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Older Riders - Bringing up a baby - Pros & Cons

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  • Older Riders - Bringing up a baby - Pros & Cons

    50 years old. Intermediate rider. Current horse 18 year old TB mare. Still in good health, still ridable.

    My mare is "babysitting" a 6 month old filly. Her mom died a month ago. Everyone is fine.

    I have had more contact with this young filly than any other.
    Because she is out in the pasture & stalled next to my mare I get to handle her and "talk" to her alot.

    I often wonder if this is the way to go for my next horse?

    Sometimes it seems doable and sometimes I think I'm just crazy & should give the whole thing up after my mare is no longer usable .

    Your thoughts?

  • #2
    I am 53 and have bred and/or raised 7 youngsters. My first in my early 30s and this past year I had two four-year-olds to acclimate to their first shows, etc. (not terrific planning on my part. )

    I started one of the youngsters myself -- the first one I actually started myself -- and sent one off to be started. Have to say with all the others I did all the ground work and then sent them to someone for 30 days to back and learn w/t/c and then I took over.

    The one I started myself is pretty hot in strange places (didn't get her off the farm enough when she was young) and taking her to her first few shows was NOT fun - but I do not have a trainer who can/will do this for me, and knowing that pretty much made me 'put on my big girl panties' and get on with it. I am over the 'scariest' things with both of them now and they're both doing very well. My third horse is a horse I bred who is now 10 and about to make her third level debut.

    It is not for the faint of heart. A youngster can kill you without even really trying...even before they're under saddle You have to be able to read them and be willing to 'not blink' when they get pushy, etc. Another thing people don't think about - YOU have to teach that horse EVERYTHING. They are not born knowing how to load in a trailer, tie, stand for farrier/vet, lunge, etc. etc. etc. All of that takes time, a certain skill level, and patience. I think it is probably a lot like raising children.

    The closest I ever came to getting killed was teaching a yearling to load in the trailer. He flew out backwards, spun around and bucked and kicked out as he tore off, just clipping me on the chin with one hoof, and square in the chest with the other. I was flat on my back before I even knew what happened - and I was only in my 30s then. I could barely move for two days. A few inches higher and at best I would have lost all my teeth.

    If you are not very brave, you need to have access to good people who can help you when you need it.

    All that said -- IMHO, there is no more satisfying thing than to bring along a horse. You learn a lot. You form a really strong bond. Also, you have a blank slate - no baggage, no 'bad habits' to break. It is up to you whether they succeed or fail. In the past 15 years I've only bought one horse already under saddle - and that one did not work out. The ones I've bred/raised allturned into very solid citizens and had great work ethics. All of the horses I own now I either bred or bought as weanlings. If you have a good eye, you can also get a much nicer horse that you might otherwise be able to afford. Of course you put $ into them as you grow, but having my own place, I think I still come out ahead. Just depends on how much you can do yourself.

    At 53, I am not sure I will have another youngster - although I DID take my 4 yo filly to the Oldenburg Mare Performance test this past year - JUST IN CASE. (I rode her and was thrilled she won the MPT with a premium score. A great feeling since I owned her mom and bred her.)

    However, if I breed or buy another one, I will probably have someone start it and take it to their first show or two.
    Donerail Farm


    • #3
      I'm 46 and started/backed two more this year. I prefer to buy them as weanlings/yearlings or make them and go from there. I don't bounce as high as I use to but starting babies is nothing new for me. There are certainly times I wonder why I'm doing this [again] but the truth is that my babies even with all their challenges are easier than the restarts I take on. At least there is not baggage other than what I created
      Ranch of Last Resort


      • #4
        I was 43 when I bought my current horse as a weanling. She is out of the sister to the grand prix schoolmaster I had and I bought her from his breeder, who also half owned the sire. I left the foal in Denmark to be raised and started, as I didn't have the appetite for that end of it, but the trainer had a run of bad luck when my mare was to be backed and trained (divorce, house burned down, had to sell stock, etc., got remarried) that he did get her backed and graded and not too much else done after that, some sporadic riding in the summers and a materiale class when she was 4. SO when I imported her as a five year old, she maybe had a maximum of six months under saddle. I had to hire a really good cowgirl to help me with ground work, and I had two young horse specialists give me eyes on the ground twice a week. My friends were all VERY worried the horse would kill me. She is hot and powerful and didn't have a stop when she came and her canter was so unbalanced under a rider it was like getting sucked sideways into a vortex. Remember--a young horse has to learn balance under the rider, and the riding will feel sort of insecure and crooked and unbalanced and there's only so much you can ask at a time.

        I am now 53, the horse is almost 10 and is schooling all the FEI.

