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  1. #1
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    Default starting the 3 year old -- where to focus?

    I'm planning on having my will be 3 year old professionally started in the spring. I was originally thinking of sending her to 30 days natural horsemanship training, then 60 days dressage training, but the more I'm getting to know her the more i'm thinking she won't be mentally ready to be started in dressage next year. What do you guys think of having the 3 year old started for 60 days by a natural horsemanship/cowboy trainer (he started my mom's literally feral friesian and she is now a super safe trail horse...this man is a true horse whisperer and specializes in colt starting)? I want to have her go for 60 days with the cowboy trainer, hack her out and do light ring work for the rest of her 3 year old year, ride only very lightly over the winter, then send her to 60 days dressage training spring of her 4 year old year. Thoughts on a cowboy trainer starting a dressage horse? I am first concerned with her being a safe riding horse, and having her be good at dressage is more a secondary goal (although equally important). Should i send her out for dressage in her 3 year old year or wait? She's sort of immature mentally and has a hard time focusing and doesn't have a great work ethic, so i don't want to make her resent working. I feel like if we do bitless trail riding and make it fun her 3 year old year, we'll be having fun together.



  2. #2
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    Truthfully?

    I think you'd be much better of going to a decent trainer who can put do exceptional classic long reining and equip the horse for something decent.



  3. #3
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    Any good young horse trainer (dressage oriented as opposed to NH) will see that your horse has very brief and positive sessions that allow her attention span to broaden. Forward is number one in importance and is something that so many trainers seem to miss. If your horse learns to go forward from session one, it will quickly learn to seek the bit. I much prefer a truly well versed dressage oriented young horse trainer to even the best of cowboys, because the training will be built in building blocks that all fit smoothly. A good trainer will not overface your young horse, but will fit her program to the horse.



  4. #4
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    But you guys don't think a dressage trainer could get her going forward into contact in her 4 year old year? I want her to be sort of both a family horse and my personal dressage mount, but i'm not shooting for the olympics...i'd be happy if we got to 2nd level and had a lifetime of doing a little of everything together.



  5. #5
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    If you have found a good trainer you trust and who will put a solid foundation on your horse, go with him (IMO). I professionally train NH however as with any well-rounded and quality trainer, NH or not, they should be putting a solid foundation on your horse, including teaching her what will essentially eventually be the dressage training scale (regardless of discipline); my own NH training essentially becomes classical dressage as I advance the horse. If he is a good trainer, he should be teaching her relaxation, rhythm, suppleness, impulsion, and so forth (as much as is feasible within 60 days) - all components of the dressage scale and all components that will do more good than harm for her future career as a dressage horse. A solid foundation and a good start is beyond vital, so if you already have lined up someone who will teach your filly the basics and a solid foundation where she is relaxed, then go with it. It is NOT going to be detrimental to her dressage training. If this is the kind of trainer who is also going to be hacking her out (etc), that will also be not only beneficial to your filly physically, but also on an emotional/mental level. Base it on the trainer himself, his techniques and what he produces, rather than his 'discipline'.



  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by luvmydutch View Post
    But you guys don't think a dressage trainer could get her going forward into contact in her 4 year old year? I want her to be sort of both a family horse and my personal dressage mount, but i'm not shooting for the olympics...i'd be happy if we got to 2nd level and had a lifetime of doing a little of everything together.
    Of course! My own horses are evidence of that, since I start them all with a NH foundation that just blends into classical dressage as we progress (true classical dressage, my coach is not NH whatsoever yet we 'blend' easily because of how I bring my horses up). Just my personal opinion, so take it as just that, but personally I would do the same as you already intend...follow your gut. Slow and easy start where the horse learns relaxation and has a solid foundation to build off of. THEN, when she is more physically mature, I would start her off into 'official' dressage training. Essentially anyone can develop or start a horse in such a way that it will progress naturally and smoothly forward in a dressage career, regardless of discipline or method - it depends entirely upon the person.



  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Home Again Farm View Post
    Any good young horse trainer (dressage oriented as opposed to NH) will see that your horse has very brief and positive sessions that allow her attention span to broaden. Forward is number one in importance and is something that so many trainers seem to miss. If your horse learns to go forward from session one, it will quickly learn to seek the bit. I much prefer a truly well versed dressage oriented young horse trainer to even the best of cowboys, because the training will be built in building blocks that all fit smoothly. A good trainer will not overface your young horse, but will fit her program to the horse.
    Yes.

