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Fancois Robichon de la Gueriniere wrote in the 1700's that the proper age to train a horse wa six, seven, or eight, according to his native enviornment. He did say that there "used to be" persons that worked with the horses -- evidently ground work -- from the foaling barn on that got them accustomed to being handle by people.

I read a book some years ago by a woman rancher in Idaho who used Arab/Quarter Horse mixed horses. She said that they didn't start their horses until five and got twenty to twenty-five years of hard ranch work out of them. In another book I read some time ago, an old vet said they used to call horses colts until they were five.

Dr. Richard M. Miller, who is notied for his work with foal imprinting, said he recommends starting to work with horses early, but not to ride them early. I never heard him give a starting age for riding, however.

Dr. Deb Bennet wrote an article called "Timing and Rate of Skeletal Maturation in Horses" in 2008. In it, she stated that, while the cannon bone may fuse before a horse is two, the spinal bones don't fuse until the horse is about five-and-a-half years old -- even longer for larger horses.

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There can be no hard and fast answer.

Many horses in the past, just like people, did not have the balanced nutrition that they do today, and that did affect as to when they could be ridden

Also, on working ranches, once a horse was started, he was expected to put in a whole day of work-certainly not something one would ask a two or three year old to do

Horses that are just started as late two year olds (stock horse breeds ) ridden lightly for a half hour or so, not pushed towards any futurity, actually benifit from being started at that age-yes backed up by research, but I don't have the reference handy. Light work actually causes better bone density.

I know of many horses that have been started as two and three years olds and who remain sound into old age, and in fact, my 27 year old reining mare is one of them.She also has very correct conformation

Unfortunately, most of the negative data is derived from young horses that are pushed towards some futurity, esp those that require a great deal of advanced athletic manovers

I've heared Dr Deb Bennett speak several times, and while she has some good points, she also concentrates on theories as a palentologist

For instance, if you want to take all her advise Cart Blanche, according to her , there are only three types of horses

pulling horses

race horses

riding horses

She believes TBs esp are not designed to be ridden as general show or recreational horses,> I;m sure those that have ridden and shown TBs very successfully, would not agree!

Dr Miller takes futurities horses into account, concerning horses being ridden too soon,a nd his example in western Horseman was a three year old cutter, performing like a horse years older.I totally disagree with his Implanting of foals, but that is another topic!

Just as many horses are ruined, left standing in pastures, still not started by the time they are 6 or older, then horses started too early

The nutrition, hoof care, conformation of the horse, all have as much impact, far as future soundness than just the age they are started

Stalling young horses, shoing them at an early age, not enough turn out-all have major impact far as future soundness or in developing chronic hoof problems like navicular

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Smilie brings up some good points. There are no easy answers. Excersise is certainly a good thing, but as in most thing, moderation is the key. I think Smilie's post indicates this as well. Even in fully developed animals and people, overwork is detrimental.

You must judge individual cases. Size and enthusiasm may be good indicators, but they can be deceptive. A few child athletes do well. Many are harmed by the stress on their young bodies as they seek to achieve goals which would be better reserved for later in life. The main cause of problems is ambition which pushes people to work themselves and their animals too hard. You must push to improve, but pushing too far too fast can cause breakdowns which can delay or even destroy the attempts to reach a goal.

Good nutrien is helpful in proper growth as is good use of medicine. Improper use can cause problems as seen in the widespread use of steroids to promote muscle growth.

There are no easy answers.

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^^this, and one shouldn't disregard mental and emotional factors when a horse "breaks down". our barn is lucky to have gerd heuschmann give seminars and biomechanics five or six times a year, and he addresses these parameters as being critical in the successful development of young horses.

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Wow thanks everyone for the thoughtful and insightful replies :yay:

Here's a little more details. I'm looking for a new (mainly) trail horse prospect. very varied terrian, flat, mountains, streams, etc. Right now I'm looking into a paint colt, about 2.5 yrs (will be 3 in June per seller), halter broke at most, has been out on range/pasture. I was already planning on most of this year as training and breaking, but would like to be able to start using him on light easy trails by spring 2014. He'd be nearly 4 yrs at that point. And then more moderate to difficult terrain after he's 4, going on 5.

The pictures the seller sent (not good confo pics at all) show him to be gangly and rangy looking. I'm waiting for better profile pics to get a better sense of his over all conformation. I'm going to try to get over to look at him and work with him this weekend. A lot depends on personality and conformation for me, personally.

Thanks again!

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Well, we raised horses that we both showed and some that we trail rode only, as hubby is not a show person, but loves riding in wilderness =ie mountains

What worked just fine for us-those horses not geared towards a show career, I started in the fall of their three year old year, then turned them out for the winter, with the occasional ride to keep them 'broke'

Come spring, we took them on day rides, and by fall of their four year old year, they were ready to handle mountain trips, being ridden for a few days in a row.

