Breaking in a horse
I was just wondering when people think you should start a horse. I think 2 is a good age but what do otheres think.
When should you start them?
How young is too young?
How old is too old?
I guess it depends on what you want to break them for. Our little ones were pretty much halter broke when they were weaned. I started throwing a heavy saddle pad on them this week (they just turned 2) and doing basic ground work. I plan to have a saddle on them by fall. No riding till next spring when they're 3 and very little riding till they are 4.
Mine are a gaited breed so they take longer to mature as far as the joints/knees.
I don't think there is an upper limit on breaking once they are adults. I've never owned a really old unbroke horse though.
Personally I don't think any horse should be broken any younger than 3! They are just not mentally or physically ready to be ridden! And I also believe that they should always be turned away for 6-12 months after being broken and then brought back into work lightly :)
I start my horses at 1 1/2 with saddle breaking and such then 2 at riding. But thats jsut me. I know many others who would argue :wink:
This is my ideal scheme:
Born - 3 years old: Equine should be solid on ground manners, leading, tying, picking up feet, and you should be able to touch him all over.
3 years - you can start to introduce groundwork, such as lunging (light! Nothing huge; lunging isn't really good for the horse at this point), long-lining and ground-driving, at which point you have to introduce the bit&bridle. When the horse is solidly working with ground-driving (bending around circles, giving to the bit, halting, backing up), then you can introduce the saddle and get them ground-driving with a saddle. Once they are going well with ground-driving with the saddle, you can introduce a rider. I would get a 3-year old doing the basic walk/trot/canter/stop/back/circle under saddle (and doing those basics well.. not necessarily completely balanced) and after a couple months of training, chuck the horse back out to pasture to be a horse for 4-6 months.
4 years - you can bring the horse in again and start the whole training process over, and move on from there.
Here is what would be ideal for me (And I say ideal, because it doesn't always happen this way)
At 1 1/2-2 yrs old I start all the gournd work and saddle work. I usually sit on there back a couple times at two. When they are three I usually put about 30 days on them and when they are four we finish them.
(note: I'm British, this is the way it's done here by everyone except travelling communities/irressponsible owners. I realise a lot of people do it differently in other countries, but nevertheless I stand by this as much better for the horse.)
Nice manners - leading, picking up feet, bathing etc - and 'bombproofing'/'sacking out' should all be taught ASAP. By the time you come around to the first bitting/saddling these should all be well-established.
Getting a horse used to a bit/saddle I would expect to start when the horse is 3, although it probably wouldn't do any harm just to introduce them earlier. It's good to have a horse used to at least having a saddlepad on from a very young age.
I wouldn't lunge/roundpen until the horse is AT LEAST 4, given the stress on the joints (ok, given, even in the UK a lot of people lunge very young, but I don't agree with it). Long-reining can be done much earlier and is very useful providing the horse is mentally mature enough to handle it. Long-reining, voice commands etc should ideally be well-established before backing.
Backing usually begins at 3 1/2, although if the horse is physically OR mentally immature it's normal to leave it until 4. If the horse is backed at 3 1/2, normal practice is to turn it away to mature for a few months after the initial work is done before bringing it back in and picking up training again.
Proper schooling work should begin when the horse is 4.
Jumping and other high-stress activities should begin no earlier than 5, or later depending on when the horse's basic flatwork is sound and established.
I would never put weight on a horse's back before the age of 3 (no more than a saddle, anyway, and only for a short time) and there's nothing that will ever convince me that is ok.
Ignore anyone who tells you 'the knees have closed, so it's ok' - the knees are one of the first joints to close, much earlier than most others, including more important weight bearing structures like the spine and pelvis. Saying the knees have closed is meaningless.
We begin groundwork as soon as it's possible.
Even a two weeks old foal has to be able to give up her foot if it's necessary!!! So groundwork is never too early, we start it seriously in the 6 months. No lunging, just something like Parelli games. Our 8 months old foals are able to be groomed, to be vaccinated by the vet and they stand still, they give their feet to the blacksmith and don't kick, they travel by trailer with no problem, they walk and run with us without any rope or halter, they lay down on the ground if asked, etc.
But we never put a weight - any weight - on their back before 3 years old.
ive got a 4 yr old and i am riding her normally but where i keep my horse (at my friends barn) she has a baby who will be two in the end of Aug. and we have had a halter on her since she was born-ish ... and a few weeks ago we put a saddle on her and my friend (who isn't much more then 115 lbs) put some weight in the sturrups just to get her used to everything.
she won't be ridden(having someone on her back) till she is two and then it will be basics ... it depends on the horse too ... she is a qh and her body is mature ... so yeah it's a case by case thing :)
Depends on the horse.
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