Why start them so young?
Well I am sorry if this starts any arguments and what not but I have a question, why do so many of you start your horses at 2? To me personally personally there is no good reason to start a horse at 2 especially when it has been proven to be detrimental to their health and that there skeleton doesn't finish fusing until they are 6. Then add on top of that that I highly doubt that many is not any of them are truly mentally ready to work.
I'm truly interested to know what reason there is to start them at 2 apart from shows which imo is not worth the risk to the horses health, as backing a horse at 2 is far from common practise in the UK.
I agree with the OP so no fireworks here. I like to wait until at least 4 or 5 before starting to ride them.
I subscribed to this thread :-D
I don't like starting a horse until they are older. I will however get them used to tack "long" before that. I won't back them, but just so that they know the feel of a saddle, girth, and bridle beforehand. They may get long lined or hand walked, but again, no riding. I like to start the 'tack' process around two or three years, but wait until they're 4-5 before backing them, and then it's just short periods each day, building up from there.
I think a lot of people are in too much of a hurry to see a 'return on their investment'. You could blame that mentality on horse racing as they start their horses very young and many people will see that (especially those new to horses) and say' well they do it, so it's okay for me to do it.'
But show organizers follow along with that by offering Futurities for 2 year olds. I don't like seeing young horses under tack and being ridden in shows before they are 4. You can do so much with a younger horse from the ground, I'd love to see more classes for lead line, In-Hand and the like.
I did say it would probably start arguments but I am sick of seeing broken down horses that have been worked too hard too long. Mine have done basically everything there is to do on the ground by the time they are old enough to be ridden so a rider isn't scary and they are much better rounded individuals for it.
With race horses it's a matter of money. I don't agree with racing 2 yr olds as I think they are still growing and developing.
I worked with my young horses, ground work, getting them used to a saddle, leading, ponying etc. I would often get on them in the fall of their 2 yr old year but just for a few minutes each time to walk and teach them to start, stop and turn. Just do this for a couple of weeks then leave them for the winter and in the late spring start working with them again. They never forgot what they learned the fall before. I don't even like to see 3 yr olds worked hard but often they are.
By not rushing young horses I think I give them the opportunity to have a longer more useful life with less soundness issues.
I'm going to type the same thing that I always type on these threads.
I have worked for show horse trainers and I have rode and started ranch horses. For the most part in the western show world, yes, colts are started as two year olds. Working on ranches I have started colts as 3, 4, 5 and even older horses. I have lost count of the amount of colts I have started over the years, not saying that I am good at it, but I have started a lot. Here is what I have noticed.
Horses will stay sound or become crippled regardless of the year it was started.
I have seen two years old started, shown futurity, shown derby went on to aged events, packed non-pros then went well into their teens and twenties packing amatuers/novices and retire sound. Seen horses started as two years not stay sound and not make it to the show pen.
Also seen horses started in their 3,4, 5+ year go on to live a long life as a ranch horses still using them in their twenties teaching kids how to rope, cut and work cattle. Seen that same age group of horses be crippled and unuseable within a short amount of time.
The thing that people that only looking at the age of the colt don't take into consideration is the individual horse.
There are other factors; conformation, physical and mental maturity, the amount of riding done, the ground the horse is worked in and the difficulty of work being asked of the individual.
Agreed with Cow chick 100%
I start them at two. It's just how it goes. It works for me.
Another thing people forget about is how to keep a horse mentally sound. They don't know how, so they fry a horse's brain regardless of age. You come across a talented horse who takes everything so well, and then they get excited and keep asking more. They forget they are on colts because the colts act like they're broke. A reiner might get excited and stop a horse too many times. A barrel racer might try to add speed too quick. A rail/eq person might try to get their lead changes too soon.
A huge thing that people don't understand is that dry work in particular is extremely hard on horses mentally. I find that the two year olds I put on cows often are way more willing and mentally able than the ones who don't get to see them much. I find barrel prospects who work the pattern or drills on the pattern seem happier than the ones who don't. Giving them that object and that job, and doing it right, is imperative to a sound mind.
I've had a lot of colts, particularly in the past couple years, and none of them are lame due to early riding stress.
One flaw in your theory cowchick all horses physically mature at roughly the same age with the last growth plates in their spines fusing at around 6. Yes horses started at a reasonable age can and do go lame early but why would you risk a youngster who's skeleton is years of maturing and therefore putting them at a much greater risk of their ridden live going to a have painful and abrupt end all too soon just because some one has been lucky and their horses have stayed outs (from the outside). I wonder how many of these 20 year olds would actually pass a vetting.
OP, I choose real life experience with horsemanship rather than the numbers preached on a forum. No offense. Between the incredible trainers and horsemen/women I have had the privilege to meet, I have learned that sometimes the science doesn't always add up. You have to be intelligent and have enough horse sense to know when you're pushing your horse and when you are not. They will tell you if you have the sense to listen.
Just curious rbarlo, in your OP you stated that starting two year olds is not a common practice in the UK yet you are tired of seeing horses broken down from being started at too young of an age. Are you seeing these horses first hand or you reading about them? Where are you seeing these horses that are broken down?
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