I have just recently bought a 3yr arab cross 14.2hands. in the spring he will be 3.5 years old and i am starting him on the gymkhana patterns but i dont want to do ant permanent damage to his joints or muscles. Will he be to young?
Too young for me to let him do any gymkhana classes! A horse is not mature, bones hardened up, until they are 6yrs old, even if you have heard about "early maturing breeds".
What I would do with him would be more the Pleasure type things, without doing fake gaits. Get him moving along with a true trot, true canter, then some work to get him obedient to "speed control" in those gaits. How slow can he go, stay at an even speed, then do some extensions and back to slow in that trot or canter. You are screwing his brain down, teaching him that speed changes are nothing to get excited about, just part of the work.
He may also enjoy doing Trail type obstacles, going over or thru all kinds of patterns as directed. You can polish up his responses to your leg signals, do some turns on the front, turns on the hindquarters, sidepasses, while keeping his head where you put it. Work on both CORRECT neckreining, where his head doesn't point the opposite direction you wish to go towards, along with some direct reining which you will be doing in his Gymkhana career later.
Taking the time to do all this work in short lessons for his young age, maybe going Trail riding out of the arena, will build you a very nice animal you can enjoy anyplace. He needs the time to grow up his brain, bones and soft tissue in his joints. Doing easy miles on the trail give him lots to look at new things, is much easier on him going mostly straight ahead, than ring work. The impact of this gentle work helps harden his bones in a natural way, so they will be dense as he is put to work as an older horse. Dense bones take stress much better than young unworked bones or overworked bones that have never had a chance to get hardened over a long time of low impact work.
I commend you for asking about using your young animal. The examples you see so much have a great many folks using their young animals too hard. Those animals go on to often have a lot of problems later on because their young bones were overstresed before they ever got mature. Reading older books by horsemen of the past, all say that a horse is not mature until at least 6yrs of age. Most did very little training or riding work, or just short sessions, turned horse back to pasture, until animal was about 3 to 4 years old. So the lessons they lay out were not hard or difficult to hurt that young animal. They were building a horse who could work and be as sound as possible his whole life.
Sorry to tell you the less fun news, no running him at this age, and best not to run him until he is about 6yrs old. There are a LOT of other fun ways to enjoy him, continue to improve him and yourself with building-skills lessons.
My advice is to get a trainer. No, a 3 1/2 year old is not too young to be started. But you not only have to have experience to know what they can handle physically, but also mentally. The fact that you are on a forum asking people who may or may not know about barrel and contest horses in real life, and that you got an unstarted 3 1/2 year Arab to do it with, makes me think it would be wise for you to work with a real trainer. If I were you, I wouldn't try this on my own.
I do have a frien that trains me and he has been a trainer for many years and he said that Harley (my horse) would be strong enough to handle it at this age I just wanted a second opinion to see and I have been working on his turns he does really good and he loves it I barely have to use any rein to direct him he just does it I haven't introduced the barrels yet since it is winter but he loves it he has walked through the pole pattern a couple times and he loves he is a horse that loves to run he is very smart I can teach him anything in a matter of days thank you for all of your advice and I will take it all into consideration but I would like some more replies to see what I should do
If you have any interest in the horse being sound and having a long, healthy career, don't do it. Strong isn't the issue. Horses are inherently strong. The issue is mature joints. Those tight turns wear on joints, same way jumping does. You might do it and get away with it. But you have a good chance at harming those immature joints and wrecking the horse for a career later in life with injuries, arthritis, etc.... I would take the advice of somebody who would advise you to run speed events on a 3yo with a big grain of salt and a whole lot of outside research. Spend the time putting good basic training on the horse. Even introduce the patterns at normal gaits once their basic training is excellent.
Your question sounded to me like you are asking if 3 1/2 is too young to start one. In my experience and opinion, it is not too young to start one. It is not wise to be running him through the pattern at this age. It's starting to sound like a different "trainer" might be a good idea though and a finished safe barrel horse for you.
Horse doesn't get a vote in what the rider asks of him! Sorry, riding is not a democracy!!
Horses LOVE doing things that are not good for them, the human has to prevent them hurting themselves.
You asked if using him for barrel racing at his age, was good for him or not. I said NOT, along with others. Sorry it isn't what you want to hear or what your Trainer friend is used to doing. I have lots of experience too, along with historical evidence that hard work early, work on doing difficult turns, is bad for young horse joints. Others are saying the same thing. I own old horses, have used those horses from foals on, but let them get mature before putting them to work. They competed hard, did a lot of mileage and fancy work that needed nimble feet, STILL are sound at over 25 yrs to continue using them. Not the case for my friends who used their young horses from age 3yrs on in hard work and competitve classes. Their horses did not last all that long, overworked and joints damaged by the many hours and miles of work done so young.
Your choice on using the horse now or changing your program of training. When he hurts himself or starts showing problems young, that is YOUR FAULT because you made the choices to use him harder than he is made to go at this age. It is VERY hard to wait for them to grow up before having the fun times. You wait because it is BEST FOR THE HORSE in the long run, over his lifetime of use. If you MUST ride and compete now, get another, OLDER horse to play with.
ok.well every body is saying the tight turns the speed events i dont want to do the speed yet! i just want to start him on the patterns slow and steady so that when he is older i wont have to train him when I'm ready and waste another year training him to get up to the speed all i will have to do is ask for more speed instead of starting the pattern.
OP, see Goodhors's first post.There are lots of things you can be doing with this young horse to get him ready to barrel race (besides working on patterns). And the best part is all this training is applicable to any other fun thing you decide to do with him. And it will be very rewarding to you to see your horse make progress during this time. Good luck with him; I am sure you will do the right thing.