We sold those horses after they had a year or so on trail riding on them, and many of their new owners have kept in touch, riding those horses well up into their late teens and beyond

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Smilie: having raised a bunch of critters it sounds like, if there really anyway one can predict the overall height/stature of a 2.5 y/o colt?

I forgot to mention as well, currently the colt in question is still a stud. I would definately have him gelded, though maybe wait a year for him to develope more? (we currently have 3 geldings, all middle- older ages)

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I would geld him now.

Geldings get taller than if they are left as studs past two, and that is because testosterone will cause those growth plates to close earlier

Also, one really does not want secondary stallion characteristics in a gelding, like a cresty thick neck and big jowels

All my colts were gelded as long yearlings, unless, or course, they were stud prospects. My gelding Einstein grew to be 16.3hh

here is a link on estimating mature height

http://www.theperuvianpaso.com/estimate_the_mature_height_of_your_yearling_horse.htm

Edited by Smilie

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Grrrr, my post just disappeared!

Anyway, i would geld your horse now. Keeping ahorse as a stallion past age 2 will cause him not to qiute reach his height potencial , as he would gelded.

This is because testosterone will have those growth plates close earlier

Also, you don't want secondary stallion like characteristics in a gelding-like a thick cresty neck and big jowels

I always had our colts gelded as long yearlings, unless of course, they were stud prospects

Here is a link on estimating mature height

http://www.theperuvianpaso.com/estimate_the_mature_height_of_your_yearling_horse.htm

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Thanks Smilie! In the mean time I was able to call my vet and ask her opinion. She said the same thing about growing taller as a gelding. I learned something new! (In small animal vet world, the larger/giant breed dogs like great danes are usually neutered later so they can grow into their max potential.)

And thanks for the height estimate!

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I also have found that their are different schools of thought on age. Growing up with quarter horses, it was acceptable to start riding at age 2, if they were big enough, but no galloping. Once I got into morgans, the general thought is that they are slower to mature, so you really shouldn't start riding until at least 3, four is better. Though they say you can start driving training at 2. When I started my morgan, I sat on him in his late 2 year old year, and rode him a handful of times at 3. I put him up for a lot of his four year old year due to a lot of moving, and have just started riding him again. He'll be five this spring. It's nice to be able to train on a regular timeline, but life happens. I'd rather not start them until later. One of my best horses was never started until he was 12 years old! He's 26 now and the best horse I could ever ask for. He WAS however, loved and taught respect on the ground. He was extremely friendly and just a big pasture pet. Breaking him was a breeze.

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To me it usually depends on the discipline you plan to ride. Snaffle Bit Futurities for instance are young. I usually will have all ground work done at about 2 including saddle, bridle, driving ect. I will then step on and off the saddle working on standing quietly then I put them out to pasture for the a couple months at the least then bring them up and spend as much time going over what they have learned until I'm confident they remember fully. I will then get in the saddle as 3 year olds. I only walk and possible trot straight lines working on transitions, lightness and the basic stop, give left and right ect. It's been this way for years without any lameness issues. I however have started horses later like my current gelding. He is 5 and has only been under saddle for about a month. He is a fast learner so it's hard to say if its because he is older is why he is catching on so fast.

I would like to add I'm not a small rider which in my opinion is another contributing factor on when you start riding. I would not train a futurity horse simply due to how much physical work is involved on such a young structure. I am to heavy for such a young horse to be worked that hard. Just my opinion.

Edited by JustinBoots

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Been curious about this myself as I have an appendix Thoroughbred coming two in may, standing about 14.2 right now, I hope to show and compete with him (looking to pursue eventing with him) but am trying to determine when to start him under saddle.

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aathis question copmes up often, and one really can't give a balck and white yes, or no, regarding a certain age, without the perosn asking filling in some more info, such as:

Breed of horse

Nutrition and maturity

Correctness of conformation-obviously, a young horse with things like off set knees, sickle hocks, etc, is not going to stand up like a horse with correct conformation to stresses put on the skeletal system

Definately type of riding-a big differnce to lightly starting a young horse and pushing one towards a major futurity-at all costs. Light riding of a young horse with good conformation, actually promotes denser bone

Ability and riding balance of the trainer- a person out of sync with a horse, bouncing on their back, is going to be harder on any horse, esp a young horse

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I honestly don't believe in starting a horse at the age of two! I would wait until they are 3 to get them used to saddles on their backs, and at age 4 I would start riding them. Horses need time to develop properly, and having a saddle on their back at such and early age can cause sway back, hock problems, etc., so 4 would be a good age : )

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Light riding a two year old, that has had good nutrition and has correct conformation does not have an negative impact, nor do they get sway backs

I started and showed my mare San Stone Image as a two year old . She won numerous hi pts , buckles, breed awards, open awards, etc in various events over the years. She also raised some good foals, was ridden in the mountains and is still sound today at age 27-no sway back

Ditto for one of our former stallions, Cody, that I showed as a jr horse, starting at age two, then retired to stud at age 5, gelded at age 11, and he went on to becoming agreat non pro and youth horse after I sold him, and still going strong today at age 22. His owner and I often trail ride together

I could continue on, but I think those two examples are proof enough.

