I've just started my first 3 year old (well, a couple months ago), and I'm not sure how much work is enough versus too much. He really enjoys the attention, and seems to look forward to our sessions (both the ground work and under saddle).
By "work", I don't mean turned loose in the round pen or lunging arena to get the kinks out and play. I mean a training session where you are giving directions (either from the ground or under saddle) and they are paying attention to you and responding to your aids.
I've heard the saying 3 days at 3 years old, 4 days at 4 years old, etc.; but does that just mean under saddle work or any type of work?
I usually school mine 2-4 days and a day or two off. It just depends on the work and how much we did and if he/she seems a bit tired. At this point, it's as much mental as physical. I just like for the youngsters to stay fresh and interested and try to keep it simple and fairly short while also moving forward and increasing the time they are in work. So it's a "seat of the pants" thing, but I listen to them for the most part and try to tailor it to fit their needs.
my 3 yos get 2-3 days on and then 2-3 days off. It seems like layering the lessons on top of one another seems to make more sense to them and then they get a complete physical break. I also work 15/30 minutes and then walk if I want to extend it out. I do not lunge first but for a few minutes.
Alot of times when they are first started, I might get 10 great minutes from them and then put them away.
I started running at 32, I lost 30 lbs and for the first time in my life got fit. I think if more riders understood fitness it would make more sense when training a horse. I know how I can feel after long runs, hilly runs, and how you get stronger on rest and recovery....not always work. SO I am very in tune with the physical side of it.
My 3-yr-old has been at the trainer's for 60 days and will stay another 30-45 days. She gets worked 5 days a week but "work" means w/t/c either out on the trail/in a big field or in the arena. At first, it was all outside of the arena but now they try to do 2 or 3 sessions a week in the arena and 2 or 3 sessions out of the arena. Nothing strenuous or too demanding. But, she is learning she has a job and needs to go to work and not screw around.
She is a very smart, alpha mare personality and needs the consistent work right now. She had an attitude at first and still has a little bit of one. And that attitude is worse when she has had a few days off. So, for her, more work days is better.
Since I have 3 other horses to ride, when she comes home, it will be more like 3 or 4 days a week and I just hope that is enough to keep her behaving herself - LOL!
My trainer rode my girl when she was three five to six days a week; however, they were very short rides, about 20 minutes or so. He varied what he did with her and did a lot of riding out around the property and not just in the arena. He preferred to work with her a little each day for short periods since her attention span was about the size of a gnat. When fall came, she was put back out with the other youngsters until the spring of her 4 y.o. year.
Mine is nearing 3 1/2. I ride 2 - 4 days a week, usually two days on, two days off etc.
I try to keep the rides fun. We do very little work in the arena, I warm up and cool down on the trails and out riding in the fields. We "work" for maybe 20 mins at a time in the arena. But at this point I like riding her out and getting her nice and forward and happy. We mostly walk / trot. I can tell her strength has built over the last few months and we are now adding a bit of canter.
-oh, and unless you have a HUGE arena, I like riding out (if you can!) as I can ride in BIG circles and large figures which is easier for my young horse.
I work mine 4 days in a row, then 3 days off. One day is hacking, 1 "dressage" in a ring, 1 day poles or 18" jumps and the last is hacking in a field or a lesson. I ride usually 20 min or less with no lungeing. If she is really good, then I get off earlier
We pretty much do as others have said but it really depends on the individual. I had one very strong 3yo that was naughty a couple years ago and she needed work every day or else you paid for it. Not worked for a long time but to learn to focus and pay attention. Not all was done on her back but everyday she had a short lesson. This year's 3yos were almost born broke, very laid back. They get ridden 3 to 4 times a week and again, short lessons. I try to switch it up and sometimes do just flat work and sometimes over little X's but something not to make it always the same. I also have different people ride them so they get use to others. I had a situation (filly above) that I was the only one that rode her (I think she was way too intimidating for many others and I have to admit there were days when the wind blew a certain way that she really could intimidate me), anyway when someone else would ride her she would really test them. I made the decision after that to have as many "good" riders as possible get on the babies so that they know to listen to all people. I wish I had a farm that I could easily just hack out, that would be ideal. Oh and I want an indoor too, lol.