At what age do you think is a good age to start your horse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 10-10-2008, 06:31 PM Thread Starter
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Lightbulb At what age do you think is a good age to start your horse?

I have been hearing different ages from everyone, but I would like to get more feedback.
I was just wondering what age do think is a good age to start your horse?
I have heard so many different ages.
From 2-6.
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post #2 of 12 Old 10-10-2008, 06:48 PM
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It depends. Ground work I think can be started very young. Right away after they are born I believe in imprinting...touching them all over etc..halter work really early on then riding..I think starting gentle at around 3 is ok. No cantering or jumping for a year or two after that though.
Also, it depends on the riders weight. The lighter the rider the less impact it has on the horses joints.

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post #3 of 12 Old 10-11-2008, 10:45 AM
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I agree, ground work should be started asap. Young bones shouldn't be taxed in a round pen or on a lunge much though, so I keep foals on a lead line and just teach good manners in general, with only short lessons in the round pen every now and then.

From yearling until 3, I like to take the horse on trail walks in hand, no other horses, and occassionally ponied from an older quiet horse. Nothing tough though, just enough so the horse gets to see the world and learns how to behave in new and "scary" situation.

At 2, I like to get the horse used to a saddle and bridle, advance the round pen and lunge work some, and introduce ground driving.

At 2.5 to 3 years old we work on long lining and learning to stand for mounting and dismounting (with maybe a few steps of walking, but that's it).

Between 3 and 4 years old we work on the basics of riding, WTC, stop, turn, backup, and some trail riding. Of course, this will go easily because we've already done all of it on the long lines and with ground driving in the arena.

At 4 I will start harder work and longer trails. I won't jump a horse or work on roll backs, spins, slides, etc. until he's 4.5-5yrs old.

I use this schedule as a guide, as all horses are different in their mental maturity and what they can handle. BUT, ALL horses' bones mature about the same. Knees close at 2-2.5 yrs old, hocks close at 4-4.5 yrs old, and all the bones are done growing at 5-5.5 yrs old. Big geldings (that will mature over 16h) take an extra 6 months for knees, hocks, and full bone maturity between 5.5-6 yrs old. This is a scientific fact, studied by more than a few equine scientists/vets in the field and in the lab.

Starting horses too hard, too young is why we see 7-8 yr old horses needing hock injections, young horses with bone chips, horses developing arthritis at 13-15 yrs old, etc. A horse SHOULD be riding sound, barring any illness, injury, or genetic defect, until nearly 30 yrs old. A horse SHOULD be sound enough for jumping, cutting, reining, etc. ("hard work") until 18-22 yrs old.

If you're a light weight rider and KNOW how to properly condition your horse for work, then yes, you can start them early (at 2) and they will be sound for life. But, there aren't many people that REALLY know about horse physiology and strength conditioning starting young horses. If there were, we'd see far fewer soundness problems.

Greed and impatience cause people to push young horses too hard and fast. 3yr old Futurities (cutting, reining, WP, etc) are partially to blame. Who wouldn't want to win some money? The racing industry starting horses at 18 months old is also partially to blame ("the race people do it, why can't I?"). But the biggest problem is just plain ignorance... I see it on and all the time. Some dumb a** with their kids riding a yearling, or their teenagers running barrels on a 2yr old, or a 2yr old draft pulling a big heavy waggon full of people, or their big husband/brother/dad/uncle galloping a 2yr old down a hill, etc. People don't take the time to think about the age or development of their horse, or learn about it. The internet is full of information if you just take the time to look for it.

Two very good articles on this topic, both written by vets. Every horse person should read them.
Esi Knowledge Base - True Collection
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post #4 of 12 Old 10-11-2008, 05:59 PM
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luvs2ride1979: definitely agree!
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post #5 of 12 Old 10-12-2008, 04:32 PM
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I was going to respond to this but luvs2ride1979 pretty much summed it up.
We have started putting the saddle on and standing while I fake mount. Our baby's are 2.5 years. I won't have anyone in the saddle till they are 3 and nothing more than 10-15min. rides in the round pen till they are 4.
These are our first baby's that we have kept past 2 yo. so its a new experience for us

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post #6 of 12 Old 10-13-2008, 12:20 AM
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I pretty much agree with what's being said.

Take advantage of when they are babies, do everything and go everywhere, dress em up, hang things off them, hug all over them and touch and mess with every inch of them. A horse that's been used to things on it's back and flapping around since it was born isn't going to care when you throw a saddle on for the first time.
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post #7 of 12 Old 10-13-2008, 08:24 PM
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i prett much agree too, we have had our horses since birth, ground work was pretty much a given since birth, we broke abby last year at age 3, but star who is 3 now is to inmature mind wise will be going off to his trainer in march or april at the age of 4
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post #8 of 12 Old 10-15-2008, 12:36 PM
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I don't like to see horses started any earlier than 2. Most of ours, we start them at 3 and only ride them in a round pen for a few days. Repeated stress at an angle is very bad for their joints. When I feel that they are ready, we start going on trail rides. Mostly at a slow or medium trot for a couple of miles with walking mixed in. A good trainer will be able to tell when a young horse is beginning to get tired and exactly how much they can take. I just started my other mustang in August and he is 6. He had never been rode so I had him in the round pen for 3 days before I took him out. When we went out, I kept him at a long trot or a lope the whole way and we were both tired when we came back to the house. I have found that a tired horse will learn faster.
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post #9 of 12 Old 10-15-2008, 12:56 PM
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I bought a mare just after her 3rd birthday. She was suppose to have had 90 days of professional training. Bought her at a Appaloosa Breeders Sale. I talked to the lady who had owned her, because I had some concerns with her training, and was assured that she was well train, and even had been used in cattle penning... This all must have been done when she was only two.... I have barely rode her as she was my brood mare for a few years. She is now 10 and very stiff with arthritis.
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post #10 of 12 Old 10-15-2008, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by aappyfan1 View Post
I bought a mare just after her 3rd birthday. She was suppose to have had 90 days of professional training. Bought her at a Appaloosa Breeders Sale. I talked to the lady who had owned her, because I had some concerns with her training, and was assured that she was well train, and even had been used in cattle penning... This all must have been done when she was only two.... I have barely rode her as she was my brood mare for a few years. She is now 10 and very stiff with arthritis.
that is sad

I feel like a lot can be done without riding or overworking from 1 day old through late 2 years old...that will mentally prepare a horse and be valuable to its training.
leading, tying, grooming,clipping, ground driving yielding to pressure at different points on the body, accepting saddle/bridle, LIGHT longing, ponying on trails in new environments, etc. are all things that will prepare a horse to be a better riding horse when that time comes without being hard on its body.

I don't see an issue with a smaller framed person starting to back a late 2 year old stock type breed for limited periods of time.

I don't see an issue with starting basic riding training on a 3 year old (walk, trot, canter, back, side-pass, obstacles,trail, exposure to various things).

As a 4 year old, I feel that a lot of horses are more ready to start learning more complicated and difficult maneuvers - but each horse ages differently mentally, and may need more time for certain things.

I really don't think there is any reason to start serious jumping training before age 6. I don't have issue with cavellettis and light/low cross poles as a 5 year old, sometimes 4. I also think things like rollbacks and slides are better done when a horse is a little older (4-6), but slow haunch turns are okay to start teaching a bit earlier IMO.

I think the biggest thing you want to think about is the mental maturity of the horse, the breed, and the physical development...horses are individuals, and should be treated as such.
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