    I will add that I would not allow 99% of the NH cowboys near any of my horses. Been there done that never again.

    Also, you may find that young horse trainers frequently prefer to do all the initial handling themselves so they know exactly what the horse's early education is and do not have to undo problems (or just different approaches) instilled by others.

    In addition, ime, it is better to put a youngster in a continuous program until the basics are solid as opposed to 60 days' training here and there, which sometimes proves to be a waste of time. In other words, generally, I would prefer to put 4 to 6 months training with a pro on a youngster than 60 days one year and 60 days another year.

    She's sort of immature mentally and has a hard time focusing and doesn't have a great work ethic, so i don't want to make her resent working. I feel like if we do bitless trail riding and make it fun her 3 year old year, we'll be having fun together.
    My youngsters are fairly well-behaved but I have to say there are few things I would find less relaxing than a bitless trail ride on a green broke 3 year old.
    Last edited by YankeeLawyer; Aug. 14, 2010 at 06:01 PM.



  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by YankeeLawyer View Post
    My youngsters are fairly well-behaved but I have to say there are few things I would find less relaxing than a bitless trail ride on a green broke 3 year old.
    HAHAHA you do have a good point there. Ok I am curious to see what some more of you more experienced folks think. I have all my eggs in this filly's basket if you will, so I REALLY want to make sure I have her started properly. I will add, the NH trainer doesn't focus AT ALL on forward, rather, he focuses more on one rein stopping and cutting off forward motion. Our friesian we are STILL trying to get to move off the leg, she just doesn't get it, but she's getting there.



  9. #9
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    I guess my hesitation to send a 3 year old out for dressage specific training is that...i want a horse who i can take out on the trails AND ride dressage with. I have seen many dressage trainers who don't focus so much on making the young horses solid citizens as they do on getting them to move fwd in a frame.



  10. #10

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    I HATE pigeon holing training techniques....Natural horsemanship, Dressage, cowboy, etc. With a three year old, it should ALL be about going forward and getting the basics soundly established. Any trainer worth their salt is going to have that foremost in mind. And putting a time frame on it may be a bit unrealistic.

    What I do is start all my youngsters lunging. I use lunging solely for training, not for conditioning. They learn to walk, trot, canter (VERY, VERY little with a 3 yo) and above all else, WHOA. Once they have that down to a fine art and I mean, when I ask for a trot to a walk, I get it immediately, etc., then we go on to long lining/reining. We go all over the property, if possible, and see all kinds of things, once the basics are established in the arena and I know that we're not going to take up the sport of body surfing. When we're to the point that everything is there and well established, the saddle goes on and I bring in a cowboy to climb on for the first few rides. While I have certainly climbed up in the saddle my fair share of times on young horses, I do NOT bounce anymore...I fly really well, but the landings are rough...and my wings are broken. The kid we use has a great seat, sits down and does NOT come off. He also isn't hard on them. Fortunately, the horses have been so well started that the most we'll usually get is a slight hump in the back and maybe one or two half hearted bucks until the horse knows that this is just another part of the whole process. And then it's out on the trail for the next year. Lots of just riding and getting that horse going forward. If you've done everything right from the start, the rest is easy. I don't put a cowboy on them for 30 or 60 days because they tend to avoid any kind of contact with the bit...just a different type and style of riding. I just want one to climb on and ride through the bucks <smile>. After a couple times in the arena we'll saddle up a couple other horses and ride the property. Then it's on to lots of wet saddle blankets

    I understand your goals, but I agree with the idea of 60 days here and there just isn't an effective means of getting any kind of continuity. Good luck!

    Kathy St.Martin
    Equine-Reproduction.com, LLC
    http://www.equine-reproduction.com



  11. #11
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    So what if.....I have her sent for 30 days to the cowboy just to get those first few bucks and stuff out of the way, I can do the lunge and long line training myself as i'm quite adept at ground work, and I can happily start this before she is sent out. Hack her out for the remainder of the year, and send her to my dressage trainer for 4-6 months in her 4 y/o year, or else I could send her to the dressage trainer for 4 months in her 3 y/o year...decisions decisions. I'm quite sure i want the NH guy to put the first 30 days on her, after that I am still so confused on whether to send her out for some serious dressage training in her 3 y/o year, her 4 y/o year or both...4 months each?