        I do have to say that my mare is very purpose bred, and so the actual dressage part of it is fairly easy. I have had very VERY good help along the way. She was a bit terrifying because she was afraid of everything, so I rode her inside for the first six months. Her first ride outside was done by a former Olympian in a clinic (LOL an elite crash test dummy). Her first show was downright scary, but I had someone there to hold my hand. I did a lot of clinics with judges the first couple of years. I took a weekly lesson. You have to be sure you have the resources to get help when you need it and not put it off.

        So I am now 53. In about 5 years, I'd like to get an ET foal out of this mare. That will make me over 60 when it's time to back it. I don't intend to do that myself. But I will know how to get good help and I will be there to make sure it is done the way I want.

        I like having had my horse since it was a baby because I know EVERYTHING that has happened to her. I have ALL of her veterinary records. I know how she was trained. For that reason, I definitely WOULD do it again.


        • Original Poster

          Thank you for the input so far... lots to think about, but a very fair & balanced input from all. I have been with my trainer since 2002. He is currently schooling a four year old stallion, which he bred by ET. Young stallion is out of a GP jumper mare Hanno - old lines - sired by a dutch stallion.

          I have seen this young stallion grow up and helped with some of the work. He was not handled that much as a young baby, so getting him used to grooming and tacking up was done a bit later than it should be. All in all he was and is cooperative. Seems to have a good head on his shoulders.
          (just acts like a "teenager" right now)

          I helped with the first ride, being the ground person. Have helped with the first live cover breedings - (not for the faint of heart!) and I am acting as a ground person with the jumping training.

          I will have to say that I am a bit put off by this boy's size, 17 hands, and his power under saddle. Even if I was young, a stallion would just not be my thing. There is the strength and then the strength coupled with hormones. YIKES!

          Yes, I know that any horse can be nasty.

          There are two more babies coming in 2010. Another "test" baby by the young stallion and another baby by an outside stallion. So at the very least more things to observe, more babies to compare... Thank you again.


          • #6
            I am 54 years old and my homebred filly will be 3 in May. She has lived here at my small farmette since she was 1 month old. She is very well behaved and stands for the vet, farrier, dentist, cross ties, clips, etc. I've had a bit in her mouth and plan to saddle her in her stall. Once all this is accepted, she will go to "camp". I don't have experience in breaking young horses, just training them. You only get one chance to sit on a horse for the first time, so it had better go well. I've trained and competed 2 horses to PSG and earned my Bronze and Silver. I'm smart enough to know that I don't have the experience to break my filly. She is too smart and will be too nice to give her anything but the best start. I totally agree with Cyndi's post. I'm good at the riding and training aspect and I've raised my filly well without any issues. That said, I know that I'm not the one to back her. Once she can WTC under saddle and stand quietly for mounting, I'll take over the reins. I loved raising her and would recommend doing so for others that have the experience and proper environment to do the same.


