When to start a horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 02-28-2010, 05:10 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: I am omnipresent (mostly Alberta...)
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When to start a horse

A good friend has a pure Thoroughbred filly, a year and a half old, with pretty impressive racehorse bloodlines, who she wants to give to me. I know this sounds crazy, but she already has six horses, and this filly was an accidental birth of her ex-racehorse's, and she doesn't want to be bothered with the training of another horse, so since she's rolling in cash anyways, and the economy is down, she wants to give the filly to me, where she knows Flaming Glory will have a very good, loving home.

I am, of course, smitten with this little filly. I will put in all the time and money needed to make her into the wonderful jumper (hopefully 3-day eventing horse eventually) I know she can be. She's halter-broke and has had quite a bit of handling. Right now, I am just looking at whether I can afford to keep her, and where I should board her. But what I really want to know is, when can I start her?

I know that right now, I can get her used to having to pick up her feet and have constant handling, but when can I start putting a saddle and bridle on her, and how long and how frequently can she be longed?

I am hoping that she will (one day) become a low-level eventer, maybe a higher-level as her training progresses and if she has the ability. I have ridden a couple horses for the first time with a trainer there with me, and I hope to do the same with Glory. So I want to know; when can I first put a saddle on? A bridle? Longe her with both? Ride her for the first time? Trot her with a rider? How long will she have to be in training before we can canter? At what age can she start jumping small stuff? When will she be grown enough to jump something higher? And in the meantime (since I know i can't start her now, as a 1-and-a-half-year-old!), what can I do with her to get her used to everything she'll face later in life?

I don't have pictures of Glory, but she's growing QUICKLY; she's at least 15 hands right now, and getting bigger by the hour! I don't know when she'll stop growing....And she has nice, long, clean legs and a decent-length back (if anything, it's a tad long, but nothing out of the ordinary). She is pretty healthy in every way.
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post #2 of 4 Old 02-28-2010, 05:51 PM
Join Date: Jan 2010
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It's all up to the horse, IMO. I started putting a saddle on Chopper and letting him wear it when he was about 20 months old. I also hand walked him all over the place while wearing it, and started lunging a little after that. Then I introduced the bridle, and did the same thing. I got on him bareback for the first time in April of his two year old year, and started riding him with a saddle and bridle that June-ish. I rode him a few times, walked, trotted, cantered once or twice. Then he got the entire winter off to be a baby and grow up some more. This year I rode him more, took him on his first trail rides, and started introducing harder work. Again, he has the winter mostly off, with a few rides here and there for fun. This spring as a four year old he starts his real work and will be introduced to the barrel pattern.
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post #3 of 4 Old 02-28-2010, 11:53 PM
Join Date: Jul 2009
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Like kassierae said, it depends on the horse. I'd say you can start putting the saddle on now, it won't hurt the horse to have it on. Same with the bridle, just let the horse get used to it being in there. With both of them... put it on, take it off, put it on, take it off, etc etc etc etc. The more you make it part of her routine, the more she'll accept it as something totally normal.

There is no reason you can't teach her to lunge at the walk and maybe some light trotting on a nice long line.

Things to do with her while she's growing up.... get her used to anything and everything you can possibly think of. Big rubber balls, ropes, tarps, mailboxes, walks through the neighborhood (if you've got a safe neighborhood), car doors, jump standards and all of the random crap they put on the jumps (fake flowers, etc), cell phones, soda cans opening, seriously anything. Anything you can find should be rubbed all over her body until she no longer cares that they exist.

As for ground work-- teach her to yield her haunches & forehand. Teach her pressure on her face and poll, ask her to bend her neck around with pressure on the side of the halter just like she'd get with a bit. Teach her to stand quietly next to the mounting block while you climb it as if you were to mount her.

Just desensitize her to everything you want her to be cool with for the rest of her life.

As for riding her-- I'd say 2.5 - 3 years old, 3 being preferable. When she's used to wearing the bridle, start applying pressure to the bit as if you were in the saddle. Ask her to bend her head around to either side, when she gives, release for a reward. Ask her to back up, etc. Eventually, start to put weight in the stirrups from both sides with your arm, pushing down. Get her used to standing when there is pressure in the stirrup. Then, move to putting your foot in the stirrup, and hop up and down. flap the fenders around. Eventually you'll put all of your weight in the stirrup. Do these things over and over and over and over. When you finally get in the saddle, mount, dismount, mount dismount.

It's all repetition and it really isn't that hard. Good luck.

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post #4 of 4 Old 03-01-2010, 12:59 AM
Join Date: Sep 2009
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I agree with the advice given, all great stuff. The only thing I want to add is purely my own opinion. Once you have started riding, at about 3ys +, don't be in too much of a hurry to start cantering. It is soooo much easier to train a horse to canter well when the horse already has it's balance with a rider. Let a young horse build up it's muscles with lots of waliking and some trotting before getting into a canter. If you wait and you have other things in place like stop, half halts, one rein stop, backing, yielding hind and front quarters and side pass all at a walk, a young horse with these things in place is so much better balanced in the canter than one who has been rushed. Also when I say balanced I mean mentally as well as physically.

This is just my own opinion, I know you are a long way from riding but I hope I have given you some food for thought.
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