Again, correct conformation, nutritition and a sensible start, versus pushing a horse towards a major futurity, is not anegative, for a two year old, and in fact, will produce ahorse with denser bone

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I hope others are getting this great imput as well!

When I was looking for a new prospect a 2yr old was on the short list, but I wanted something to ride sooner, so I have a 5 yr old (see "I did it! New gelding" thread). He had about 12 or so rides on him last summer and a lot of ground work and driving. I aim to spend the next month or two establishing groundwork again before getting in him. Although, he's progressing well and it could be sooner.

But I hope everyone is benefiting from this thread itself. Thanks y'all for the input! :smilie:

Edited by TSFkristin

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Light riding a two year old, that has had good nutrition and has correct conformation does not have an negative impact, nor do they get sway backs

I started and showed my mare San Stone Image as a two year old . She won numerous hi pts , buckles, breed awards, open awards, etc in various events over the years. She also raised some good foals, was ridden in the mountains and is still sound today at age 27-no sway back

Ditto for one of our former stallions, Cody, that I showed as a jr horse, starting at age two, then retired to stud at age 5, gelded at age 11, and he went on to becoming agreat non pro and youth horse after I sold him, and still going strong today at age 22. His owner and I often trail ride together

I could continue on, but I think those two examples are proof enough.

Again, correct conformation, nutritition and a sensible start, versus pushing a horse towards a major futurity, is not anegative, for a two year old, and in fact, will produce ahorse with denser bone

I said they "MAY" and why do you comment on everything I say and argue with it? Stop doing that, it's extremely rude.

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I said they "MAY" and why do you comment on everything I say and argue with it? Stop doing that, it's extremely rude.

This is a public forum with thousands of members, and no two of us will ever see everything exactly the same. Here you have to learn to take everything with grain of salt and nothing personally. This is a place to learn of you only keep an open mind.

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I would geld him now.

Geldings get taller than if they are left as studs past two, and that is because testosterone will cause those growth plates to close earlier

Also, one really does not want secondary stallion characteristics in a gelding, like a cresty thick neck and big jowels

All my colts were gelded as long yearlings, unless, or course, they were stud prospects. My gelding Einstein grew to be 16.3hh

http://www.theperuvi...rling_horse.htm

i know i'm resurrecting a dormant thread here, but i had trouble sleeping last night and for some reason this post came to mind lol.

smilie i have an 8 year old lusitano gelding born and raised in brazil. he was gelded at 5 (guess they prefer to wait in those parts), and when i got him at the age of 6 he was 154 (confirmed by three attending veterinarians at florida auction and is on bil of sale). he turned 8 last august and is now 164--a difference of 10 centimeters over the course of 20 months!! one of my criteria for my next horse was "medium-sized", which he was at the time i bought him. after a little *after the fact* research it turns out that i overlooked one breed specific detail--that it is very common for lusitanos to keep growing until 8. do you think that this is a breed-specific trait? because it kind of contradicts what you and cvm cite about benefits of gelding early. when i got him a year after gelding he also didn't remotely resemble a stallion--no cresty neck, solid structure and bone but more on the leggy side.

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Hi Nick

It could very well be a breed characteristic, plus also the way he was fed

It would also suggest that his growth plates closed at a much later date than what is considered 'normal ' for stock horses.

It is well known that young halter horses are psuhed for maximum early growth and developement, thus they are fed that way, while the owner balances the perils of going for maximum early maturity with the risk of orthopedic developmental disease, by being very very careful as to the balance of that diet, not just minerals, but protein being fed in proportion of energy fed

Thus, a stock horse that has been pushed for halter, can be pretty much full grown at age 2, while one with the same genetics, mainly pasture raised and fed conservatively, can take to age 5 to reach that same level of maturity

At the opposite end of the spectrum,is the young horse that does not get minimum needed nutrition, and will never reach hsi genetic potencial.

So, I guess my question is, how was this horse fed, and do you know when the growth plates on Lusitanos close?

