Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Twos or Threes????

One of my general rules as a trainer (and this is just personal preference) is I do not break horses that are under 3. But, allow me to specify. I will sit on a 2 and half yr old. I may Even walk them around the whole entire arena, but as far as trotting, loping, long rides or anything more intense than walking a large circle, it is all saved up for the 3 yr olds.

This is something that I find is always on heavy debate. Some people are OK, with breaking a 2 yr old, I am not. Too me they are still too young, their brains and attention span are not quite there yet. Their knees and joints to young and fragile, their backs not muscled up or strong enough to support too much riding. Again this is all MY preference.

The other side of the story is that racehorses can be broke anywhere from 18 months to 2 yrs. As well as some futurity horses. Some of them seem to do fine with it. A lot of those horses may also retire young as well to be a farm Stud or Broodmare.

So what's the verdict here??? Are we 2 or 3?????


sandycreek said...

I like to wait until they are three to ride, but I will start the groundwork and light round pen work in late in their two year old year.

maiden53 said...

I am with the three yo. I hate the sale ads... 2 yo broke and ready to ride. Just too young! I like to see them get a chance to be active past the age of 12.

The Crossroads said...

I backed my (current) three year old when she was 2 1/2 years old, just sat on her and she did phenomenal. But I did nothing more.

I believe doing anything more than desensitizing them to weight on their back should be reserved until they are three. Some people just don't care, if they're breaking them to sell then they dont' care if they break down when they're 8 years old.

Someone at a barn I show at has a beautiful cremello mare, just recently hit three years old. They ride her in a shank and GAME on her, as in hard-core galloping around barrels, slamming on the brakes. That horse will be finished by the time she's 6.

I am most definitely someone who starts a horse when they're well into their third year.

sandycreek said...

I don't let them start over fences till they are five.

texasnascarcowgirl said...

I start mine at 2. By the time they are 3 they are ready to begin life as a work horse. I get them broke to the saddle, skeery things hang off of them, they are sat on and walked around, plow driven and exposed to lots of stuff. I do not run them or ride them much at all. It's mostly all ground work and usually 2 or 3 times a week for about 2 hrs. When they hit 3 then I get on and we ride. I have not had one single problem with knees, backs or brains. They all turn out really good.

OneDandyHorse said...

I'm a 2... but there is a lot more than just what people see on the surface. There are many ways to do it right and many to do it wrong.

I start saddle training when they are 2 years old. This means, I strap on a saddle or training surcingle and hand walk them around, I long-line them, drive them, desensitize them to everything they could encounter. When they are about 2.5 years old, I climb up on them, sit there and get off. When breaking horses, I only ride them once every week or less, going from ground driving to riding and alternating. Our first ride is about 5 minutes long and practices turning (usually with only a halter and lead). They don't get leg pressure and never have to trot or canter for me (unless they bolt, which is rare). After a few weeks, our rides lenghten to 15 minutes and is only walking, but I will start thinking about testing their trot. We walk everywhere, water, wood, trails, no trails, ditches and close to roads to get used to the noise.

In the late fall of their second year, I start my horses trotting, that consists of giving them the leg cue (which they have learned by now) to up them into a trot. If my horse trots 3 strides and decides to go back to walking, that is fine with me... they will learn consistency later in their training. They will also start the canter in the same way. In their third year, I expect my horse to be able to trot consistently in a straight line, I never ask for a turn while trotting or cantering. In their late 3rd year, I will start small turns while trotting and cantering.
I also work on more complex manoeuvres like leg yields. I also start my horses up and down hills, which I refrain from doing up to this point. By the time they are 3.5 years old, my horses get 1-2 rides per week, if possible.
My horse will be 4 in March 2010 and by that time, I will start a conditionning program for her.

I think my method is fairly easy, I don't push my horses to accomplish what I want, but rather give them a taste of what they will be asked to do in the future. It worked for me and my horse, we've created a bond, she is comfortable on her feet and does not acke anywhere. Part of training is learning to spot these things. If your horse seems off, don't ride, don't be selfish. I've seen a girl canter and galop a paint filly at 2 years old. The filly was broke before she was even 2 years-old and is lame on the right front. She is constantly lame and I get furious about the way they treat her. she is a sweet filly that is sensible and responsive, yet a 12 year old girl rides her in a hackamore that leaved her face bruised and probably sore and the poor filly has to galop (full out) and jump small courses at 2!!! The poor horse only knows to run even if her foot hurts, her hooves are a mess, she is lame and will probably be deadly arthritic by age 4. Don't push them until they are at least 3.5 or 4 years old. Treat your partners as equals. I've read a good research that starting riding slow and early (past their 2nd year) can help build bone density, running them in the ground will not help in any way.

Best Horse Gifts said...

Doesn't it depend at least somewhat on the individual horse, breed, etc?

Lee_Chick said...

I ride big slow maturing WBs so for me it's nothing but groundwork until 4 and no heavy work until 5. Everything they say about WBs being "a little slow" until five or six is absolutely true so I'm in no rush to push them early when their minds aren't capable of handling advanced work anyway. Personally I think the extra couple of years at pasture just being horses does far more for their mental, physical, and athletic development than any training exercise I can come up with!

Equus said...