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by luvmydutch View Post
    but the more I'm getting to know her the more i'm thinking she won't be mentally ready to be started in dressage next year.
    No horse is ready to start "dressage" at 3, but barring some physical or mental immaturity, they are all ready to start learning the basics, which is how a good NH trainer, or Dressage trainer, or Hunter trainer, or Western trainer, etc, would start a 3yo. A good Dressage trainer would start a 3yo as they'd start any 3yo - forward, responsive, relaxed. Ditto for any other good trainer.

    What do you guys think of having the 3 year old started for 60 days by a natural horsemanship/cowboy trainer (he started my mom's literally feral friesian and she is now a super safe trail horse...this man is a true horse whisperer and specializes in colt starting)? I want to have her go for 60 days with the cowboy trainer, hack her out and do light ring work for the rest of her 3 year old year, ride only very lightly over the winter, then send her to 60 days dressage training spring of her 4 year old year. Thoughts on a cowboy trainer starting a dressage horse? I am first concerned with her being a safe riding horse, and having her be good at dressage is more a secondary goal (although equally important). Should i send her out for dressage in her 3 year old year or wait? She's sort of immature mentally and has a hard time focusing and doesn't have a great work ethic, so i don't want to make her resent working. I feel like if we do bitless trail riding and make it fun her 3 year old year, we'll be having fun together.
    If someone puts a good 60 days on a horse and makes them quiet, responsive, and happy, then it doesn't matter who did it
    ______________________________
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Home Again Farm View Post
    Any good young horse trainer (dressage oriented as opposed to NH) will see that your horse has very brief and positive sessions that allow her attention span to broaden
    Why "opposed to NH"? A GOOD NH trainer, who may or may not label himself that way, can do exactly the same thing.

    there are some perfectly good "cowboys" out there who are not labeled NH but are probably THE original type of "natural" horsemen, which more than a few Dressage folks send young horses to for initial training.

    Don't put generic misconceptions on labels. A "Dressage" trainer could just as easily crank a young horse into a high level frame as a "cowboy" could have a horse afraid of contact and continually seek a loose rein.

    Quote Originally Posted by luvmydutch View Post
    But you guys don't think a dressage trainer could get her going forward into contact in her 4 year old year? I want her to be sort of both a family horse and my personal dressage mount, but i'm not shooting for the olympics...i'd be happy if we got to 2nd level and had a lifetime of doing a little of everything together.
    I don't understand the question. A good Dressage trainer, even the right "cowboy", could get a 3yo going forward into contact, let alone a 4yo.
    ______________________________
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by luvmydutch View Post
    So what if.....I have her sent for 30 days to the cowboy just to get those first few bucks and stuff out of the way, I can do the lunge and long line training myself as i'm quite adept at ground work, and I can happily start this before she is sent out. Hack her out for the remainder of the year, and send her to my dressage trainer for 4-6 months in her 4 y/o year, or else I could send her to the dressage trainer for 4 months in her 3 y/o year...decisions decisions. I'm quite sure i want the NH guy to put the first 30 days on her, after that I am still so confused on whether to send her out for some serious dressage training in her 3 y/o year, her 4 y/o year or both...4 months each?
    The term NH makes me want to poke my eyes out so I don't even address that part. I break race horse babies for the track. To date I have not had a single one of them throw a single buck. Not even look like the thought crossed their mind. Mine are generally two year olds although I do get some yearlings in late in the year. We do all sorts of things with them. They w/t/c and trail ride. Even pop them over some tiny jumps. My personal two year old has had about three months of dressage training so far. We have not really put her on contact but have asked her to lower and push from behind instead of pulling from the front. She was extremely on the forehand even at liberty so I wanted to fix that before we started any serious conditioning.
    The point is a good trainer is a good trainer. If you are happy with the NH person, so be it.



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by luvmydutch View Post
    I will add, the NH trainer doesn't focus AT ALL on forward, rather, he focuses more on one rein stopping and cutting off forward motion. Our friesian we are STILL trying to get to move off the leg, she just doesn't get it, but she's getting there.
    Quote Originally Posted by luvmydutch View Post
    (he started my mom's literally feral friesian and she is now a super safe trail horse...this man is a true horse whisperer and specializes in colt starting)?
    These 2 are in a bit of contradiction to each other. I wouldn't call a horse who was taught to "cut off all forward motion" and whom you're still "trying to get to move off the leg" as a super safe trail horse. I understand what you mean by safe, I think but *I* would not call a balky horse trail-safe.

