Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: Central Hill Country Texas
I've never trained a roping horse from scratch so take this with a grain of salt.
I own a four sixes horse that was working on the Waggoner so he probably done it all in his youngest years. He was then used in team roping competitively. When I bought him, he was recovering from an injury (which was how I could afford him). He blew out his stifle. Within weeks, he developed what we at first thought was EPM but, tests showed it was not that.
After running full screenings for other things like lime's disease, the doc decided to have a look at his spine using x-rays. We were a bit afraid that maybe it was wobblers....the only thing that he found was some arthritis at the c-6, c-7...right where the horn would be, probably from dallying. He was 7 years old at the time. (The final diagnosis was that he ate a native toxic plant which caused the symptoms and they eventually cleared up.)
I have to agree with all of those above that say no heavy stuff until at least five, though the spine is said not to be fully mature until 7. I know that isn't always possible with serious competitive ropers but, if you are talking about the "ideal", best for the horse...I'd wait to do the full out work for a couple of more years.
“You spend your whole life with horses and just about the time you think you have them figured out, a horse comes along that tells you otherwise.” –quote from my very wizened trainer