Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: USDF Region 1, USEA Area 2, USEF Zone 3 - Maryland
I think you're totally fine riding her.
At the barn where I board the young horses are saddled, lunged and have a person lay across there back between the ages of 2-3, depending on the horse - their size, temperament and their overall "readiness" to start undersaddle. We keep going until someone can sit on them and be led around the ring.
After their initial backing they get several months off. Then between 3-4 years old, again depending on the horse, they are lightly hacked around the farm w/t/c and introduced to small cross rails.
After they do that for a few months and are at least about 4, they start going to dressage shows. They generally start jumping at shows around 5.
So, I really don't think you're hurting your mare at all. I think if you start them earlier (I mean 3/4) rather than later (5/6+) the training is a little easier.
Edited to add: Most horses are done growing by the time they are 6, and the growth between the 3-6th year is very slow. Maybe a small height increase during that time, but mostly just filling out with muscle mass.
-Melanie Mom to 3 bays: Beau, Daisy & Cavalina
Last edited by My Beau; 06-24-2009 at 08:11 AM.