Average age for a lesson horse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 12-16-2011, 01:17 PM Thread Starter
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Average age for a lesson horse?

I was just wandering what age range most lesson horses are in, because the horses I ride seem to be quite young. I'm not very experienced, I have been riding for about a year and a half, but a year of that was at a bad stables that taught me really bad habits that are hard to get rid of (for instance, I tend to grip with my ankles which is obviously not good). I can walk, trot and am improving at my canter (which is what I have been doing for about 2-3 months now) as I keep moving about and not staying very still. I also have a tendency to keep putting my leg to far forwards and I struggle to keep in in the right place, and I am constently getting told to keep my toes in. I normaly ride an 8 year old who is fine to ride but his ground manners and awful and for my previous lesson I was put on a 5 year old who I was told is good but you have too keep your legs in the right position. I was ok with him (apart from the way that he kept throwing his head all the time and I was worried I was being to harsh on his mouth), but I get a little worried being on younger horses but I was told that as he as been to dressage and jumping shows he is good to ride, so should I just not worry so much? Is a 5 year old just as responsable and well behaved as an older horse?
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post #2 of 12 Old 12-16-2011, 01:45 PM
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I don't think there is an average age for a lesson horse; it really depends on the specific animal. I've ridden 20+ year old horses who would make abysmal lesson mounts, and 4-5 year olds that could easily pack a rank beginner safely and still teach them something.

A younger horse can generally be expected to be a bit more flighty, just because they don't have years of "life experience" behind them, but that's a very general statement. Sometimes younger horses are less forgiving of rider error, and hence a bit harder for a beginner or re-learner to ride, simply because they are used to more experienced riders or trainers who can be very correct and accurate with their position and aids. Honestly, sometimes those less forgiving horses teach us the most, because they force us to do things the right way or they won't give us the result we want. There's no reason why a 5 year old cannot be precocious and have the right experience to be a good lesson mount. I wouldn't worry about it unless the horse gives you a reason to doubt him.

A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient one in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you ~ Unknown
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post #3 of 12 Old 12-16-2011, 02:00 PM
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Most lesson horses are 10 and over
cause they tend to be more quiet and more reliable for you
to learn on
When I was taking lessons my lesson horse was 15 or 16 I am not really sure

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post #4 of 12 Old 12-16-2011, 02:21 PM
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Personally (and I'm sure there are exceptions to this rule) I'd want any lesson horse I had in my lesson program to be at least 10.
While I'm sure that there are younger horses that can pack people around, I feel that lesson horses should be trained to a level far beyond the level of the riders they are expected to teach. And in the case of young horses being used as lesson mounts, I'd worry that they haven't had enough time to be riding horses and learn the things expected of them.
My preference is that a lesson horse should be old enough and experienced enough to have a successful showing career under his/her belt (to demonstrate that the horse has proficiency in the areas he/she is expected to be ridden in).

Of course, I don't think all horses over 10 would make suitable lesson horses due to personality quirks and such. And there are horses under 10 that have suitable personalities for lessons, I just don't think they should be used as lesson horses until they have some serious world experience.

Pretty much the entire time I took lessons, I was riding those horses that had been out into a lesson program at a young age, hadn't had much additional training, and developed behavior issues due to that. I never felt like I learned much, it was more like "supervised horse training" time.
I did take about 2 months of lessons from a barn where all the horses were AQHA world champions in one respect or another and I leanred SO much more from those horses than I ever did in the 6 years I was riding at the other barn. Those horses knew their stuff, I just had to learn how to cue them correctly. I also learned so much about riding off my seat, it was incredible. If I had started out on those horses, I'd be so much farther right now than I am, but as it is, I'm not.

Disclaimer: I do use my 27 year old mare as a lesson horse and she has no ribbons or trophies to her name (that I know of). I figure that it's acceptable since she has the right temperament with kids, she's fully bomb-proof (like literally, we had a bomb go off near us and she just stood there), and I'm only teaching to real beginners (who my mare is a higher level than). I've refused to take students that are more advanced because I know that my mare isn't skillful enough to really teach them much more than how to become a really quiet rider.

