Is it really any different than the timetable with horses?
I have been looking for a unstarted or barely started 3-4 year old horse, because my personal philosophy is to not start doing "dressage" work with a horse until they are in the early part of their 4 year old year. The simple fact is, I want to ride. I have lost so many years, am getting older, and I have goals, plain and simple.
That said, I have started looking at ponies and pony crosses and have heard from multiple people that they often back them late in their 2 year old year, spend time hacking them, then start them properly in the spring of their 3 year old year.
Are ponies really different? The health and soundness of my horse trumps all my "goals", but with all these nice 2 year olds available it's hard to not be tempted by them.
I start my ponies the same as my warmblood horses...my ponies all have some WB in them, and GRP's are quite late to mature. I ussualy back at three and get more serious about dressage work at four. I would never start riding a two year old personaly. I do not think they are mature in mind or body and I want my ponies to last for the long haul!
We sit on our 2 yr olds in the fall of that year - they learn to go forward, stop and turn. Then they just play until the spring of the next year when they learn walk, trot and canter. After a couple of months(depending on how they progress), they will start going over small crossrails at the trot. We don't jump anything over 12 to 18 inches until they are 4.
Sometimes we sit on our larges in the fall of their two yr old year. Just sit and maybe do a bit of walk, trot. Then we put them away until the spring of their three year old year.
I have some that were born mature and some that mature later. We deal with what we think we have and never, ever push them.
My thoughts exactly---some are more ready to do "more" and some are not. Some are more mentally mature than physically--and vice versa.
Our Native ponies tend to be completely mature by 7 (like horses) but at three are much more balanced and capable than most young horses--by three these youngsters tend to slow down growing in Height considerably... they continue to grow but so much more slowly. We keep our early lessons short and to the point. I also don't tend to jump our three year olds other than single natural obstacles as one would meet on a trail---small ditches, small up/down banks, small logs and introduction to water---nearly everything I can step over/through or on. Im very lucky I have a fantastic Cross Country course nearby with just what I need. We also tend travel out with them so that they are exposed to the real world and traveling.
Last edited by goodpony; Aug. 30, 2010 at 08:09 PM.
I have welsh cobs both Cs and Ds. I tend to back them when they are 3 and start them with real training at the age of 4 with a whole lot of hauling here and there, getting them out to hang around with the big boys and trail riding in between and during those times (and continue that as they mature). Not all of them mature at the same rate so how much and how fast I ramp up their training is dictated by the individual 'cause I'm the test dummy. Over facing a young pony has no advantages and only causes me long standing problems I have to fix if it is allowed to occur (saying that as someone who has been given those "mistakes" to fix for others).
Correct me if I'm wrong, but what difference does it make how physically mature the horse *looks* when the main reason we wait til 3 or 4 or whatever is because of what's happening inside? Joints closing and so on? The only reason I could see not working one horse at 3 vs. working another horse at 3 would be if one is significantly downhill in their growth at the time.
Occasionally I will teach walk, steer, halt, and maybe trot right when they turn 3, but if I do they then have the rest of the summer off. I usually sit on them in the summer or fall of their 3 year old year and they learn w/t and maybe canter if they're ready. Then they hang out all winter, and start real work in the spring of their 4 year old year. I free jump a handful of times late in their 3 year old year, jump a couple crossrails under saddle at 4, and jump for real at 5. I do things like long lining, going for trailer rides, etc as much as possible when they are young - most yearlings I've had could long line around the farm in a halter well. I know that I take it slower than many, but it's what I believe in. I'm appalled that anyone even sits on a 2 year old, and don't get me started on the 2 year old QH's, TB's, etc that are in real work by then! Ugh!
I back mine at three, sometime wait until the fall of their third year. Mine all have warmblood in them, and are slow to mature.
I have a lovely three year old small horse/large pony that I have just started to back. She is mentally ready and physically ready at this age.
I have had great luck with them, and I don't mind waiting. My five year old Sport Pony Gelding is now doing some heavier dressage work and is just showing that he is ready for it.
I don't believe in rushing things. Just my opinion, really means nothing to anyone but me, lol.
We will start ground work late in their 2 yo year - Nov or Dec. and then they usually have some time off during the holidays and start back in with ground work and then backing beginning of their 3rd year. Nothing serious - just getting on and walk/trot in a small area and then moving up to w/t/c in a large arena by spring. Add in some hacking and free jumping low cross rails. If we feel for some reason they aren't ready for that schedule we just push it back several months.
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I'm with Hluing on this, we start ours as 3 yr olds but don"t get serious with training until they are 4 yr olds. Often will give them a couple months off during Jan and Feb before starting them up again in the spring of their 4th year.
I've noticed a huge difference in their strength and mental capacity in just a few months when we bring them back into work in the spring. Much more ready to get down to business.
I try to stick fairly close to the U.S.Cavalry training model. They didn't back their horses until age four They did do a lot of good, basic groundwork first. I will start one at three and a half. However, I spend almost 90% of the time working on the walk and teaching the aids. I will introduce the trot and canter just to teach the aids ... and to instill a firm NO if there is a buck sprouting from the canter I will begin using the trot more as the horse turns four ... walk work 80% trot 18% canter 2% ... by 4 1/2 I can do some basic trot sets and will begin to work on the canter .... walk 50% trot 40% canter 10% ...
That is for if you want to have your horse stay sound throughout it's lifetime ... even if the conformation is not perfect.
Thanks everyone, I thought as much. This is the main reason I have been looking at unstarted or barely started 3 year olds with the plan to just do some light hacking and trail riding until next spring when they are 4. I am friends with an MD who has trained horses for years and has done a lot of research in physiology and biomechanics, she is a firm believer that horses are not mature enough to really go to work until they are 5 (and that they should be started as late 3 yo/or 4 yo).
I may end up at the end of the day with a 2 year old, but will obviously have to change my plans.
this thread is so encouraging! I tend to keep my mouth shut about my ideas regarding starting ponies later because people around here look at me like I'm crazy! There was a lady at my daughters trainers barn, who decided to breed her mare last year, since both our girls were in foal at the same time we got to talking about our plans. I COULD NOT hide my disgust when she told me she planned on sitting on him at one, so at two walk/trot/canter to "get him going", this is a warmblood colt (now gelding). Best part is she is working with a fairly well known trainer, don't know if trainer was aware of her "plans" but God if so I hope they educated her a bit more!! Needless to say we don't really talk about our plans anymore, or anything at all for that matter.