What is your opinion about starting a horse too young or a horse that isn't ready? Many times I see people starting horses that are just past the age of one or sooner, or the horse is extremely underweight. In all truths, I always wait until a horse is 3, even then it depends on the horse. Like for example when it comes to jumping and starting grid work, some people start as early as 2 or 3. And I don't mean some random kid with a pony, an actual trainer. When it comes to that, I like to wait till they're a mature 4 year old or 5. I mean, it just bothers me. Its not fair to the horse at all.
Never to early to start. You start by teaching basic ground work. Back up, go forward, pick up your feet, put a halter on, respect my space, get some fly spray, wash with a hose, anythign and everything within their physical ability. All that should be done well before the 2 yo mark. Then when you do start putting on saddles and eventually riding you have a horse that is already used to being handled and asked to work.
It depends on the breed and the direction of the horse's future. I have a neighbor that starts over 100 race colts every year. They are beginning to ride yearling right now. They start the ones born first in October every year. He is a very good trainer with 4 very good resident riders and he has few leg problems. All of his colts will be galloping by the first of February. He spends 3 - 5 months just galloping them to get them legged up.
Western trainers start colts in December and January before they are actually 24 months old. If they are futurity bound, just like race horses, they have to be fully trained for the pleasure futurities for 2 year olds. The reiners, reined cowhorses and cutters have to be ready by fall of their 3 year old year. So, the whole purpose of what they are bred and raised for is to get them to the big money futurities.
In order to change this early riding of 2 and 3 year olds, the whole culture of raising and training them would have to change.
All that aside, I have seen the most leg problems in horses that have been raised in confinement. Horses do not mature with hard bone and strong joints that do not have the opportunity to run out on large, rough pastures. Stall and pen raised horses have by far the most leg problems. Every study done on bone density prove this to be true.
I have seen more than one big breeding farm that raises big Warmbloods in small paddocks and pens and every single horse they start -- even at the age of 5 -- had big splints on both front legs.
Race training studies have also shown that waiting until horses are 3 to start them did not reduce -- but actually increased -- the number of horses developing leg problems. It seems that exercise (not racing at high speed) strengthens bones and joints.
I feel a horse shouldnt be backed till, at the very least, two and a half. The horse should also have mastered all basic ground skills. But that's just a rough guidline it really depends on the horse. There are many facters to take into acount such as the breed of the horse.
I don't agreee with starting horses at 1 for performance I saddle longe sackout, tie head around, tie head to d rings all at 1 I might get on around 18 months if the horse has nice bone and is bigger but that is for walking/ light trotting mostly just softening and bending for smaller boned horses I even wait till 2 and ahalf, 3
Bone remodels. In fact, I read (somewhere) that all race horses buck their shins at some point.
Young horses in race training actually build bone density and their cannons remodel. The issue is the growth plates and possible damage there.
Not all horses are race horses (nor should they be).
I think you need to arrive at a happy medium. I like to see foals handled and taught to lead, pick up there feet and stand tied.. Imprint training is a good thing too. At weaning I like to see a horse out there.. running up and down hills and getting plenty of natural exercise.
The old Tymer's would bring a horse off the range at age 2 and back him.. put 60 days on him.. and then put him out to be caught up and start serious education and work at age 3-4. I like that program. Not many can do it anymore (not as many ranches and so forth).. but I like it.
I'd say it all depends on the horse. If it is not developed properly or looks underweight or small, then I would hold off until they pick up. However, if the horse is of good bone, healthy and fit (fit for a horse that can't be ridden yet anyhow) then I don't think 2 is a really bad age, depending on what you plan to do.
I wouldnt reccommend any hard riding until 3 or 4 (again, depending on the horse) but hopping on and getting them accustom to the rider's weight, arms & legs flailing around, pressure and even rein direction is ok.
Again, all horses develope differently. A certain horse might not be ready until they are a bit older not just physically, but mentally as well whereas others are ready to learn quicker. Some horses also do better if started early, depending on personality and needs.
I start all of mine as long 2 yo's. They learn the basics at a walk & a small amt of trot work through that fall & winter. When spring rolls around they are 3 yo's who already neck rein, have great body control, sidepass & stop. It makes for an easy transition into more advanced training & maneuvers.
I don't train with futurities in mind anymore so for me it's a we get there when we get there kinda thing.