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.

Last edited by Wallaby; 12-16-2011 at 02:23 PM.
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post #5 of 12 Old 12-16-2011, 05:06 PM
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It really depends on the horse more than just an average age. A lot of the school horses where I board at are 4-8, just depending on when they were started in on training. If the owner of the stables bought the horse young, they're usually 5 or 6 when beginner/intermediate riders can be put on them.
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post #6 of 12 Old 12-16-2011, 05:40 PM
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I'd say most I've seen are in their teens. However I rode 20 yo last winter (dressage lessons) and that was a tough one to ride (advanced and taking any weakness to its advantage). I also did ride very quiet 5-6 years old (the cutters). So depends really.

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass: it's about learning to dance in the rain..."

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post #7 of 12 Old 12-16-2011, 06:48 PM
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I'd also say it depends on the horses. I've ridden a 25 year old mare who was completely psychotic and would buck across the arena if you even bumped her with your leg. I've ridden a newly broken 4 year old a year into my lessons that they were putting beginners on because he was a total saint =)
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post #8 of 12 Old 12-16-2011, 08:00 PM
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It really does depend on the individual horse. The lesson horses at my current barn are 12, 14, 22, and 8. The 8 year old is actually just as quiet as the 12 year old, if not more quiet. Most lesson horse I see though are 10 and up. But that doesn't always mean they'll be good for lessons. Dallas turned 10 in late June and I would never put a beginner on him. He's got tons of training but has a bit of a stubborn streak and will take advantage of his rider if he can. I've met a 6 year old horse that was the best horse with kids I've ever seen. It all depends on the horse itself.

<3 Dallas, Dakota, and Shaymus <3
RIP Shaymus 8/16/13
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post #9 of 12 Old 12-16-2011, 10:34 PM
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Like everyone has said, it really just depends on the horse. A lot of people try to label horses by their breed, or age, or size- but really it's all about personality. You want a lesson horse to be forgiving and soft mouthed, but at the same time- you don't want them to be push button. I want my riders to have to use their aids right to get a response from a horse, but I don't want the horse bolting off if the kid accidently kicks too hard, or rearing if they pull back a bit too tight. The horse must genuinely enjoy his job. Many horses tend to get frustrated if their rider is confusing.

With our lesson horses, we don't just train them to a certain level and then toss them into the program- never to be schooled again unless they develope a bad habit. IME, a learning horse is happy horse. Engaging their minds with new things helps break the monotony of their job as a lesson horse, and it keeps them sharp and in tune for their riders, no matter what their experience level is.

We have horses of all ages in our program. We have a seven year old arabian who was put into the program at age five- after only two years of riding under her girth, and she's never once offered to put her riders in danger. We alternate her between beginners and intermediate riders, simply because she tends to get lazy and sometimes needs that extra 'push' from more experienced riders. Almost all of our beginners start on her though, because she is extremely forgiving and really just loves to be out there with the kids....as long as they aren't going faster than a trot ;)

At the same time we have a 28 year old mare, Puddin' who was a working ranch horse back in her day. She's very set in her ways, and will sometimes act up (crow hopping, 'spooking', and refusing to move) when asked to do something out of the ordinary- making her only suitable for our riders that are confident with neck reining, and can easily sit a walk, trot, and a canter.

We also have two OTTBs that are about the same age who are in our program, but they are completely opposite. While one is laid back and would do anything for anyone- the other is feisty and is always testing her rider. You just have to go by the animals attitude, and see where they fit. Some horses just aren't made for lessons, and that's ok.

Everyone in your life is meant to
be in your journey, but not all of
them are meant to stay till the end.
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post #10 of 12 Old 12-17-2011, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply's. I suppose he will be ok then, I just worry about him not being as tolerant as the older horses as I do have a lot of faults in my riding.
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