All I know is that testosterone speeds up the time frame, as to when those growth plates close, and thus early gelding allows for more growth before those growth plates close

Not all studs get cresty necks, as if you look at many pleasure stallions, esp those that are HUS bred, they have very refined necks-probably a combination of genetics and the conditioning program

However,, if you take ahorse with the same genetics where mature stallions have that more cresty neck and heavy jowels, gelding them early will prevent those characteristics from being as strongly expressed

Sorry, if I didn't answer your question with abalck and white answer, but the only thing that would expalin the growth in your horse to me, would be that his growth plates were still open. Perhaps CVM has a more precise explanation

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thank you very much smilie for your response! i have a very detailed document regarding how he was fed and his nutritional requirements. but unfortunately in portugese, NOT one of my languages :wacko: .

he's wanting to chew wood now. i notice, because when we wait at the gate to go into the arena he wants to chew on the gate, and when i set up a jumping parcour and park him, he wants to chew the poles. i'm going to put a BIG piece of wood in his run tomorrow. i'm 5'7", so i'd kind of like it if he didn't grow anymore, but what's a girl to do?

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It was always my understanding that Baroque breeds typically matured much later than other breeds and are commonly not even started until the age of 5 or as late as 8 because of that. I had the privilege of speaking with a few of the trainers/riders of the "World Famous Lipizzaner Stallions" as they were stabled at the barn I used to board every time they came to the area. They had "young" stallions (including Andalusian and Lusitano as well as one or 2 Arabians) in training that were around 7 that they brought along to season and expose, we were surprised that they called them young, as that would be aged in other breeds, including AQHA. I believe growth plates closing later than other breeds was mentioned, and while they may start them late according to common practice, it is not uncommon that they stay sound of mind and body well into their twenties or longer still performing advanced maneuvers.

Gorgeous creatures, it is my dream to one day own an Andalusian, perhaps its the more classical dressage training they receive compared to "modern" dressage that I see a lot of warmbloods doing, but I tend to prefer a stocky, thick horse with natural carriage, it just seems so natural and effortless to them.

Edited by Smokum

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This has turned into a really interesting and informative thread! Thanks everyone.

In our own small herd we've seen differences in maturity. As some of you know from my other threads, (TSF Hatch Chile (new kid) & I did it! New Gelding!) my new critter is a alleged (no exact DOB given at purchase - this doesn't bother me) 5 y/o started under saddle last year as a 4 y/o with a dozen rides or so. My sister is of the opinion that he is still immature looking, which I agree. He does need some muscling and conditioning.

Her own horse, Loki is a arab/saddlebred (bred before the National Show Horse became a common place breed). His nickname is "Colt" or "Colt Classic" because he DID NOT mature until nearly 10!! He was bred out of a small, refined arab mare to a 16-17hh paint saddlebred stud. Started as a two year old on the ground and in harness by a saddle-seat barn we grew up riding at. (We've known him since he hit the ground). His personality has always been "dog-like" and goofy. He's been tall, but about as wide across as a vespa scooter! In the last few years he's finally begun to thicken out and acting like an adult horse, though he's still a bit of a goof. And somewhat accident prone!

Then Toulouse, my older palomino gelding who's 20+ still looks fantastic, though I got him as an approximate 10y/o- very unknown age/history.

And our rescue horse, Poe is about 15y/o and has a weak/sway back already.. though I suspect he's had some back trauma in his life that we had to get over to be able to ride him. He's restricted to small, lightweight adults (w/ english saddle) and the kids. We suspect Poe may have some arab or possible mustang in him??

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Yep a lot of schools of thought on this. I typically don't like to do any 'hard' work on a horse until they are 4. Generally I start sitting on them and doing w/t in the summer when they are 2yr old. probably 2-3 months of work, with 60% of that groundwork.

Then when they are 3 I start working them again, probably for 6 months and at that point I like them to w/t/c and trail riding (hacking out-not 6 hours in the mountains..lol). and I start jumping them over x's. Pretty easy going that year, I like to drag them around to a lot of different places, but I don't work them terribly hard.

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I, too don't agree with riding at 2, but I do believe you can start them getting used to the saddle, taking walks and letting them see you make a great leader. At this age, bonding is very important. I don't do circles, too hard on the joints. It's one thing for them to do circles at liberty but it's another when I'm asking for it. That's my opinion.

At 3 of age, I like to start shoulder-in. It fixes the crookedness, strengthens. and supples their body. This I'll do before I ever get on their back. I may or may not go through the other lateral movements but doing the shoulder-in I feel is the most important. Then I'll start to ride.

Now Nuno Oliveria teaches piaffe too soon after teaching shoulder-in and leg yields with a bend. It helps to supple the back and strengthen...my 2 cents

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Another great excercise for horses in the 2-3 year old catagory in my book is a lot of pony'ing if you have a mature older horse to do it off of. Lots of great exposure.

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