I voted 2-3. But that covers alot of territory from a pretty immature 24 month old to the almost 48 month old. Where they fall within that depends on the colt.
Assuming you start with a colt that has basic manners and knows how to stand, lead and trot around on a lunge line a little? And know what "whoa" means? Jeesh, they do all vary but probably I'd start by getting more serious with the lunging-mostly trot, not too long. 10 min each way max. Then, working in a round pen or other small enclosure...when they master each step...
Introduce the surcingle.
Let it just carry a bit.
Long line/ground drive.
That much is about 30 days.
Then you switch to a saddle.
Add the irons and let them flop.
And one day after your lunge session? Just step on in the round pen and walk around.
Get OFF after a few minutes-quit while you are ahead. Make it pleasant. NBD.
Next session you get on after a little less work from the ground and walk around a little longer.
Build from there.
Used to take me about 60 days to get to this point. Another 30 days to get the basic walk, trot and a real green canter going both ways.
So, 90 days.
Actually, this part is usually the easy part-about 6 months into their career as a riding horse? They figure out they do not care for the direction they are heading and most of them get bratty.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
We generally start them either late in two year old year (fall/winter) or early in 3 yr old year. Depends on the horse, how mature it is etc. Most of mine get 1 - 2 weeks round pen work before backing, this includes saddling, learning to respect my "space", moving away from pressure, desensitizing, ground driving etc. We do have a GOOD cowboy that does come and start a few and he is usually riding them the first session! And with NO issues, he is marvelous. So we let him back some when he is in the area. he came and backed a three year old (She had jsut turned three in september) a few weeks ago, and she was riding within 20 minutes in the round pen AND around the farm. He really is an amazing guy, jsut lets the horse find it's on way, no pressure on reins etc. He has started some of the top reining horses in the nation for the top reining trainers. But even when he does them, we still spend the time ourselves on ground work. Here are some pics of the filly's first session/ride with him, keep in mind, from start to finish these photos span about 45 - 1 hour!:
Here are some videos of a horse that was sent to us, a HAN/TB filly, she was a four year old, sent to us last winter. Altho videos say "for sale" she is no longer at our farm and is currently leased out according to her owner. This is her progress thru our training program:
It starts the moment the horse sets foot in the barn. (8 months for Chief, 12 for Brain, 18 for Music).
Learning to have the halter taken on and off is training for bridling.
Learning to have a blanket taken on and off, and wearing a blanket, is training for saddling.
Learning to be handled all over, groomed, trimmed, stand for the blacksmith and vet, is all training in accepting direction from humans.
Going to "in hand" shows is training for later performance showing.
Learning to "stand up" for conformation judgng is training for positioning the body in response to aids.
Learning to trot the triangle is training for adjusting speed and direction in response to aids.
Learning to deal with other horses being around, the PA, all the distractions of the show, is all training.
Ponying, (W,T, C) first with a halter, but then with a saddle and bridle, is training. In voice aids. In manners. In accepting direction from someone above you. Mighrt be once a week, might be once a month. But it is definitely training.
Dealing with ditches, water, banks and logs on the trail (as well as rails on the ground in the ring) is training for future jumping.
And all this happens before the horse is backed- by which point the backing itself is pretty anticlimactic.
Looking back on my notes for Chief, I first backed him in January of his 3 yo year. He was ridden about once every 2 weeks throughout that year. I actually started jumping him in December of that year, and cantering in January of his 4 yo year.
But then things progressed pretty quickly, and he went in his first (18") Combined test (W-T Dressage plus Cross country) in April of his 4 yo year.
Last edited by Janet; Oct. 26, 2010 at 12:21 PM.
chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).
I start late 2, and pretty much follow what shawneeAcres does. After starting in the round pen, I do lots of ground driving. Also, I long line everywhere I trail ride. In the spring, after several weeks of driving, I'll climb on at the halfway point, and ride back to the barn.
By early summer, the horse is into his third year, and I start taking short lessons with him, continuing with the work on the trails. In the fall, I introduce poles and very tiny gates and boxes, trotting in and cantering out of lines. By the next spring, as a 4yo, he will be ready to start taking to local shows, and hilltopping in the fall. I start my horses off the track this way too, maybe moving a little faster if they are older.