Knowing what I do now? 4. There's no rush. Of our own home-raised/bred horses, they were all started as 3 or 4yo's and continue to do fantastic (one is 30 and still going strong). I do a lot of groundwork and desensitization (including saddling and sitting/leaning over the back) throughout the years though, even as a foal, but the real work does not start until they are physically mature enough to deal. I refuse to start 2yo's and will start a 3yo, but only lightly. However like I said, I will not start our own horses under-saddle (actual work) until 4. I think you're right though, to not start until 3 - just my opinion though :)

Some of the futurity horses and racehorses 'seem' to do fine, but don't forget the futurities are usually forced to retire early and are getting regular hock injections to keep them going - a sure sign that their joints have been over-stressed, because their joints are no longer capable of lubricating themselves sufficiently. The racehorses hopefully make it through, but many do not; injuries and deaths are common.

It should not depend on the type of horse, a horse's bones do not finish closing and fusing until the age of 6 (spine). The knees do not close until 3. Some breeds may 'appear' more mature than others, but their bones do not mature any faster or slower. Of course too you have to keep in mind the horse's mental/emotional fitness and maturity as well - we have two 5yo OTTB's and both have maturity levels at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Personally, I don't like seeing horses jumping much before 6, either. If they are jumped too hard too early, their spine is traumatized and their future career is jeopardized - it's just too big a risk to take. Same follows for hard-core reining, dressage, cattle work, etc. There's a reason 9 is considered 'young' to be competing in the show jumper and dressage worlds.

Equus said...

If you're going to ask a horse to perform beyond a level he would naturally do out with the herd, I think it is best to wait until he is FULLY mature (past 6).

Lee_Chick, I so completely agree - I'd much rather just do basic work and have them learn social skills and attain physical fitness running in a herd!!! It is so much more beneficial :)

Equus said...

Skeletal Maturity, page 4-5

Minus Pride said...

i vote three. Why risk their fragile bones, joints, and overall health. One year won't hurt and you can be sure a three year old's head will actually be in the game.

Reluctant Cowboy said...

We've broke horses at 2,3,4, and 5.
With me at 6'2" and 200# I don't get on any horse under a 1000#'s But at any age the only basic part of the program that holds throughout was when starting under saddl. Training started at 15 min sessions with 5 minutes added a week then in 4 weeks sessions held at 30 to 40 minutes for a couple of months before progressing to longer sessions.

I will leave you with one parting thought........If you allow your 100# child to carry a 20# back pack you have no horse in this race.

Grocery Girl said...

i'll start prepping a horse to be ridden at two, meaning i'll intoduce the pad and surcingle, bridle and bit and just let them get used to it. i'll also introduce them to lunging, but nothing more than a walk or light trot and not for longer than just a few minutes. at two-and-a-half, i'll put my wintec jumping saddle on and start ground-driving. again, not for long, not more than about five to ten minutes at a time and only at most twice a week until they get the idea.

late into their two-year-old year i might get on and ride them around the pasture a bit, or a lap or two around the arena, but again, not more than about 10 minutes and at most a couple times a month and never faster than a walk. i won't start a more serious training schedule until they're at least three.

at three, they trail ride and learn walk, trot, canter in the arena. i won't start anything more until they're four, and no jumping until they're five or six.

ponykins said...

Two? Now people are riding them as late YEARLINGS! Just because you CAN, doesn't mean you SHOULD, yet listen two those saying it's fine, even GOOD for young horses. I don't ride until they are 3 1/2 and they don't set foot in the show ring under saddle until they are 5. I am not impressed, or would I ever consider buying a two year old that was showin in LL or 2year old classes. I am not impressed with ads stating what wins their 2 year old has under saddle. All I can think is "poor thing", you have a stupid owner.

Rachel said...

3. and its killing me. I bought mine as a yearling and he is my only horse and i am sooo sick of him being a virtual large dog that I go visit and groom daily, but I'd rather a couple years of playing with my horse from the ground and having him healthy throughout his life. He was saddle into his second year. he lunges WTC for small intervals a couple of times a week with vacations during bad weather/frozen ground/any sign of injury. Now I am just anxiously waiting for April when we will get him going under saddle. I plan to work schooling shows by fall of his 3rd year and hopefully some circuit shows during his 4th year and begin jumping late 3 early 4.

Ayin said...

If I ever have a horse that I need to start, I would wait until 3 for any real saddle work. Maybe 2 1/2 for leaning/sitting and maybe slow, short walks in the arena - depends on the horse. But I would much rather start later and give the horse a better chance at being sound and healthy joint-wise its whole life. I have joint issues. Arthritis sucks, and I would not wish to be the cause of it in another creature.

horsespiritwriter said...

Hi, not riding the horse until the knees have 'closed', the ligaments have completed their growth and the mind of the horse has matured a bit (5-6yrs old) is the Classic training procedure.
If we equate the Horse to the Human: the Human can begin riding about 10 years of age (with it making 'sense") and if they ride until 60 years of age they could ground start (handle, groom, single line, double line, surcingle) their horse between 2-5 years then train more strenuously at ages 10/15/20/25 & 30, thereby making a mount one to one Human to Horse--what is the hurry?
Please..don't talk to me about desensitizing...I WANT my horses sensitive! Light in response and aware of their surroundings. Bold in their working with
Horse at: 5-10-15-20-25-30
Human at: 10-20-30-40-50-60
matched for life!

Holly said...

2 is too young to ride a horse. I attempt to start in saddle work at 3, or 6 months after they have reached adult height. In the late maturing breeds like WB and my mustangs i start at 5 or 6. I'll put a saddle on them and get them used to it and expose them to stuff, but not ride. I personally think putting a horse in a 2 yr old futurity is just wrong.
On a side note: getting a little mustang is harder than you think: mine are 15 H and 16.2 H. (15 H at 3 when I got her), the big one clears 5 ft fences at liberty.