            • #7
              I am 54yrs. old and my mare is now 9 yrs. old. I bought her when she was only a few days old. I bought her because I had her brother from the time he was 4yrs. old, he was very green when I bought him (canter needed TONS of work!) and he had won his 2yr. old class at DAD, beating stallions!....By the time he was barely 6 we finished on top of both of our regional championships at TR level and he was USDF all breed awards #1 for ISR/Oldenburg that same year.....all that with me taking lessons on him 2-3 times/month.....
              My mare was my first EVER foal and first EVER mare. Her sire, Riverman can produce very intelligent and atheletic foals and she has those attributes! (also his lovely coloring and typiness)....Since the mare that produced her was an arab/TB she did inherit some hotness but ALSO the "sensible" side from both her parents.
              I learned ALOT about "handling" and raising and did much of it the "hard" way.....if she wasn't such a SMART mare imo our combo. could have been disasterous.....
              I was smart enough to get her OUT alot as a youngster in order to show her the sights and teach her (and ME) as much as we could learn. I used competent skilled professionals to handle her at in-hand breed shows and also took her to my trainers' farm for some handling sessions.
              At 3 I had a very skilled and very experienced pro "break" her and I was COMPLETELY honest and open with the pro about things I had done with her so that the pro could appropriately work with her....She is also an "alpha" mare but that combined with BOLD is imo, a good combination.....if she were not bold I don't think it would have worked for us.
              Because of all the time/handling I spent with her and the very good job this pro did I was able as an older ammy rider/owner to sit on her SAFELY and competently at less than a month of starting......WHAT A THRILL to go on trail rides thru the woods on a filly you have raised!! And she and I had to lead some 20+ year old old timers past the scary deer that popped out in the woods!!!....
              A word of caution.....since I formerly evented my horses (incl. a horse I started riding as a veryvery green 4yr. old!) I was not "timid".....
              Although my mare was physically very mature at a young age she was imo a challenge for me because she was soooooo atheletic with a bit of a naughty streak (not bad, not mean just "naughty" and dominant)......THIS IS why we went soooooooooo slowly u/s......"I" was the "limiting" factor (aren't we all? lol)
              Anyhoo, although we took her to a few shows to audit I was smart enough to hire a pro to "walk her around" a bit and let her sight see.....YES, she was "airborne" for much of it....those times I do NOT miss!!!!.....
              Her FIRST EVER u/s show was a licensed one and my trainer showed her day 1 and I did day 2......ALL I wanted was to get in, do the pattern and get out.....on the first day she even pinned 4th with pro. We showed her TR 3 & TR4 BECAUSE she was so smart and atheletic that IMO she would have been very misbehaved attempting anything "easier".....we had ZERO expectations of competitiveness for most of these frist 2 years of showing her. I just wanted miles on her in tests that kept her busy enough mentally and that she could handle them physically as well......
              Our major "issue" has been that she gets tight in her back and I spent much time riding her "defensively"......Recently I have worked HARD to improve my own skills and she is coming around to responding well to my diligent work to improve myself......
              While I have done some things in a way many would describe as not constructive and not the "best" riding way I have done what worked for us long term....I have LEARNED ALOT, most of it the "hard" way but I wouldn't trade these experiences for ANYTHING.....and NOW I have my once in a lifetime partner.......This mare is now FUN to ride and while I respect and understand her "atheletic" side.....now we can have "disagreements" and sometimes some interesting "2 mare cat fight discussions" (LOL) the bond we have is deep and strong.....
              I was once a "non-mare" person......This one TOTALLY reversed THAT.
              While we are only now starting to school 2nd level work (she coming 10 in May) it is NOW a most enjoyable process for BOTH of us....
              I know this because she whinneys and comes running to me when I call her for our weekly (when it ain't snowin!) lessons.....
              Choosing a path that honestly and realistically works for YOU is the RIGHT way to go......imho.


              • #8
                I love starting babies and young horses. After years of starting horses, and I am a trainer, I know where the breaking points are. I will do all of the ground work up until putting weight on the horse. Then I get help from someone younger.

                I won't do:

                the first 20 rides. (or more, with any of these, depending on the horse)
                the first 5 canters
                the first 15 trail rides
                the first trip away from home
                the first show

                Part of it is just common sense and part of it is my past experiences doing those things on young horses. Because it makes me nervous, I worry that I will pass those fears on to the young horse, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.


                • #9
                  Good thread. I have thought about this too. Although I am 41 this year and have a 9 year old homebred who I love - I have thought about my riding future.

                  Unless I win the lotto, I have do things on the payment plan - thus why I have a homebred. Bred my mare, raised baby with lots of help, and am now showing him. Paying for things in smaller chunks.

                  I love my gelding and would love to "bake" again. With the economy down there are lots of nice broodies available. But financially I just can't right now.

                  Maybe later


                  • #10
                    IMO, MOST IMPORTANT way to approach this.....

                    First decide honestly what you can/can't do....be REALISTIC about your skills, abilities, finances, EXPERIENCE, and commitment.....

                    Be really clear about what YOU want from the process of raising and starting a foal......

                    AND.....do NOT be shy, stubborn or unwilling to seek and employ EXPERIENCED and competent professionals to assist you and/or to "take over"....

                    And do the same in your foal selection process.....good first step by OP in seeking advice/anecdotes from others who have BTDT.

                    In my own case, I had a farm situation/setup that was suitable for me, incl. a super older/retired/experienced "babysitter" horse (the unexpected bonus for us was that SILVER IMAGE so bonded with "his" babygirl that I firmly believe it extended HIS life!)....

                    Also, make sure the foal you select is appropriate for your own goals (there are NO guarantees with horses!).....ammy rideability is NOT guaranteed!....

                    And hard as this is to think about when trying to "plan" one must accept that if at any point it is "NOT" working out.....be prepared to change your "plan" and/or move on........


                    • #11
                      I am 43 yo and have bred and raised several youngsters over the years....I think I prefer the 'clean slate' aspect of young horses, ut it has to be the 'right' young horse for me. Temperament is always my number 1 concern....
                      My current dressage horse is 9yrs old and I just, for the first time ever, bought a weanling as my next dressge partner. I had no hesitations buying this filly, even did it off a video, but I have seen enough youngsters that I was comforable doing it....and I always have my horse knowledgeable friends weigh in too


                      • #12
                        I am 57 this year and last year bought a 2 yr old Dutch gelding for my golden years...LOL. I am going to "bring him up" here at home but send him off to a dressage trainer that starts young horses for his 3 and 4 yr old years. Trail riding and seeing the world will all be part of those 2 years. I will take over the reins full time when he is 5 and only part time for the next 2 years.

