Are these horses generally born earlier in the year too? So come time to show they are 2 and a bit?
Yes. If people are breeding with the hope of getting a futurity horse, they try to have them born as close to January 1 as possible.
The show that the two's are at is held in November. They are not permitted to start showing at breed shows until June or July. I don't remember which. So before most of these horses ever hit a show pen, they are over two years old.
Going off on a tangent now....
There are a ton, TON, of horses that are bred specifically for the breed show events that don't make it as two year olds. If they aren't ready, they don't go out because the very last thing anyone wants to do is put a horse out there before it's ready.
One of the things that I think is really disconnected from people that show regularly on the breed circuits and those who own horses just because they like them and are happy trail-riding and such is that breed show people seem more aware that there is a possibility that we will sell the horse. (Long, run on sentence.) We take our horses out where they are seen by trainers and fellow exhibitors who may at some point be shopping for a new horse. If I put my horse on the market, I don't want her being remembered for being a bad loper. So she didn't hit a QH show until she was a strong, able loper.
For example, there is a young up-and-coming stallion who is with a very big name barn whose owner's original intent was to have him show in the 2's at Congress. He wasn't ready. So they sat on him a year, and this spring put him out with an introductory fee and a video of him being ridden at home. And mare owners booked their mares to him because they could see the potential and the quality there. It doesn't hurt at all that he is a sibling to two very, very successful horses (one gelding, one mare). Had he been shown as a two-year-old before he was ready, would he have had the mares booked to him that he did this year? Would people be talking about him as a horse to watch? No, they would remember him as the horse who couldn't lope despite what his famous siblings could do.
Part of the issue when it comes to pleasure horses is that the average Joe's mental picture of a horse is a horse running around with it's mane whipping in the wind. Face it, that's true. People ooh and ahh over pictures of horses that look like that.
Our pleasure horses don't look like that when they come in the pen. We have them going round and looking through the bridle. We cut their manes off. It's not Spirit, or Hidalgo, or Black Beauty or any sort of Hollywood depiction of a horse. There will never be a movie about a western pleasure horse, let's face it.
Unfortunately, for most of the horse-owning population, there is a distinct lack of education as well. The number of people who are showing their horses at the breed show level is very, very small compared to the number of horse owners out there. Let's face it, the average Joe horse owner is someone who rides maybe weekly or a few times a week. They own the horse because they enjoy it. They may take lessons occasionally. They probably enjoy going on trail rides and beach rides. They don't compete or ever plan to compete.
They have basic horse knowledge and since they are not interested in the upper levels of competition, they don't bother to educate themselves about it. Maybe there is some resentment toward the people who do ride at the breed levels (or USEF hunters, or FEI dressage, or whatever) because they don't have the horse-power or the finances to be able to do that. I don't know. But, the bottom line is there a lack of knowledge and often no desire to learn about something with an open mind.