Originally Posted by MacabreMikolaj View Post
I have to agree with Solon. Although I like to work with my horses at a young age, I think it's far more determinatal to overdo it then it is to leave them be until 2-3 years old. Young horses have attention spans like children - you simply can't expect a 6 month old foal to pay attention for 30 minutes during a leading session and then punish them for acting out.
I've seen no deterimental effects whatsoever in horses turned out until 2-3 years old and then brought in for training. They may be bigger, but they also have more trainable minds then a weanling foal. I personally handle my foals from a young age, but I make the sessions as long as the horse I'm working with wants. The second they do what I'm asking, even a tiny bit, I stop, reward and end the session. You simply can't aim for perfection in a young horse, you have to be happy to compromise or you'll end up with a fight. An older horse is easier to push, easier to ask more out of because they're able to focus much easier.
For example, I tacked up my 2 year old Paint filly today just in an English saddle and a bridle. I had her in the roundpen and I asked her to move out at a walk. She's prone to cantering circles around me in excitement. Today, she walked a few laps one way, stopped when I asked, turned properly, and did several laps in the other direction. So I ended the session. I really don't care if it was only 10 minutes long, she did as I asked, and I ended it and rewarded her before she could think of spooking at a butterfly or acting silly.
Jynx was virtually untouched until this year as a 2 year old. She had human interaction but no training. And I'm having very few problems working with her, she's super intelligent, very affectionate and wants to please. So I don't see any harm being done with leaving her to be a young horse.
Training in short sessions is exactly what I'm for. When Crow got started under saddle, at age 5-6 and alredy used to most normal stuff like leading, washing, shoeing etc, we still worked only 10-20 minutes, but we did it 3 times a day (this was when he was on an ''intensive'' training schedual, sent off to my trainer..at home I rarely did anything more than once a day), with a few resting days. Now I ride on long trails, but as soon as I ask for his full attention and engagement in the training, I'm back to 10-20 minutes, and I can very well stop nd take break as soon as I get what I want right. Let's say I'm out on a trail, riding relaxed and not asking anything of him as he's already walking calmly forward in a relaxed and for his body good way. I find a field that invites for some dressage work and turns in on a circle. My plan is to move him in and out on the circle (something hard to practice on the trail) and perhaps a shoulder in in each way. After a few steps he starts listen, collects a bit and do as I ask. I release, let him do a turn and do the same thing in the other way around, asking for nothing but his regular walk in between, and the same things happen. I continue the tril ad a while later I ask for a shoulder in on the road. The extra work took perhaps two minutes but that's enough. On a day hen I'm not already out riding but just do dressage work, I work for maybe 30 minutes with a pause where he can stretch out fully and walk a little each 5 minutes, or when he has done something really well.
Whe he was even more green and just barely was used tothe time it took to take our shortest trail, I simply jumped off in the middle of the trail and lead him a bit to let him relax (as he was very comfortable and used to that). I still do that but mosly because it's nice to stretch my legs :P
Anyway, what I mean is that no matter the age of the horse, you need to keep the work sessions, where you actively ask for something, especially if it's new, very short. Or lse their attention will wander off and you get frustrated on why they won't learn or why they seem so bored and lazy :P
Of course ths is even more important when they're young and everything is new.