    The NH person who did the Friesian is NOT a good trainer, whatever his label. Do not send the 3yo to him.
    ______________________________
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET



  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by luvmydutch View Post
    I guess my hesitation to send a 3 year old out for dressage specific training is that...i want a horse who i can take out on the trails AND ride dressage with.
    Don't start thinking that a good Dressage trainer does nothing with 3yos other than crank them onto contact and work on 20m circles in a ring, and that's it. You're losing sight of what is what here. It's not about dressage or NH or Hunters or whatever, it's about a properly started 3yo who goes forward off your leg, stops off your seat and other aids, has as much go as whoa, and is happy. ALL Dressage horses, properly started, do that first. When the environment warrants it, good trainers will also take those Dressage youngsters out on trails and into fields to go forward forward forward.


    I have seen many dressage trainers who don't focus so much on making the young horses solid citizens as they do on getting them to move fwd in a frame.
    Then I would not call them good trainers of young horses, period. It has nothing to do with them being Dressage trainers. There are just as many Hunter/Western/whatever trainers who focus on a frames first.
    ______________________________
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET



  17. #17
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    Hey JB, i agree with most of what you're saying. The NH trainer is a western cowboy type, and likes his horses to poke along (picture western pleasure type stuff), but he can literally teach a horse to do ANYTHING, even to lie down on command. He's a pretty impressive trainer, but he doesn't have any idea about dressage or how to properly start a horse geared toward that career. He does a bunch of ground work (backing up, yielding hind quarters, yielding forequarters, etc.) then gets on them and works on the one rein stop and walk trot canter. My mom's friesian had some MAJOR confidence issues, when we brought her home she was terrified of humans and the outside world, basically unhandled and feral and due to monetary constraints this year was only sent to the cowboy for 30 days (she will go out for further training next year, she's only 4), and he worked her through ALL of her issues. I have honestly never seen such a dramatic transformation in all my life--and it was done in 30 days! She isn't perfect, but we are just hacking her now and having fun with her and teaching her to trust us and that the entire universe does NOT want to eat her. She's coming along into a happy, well adjusted, trusting horse. If you had known this horse before hand, you would think this to be an impossible task. She stands tied, picks up her feet, walks on the trailer, bathes, the whole bit. She may be more forward off the leg had she stayed with him longer, or she may trot along in a western jog, but i feel as though this is something i can discuss with the cowboy trainer. Perhaps he was just the best fit for this particular horse, and maybe not for mine who is already completely trusting of humans (i've had her since she was a weanling), and she is fearless. Her major issue is if she is pushed too hard she gets a bit of oppositional defiance. I do some gentle NH with her, but I am mostly just leaving her alone until next year so a professional can handle her properly. Anyway, i appreciate all the thoughtful advice on here and would welcome any other advice from you guys. I have alot to think about . Here's a pic of my girl: http://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h3...hoot/sdser.jpg



  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by luvmydutch View Post
    I will add, the NH trainer doesn't focus AT ALL on forward, rather, he focuses more on one rein stopping and cutting off forward motion.
    This is exactly my concern. My experience is that cowboys tend to focus on putting stop on them. With a young horse, I want forward, forward, in front of the leg. Back to front. Not only is it imperative as a foundation, it is also very important from a safety standpoint - as long as a youngster is going forward it is difficult or impossible to do the naughtier things like rear or back. There is nothing that freaks me out more than feeling a very young horse suck back behind my leg. I hate that.



  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by YankeeLawyer View Post
    This is exactly my concern. My experience is that cowboys tend to focus on putting stop on them. With a young horse, I want forward, forward, in front of the leg. Back to front. Not only is it imperative as a foundation, it is also very important from a safety standpoint - as long as a youngster is going forward it is difficult or impossible to do the naughtier things like rear or back. There is nothing that freaks me out more than feeling a very young horse suck back behind my leg. I hate that.

    This! Definitely this.

    Kathy St.Martin
    Equine-Reproduction.com, LLC
    http://www.equine-reproduction.com



  20. #20
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    Exactly what YL said. I've had two resale horses that were started by NH types. I never could fix the forward button that they failed to install. In addition, there's a lack of work ethic I find associated with it too. I don't want a 3 or 4 year old that will do "western" whoas, turn on the forehand, etc. I want a 3 yr old that is forward, willing, soft, and responsive. Rhythm and relaxation, which are in the base of the dressage pyramid, are a polar opposite from one rein stops and cutting off forward motion, which is what you said your guy focuses on. I wouldn't want those two things to be the foundation for my horse's training.



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