Now that I am an old woman, I like to take it slow and careful. If I've chosen the right temperment, and pay attention to my horse, I'll be pretty lucky with this method.
I have a Foxtrot baby that came to me as a 2 yr old this past August. The day after he arrived we started with him...by the third day we had a saddle and bridle on him. He took everythin so easy....he seriously didn't care. We threw the tiny pony rider (65 lbs) on him with the dad holding her (just in case) and he was a bit funky about the dismount but not about the weight.
For the next three weeks we round penned him, teaching him to walk and trot and whoa on command. We took him to a local 2-day show and did the colts class. We wanted to get him used to trailering, sleeping in a new stall, going to the ring, etc.
By early September we had the pony kid on him again, doing some walking. He was pretty unbalanced but we did very little riding....walking about 10 minutes, 1 - 2x per week. In the meantime we continued round penning and general ground work. He leads, comes to the gate when called, loads, blankets, etc.
By now he was walking and trotting under saddle with the kildet, and occasionally with me. I weigh about 125 so I dont ride him a lot or hard. he can trot a tiny crossrail and land in a canter but we have not asked for a canter under saddle.He is still learning to balance. He is starting to canter a bit in the round pen. We are taking it slow....most of his training is still on the ground. I just want him to understand that being ridden is part of being a horse
I figure the same routine will hold over the winter and we will step it up a bit come Spring. Depends how he tales to everything.
I am making him sound super wonderful and he is, but still has two-year old moments when he decides he is not going forward, or runs out around a corner
I used to do a few young horses a year and this is what I did:
At two, I get them used to tack and start on the lunge in the spring. I only work them for a short amount of time and not everyday. And I usually lean on them and sit on them being led around. Then the winter off. The next year I start them the same way, but move on a little faster. Start walking and trotting on them and canter by the end of the summer/fall. And again winter off. That way, by four they are ready to go after a little refresher to start. Once they can steer at the walk, trot and canter, my job was done and they would go on to their owners to finish their training.
I always take it slow and give them time to just be young horses and not work too hard, I want them to be willing and happy to work.
My yearlings and two year olds do enough to be manageable. I do teach the two year olds to lunge walk/trot, but that usually only takes a couple 15 minute sessions. I may pony them, or put a saddle on them if I am bored, but I do not do any systematic training until they are three. I have not found any benefit to starting them earlier than that...but then I don't have race horses or futurity horses that need the ealier start.
While I no longer do the babies, in the past my barn started in the yearling year, sort of. Yearlings learned to stand tied, stand in the crossties, and wear leather (surcingle, martingale, crupper, bridle/bit) while in motion (they'd get turned out in a roundpen to wear and think about it for a little while but were never "worked"). Some (the fatties or the ones going to the big shows) learned to longe, too; they needed to get some tone. They might longe 1x a week and get chased around a pasture the rest of the time - not ideal but not much else to be done for horses showing in hand. By the time they turned 2 they were wearing leather gracefully and could quickly move to long lining, then ground driving, then being hooked (driving). By mid two year old year they were usually all hooked and going around quite nicely. They never wore a saddle prior to turning 3 and by the time they were saddled were very easy to do. Steering, brakes, "go" button all installed already. Occasionally a "back burner" horse (for whatever reason; usually farm owned that they didn't have quite enough time for) wouldn't start doing anything at all until later in the 2yo year but would still go through the longeing, long lining, driving, then saddle routine.
Remember, those who start them around 2-3 are not necessarily keeping them in heavy training-many turn them out or just don't do that much with them until closer to 4.
When to break is not the same as asking when to start hard, regular riding and training. JME but they seemed a little easier and more accepting when introduced to a rider a little earlier. Plus they seemed to benefit from frequent breaks in their schedual and restarting them-at least to me, they stayed fresher (in a good way).
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
I believe that as long as there is a 'plan' and that the plan can be ajusted to each individual horse (plan B) and is followed and planned by 'professionals', things should work out quite good. For sure, one should use common sense.