                        I have my own farm where he can grow up with my old gelding who is very good at disciplining whacky young un's and a 6 yr old and 2 mini donkeys more then happy to play with him. I think having all that is important for a baby and young horse for herd socialization and playtime.

                        It isn't over until it's over and I live on the island of denial but sensible enough to make sure it is a safe island and the horse is started correctly rather then me bumble along with him.

                        Best of luck with what you decide and make sure it is fun!
                        *Every horse is a self-portrait of the rider....Autograph your work with excellence.*
                        Supporting Nokotas www.nokotahorse.org
                        Lipizzan's rock! http://rigitta.blogspot.com/


                        • #13
                          I am 42 yo, and this is the first time I have owned what I consider to be a 'broke' or 'finished' horse. I have spent my whole life riding rank horses no one else wanted or ottb's. My current is a 7 yo clyde X that I bought as a yearling-not even halter broke. We are having our own issues at 2nd level, but those issues do not include spooking or sillyness. Her problems are my training issues and although I had hoped to get her farther than she is at this point, babies are my thing. I get bored with the more minute and precise issues and am really into the basic forward, don't be silly, learn manners kind of stuff. I am now looking for a WB/TBX filly that I can bring along once my current mare has gone as far as she can go. Due to her breeding/etc I don't expect her to get past 3rd. I think everyone has a specialty-babies are mine and I love the first year.
                          Do not toy with the dragon, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!


                          • #14
                            this is a really good thread. I have two horses over 10 and keep wondering if I have the skill and guts to start over with a youngster, now that I am over 50. This thread is giving me plenty to think about! thanks for the comments!


                            • #15
                              PAPONY, you are definitely up for the job. I just did one in 2008 and I'm older than you and not nearly as good a rider.

                              As long as a rider if fit, age is not an issue. Yes, bones are more brittle, but young riders can break bones and get seriously injured too. It's all about selecting the right young horse with a good mind, and taking the breaking process slow.


                              • #16

                                Thanks for the vote of confidence TON! I dunno.... I am rehabbing my 10 year old from a 7 month lay off and I am having a hard enough time sticking with him.... I can't imagine riding him as a three or four year old! My reaction time just isn't as fast as it was 10 years ago! lol!

                                Actually... in this wintery weather with multiple days off for blizzards, they are both acting like barely backed three year olds. If i make it to spring, I guess I am up for the task!


                                • #17
                                  PAPony...I am 57 and can't ride half as well as you do...and I have my 3 year old starting this year! And Anecia has that cute Contango 2 yr old for sale who is Theo's half brother.
                                  *Every horse is a self-portrait of the rider....Autograph your work with excellence.*
                                  Supporting Nokotas www.nokotahorse.org
                                  Lipizzan's rock! http://rigitta.blogspot.com/


                                  • #18
                                    In my mind, the biggest "con" with a baby is that you don't really know what you're going to get. Just because they are bred to do something doesn't mean they will . . . it would be awful to spend all that time, money and energy and not have/get the horse you want in the end.

                                    "I am still under the impression that there is nothing alive quite so beautiful as a thoroughbred horse." -- John Galsworthy


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Tiger Horse View Post
                                      In my mind, the biggest "con" with a baby is that you don't really know what you're going to get. Just because they are bred to do something doesn't mean they will . . . it would be awful to spend all that time, money and energy and not have/get the horse you want in the end.
                                      Yes this is very true. One needs to go into this with an open and pragmatic mind, because the raising baby part is something one wants to experience. However, in the end if the horse doesn't do the job one wants it to do, be ready to change course to suit the horse or rehome/sell it on.
                                      *Every horse is a self-portrait of the rider....Autograph your work with excellence.*
                                      Supporting Nokotas www.nokotahorse.org
                                      Lipizzan's rock! http://rigitta.blogspot.com/


                                      • #20
                                        I did it and was lucky but I did research temperament as well as suitability for dressage and in the end at my age I can say am just as grateful for the temperament aspect as for everything else he has going for him.

                                        I have this gorgeous purpose bred horse that I raised from a yearling but do realize if he wasn't such a sweet guy I could easily be dead or worse by now. Of course you could be injured by any horse but when you have one of these extremely athletic sporthorses (this horse could kick out the arena lights if he wanted to on a wild day) it definitely helps if they have that pleasant temperament thing down.

                                        I wasn't even worried about that when I got him but I do appreciate this more now having seen with friends' horses what can happen when the youngster is not so easy.

                                        So put temperament, trainability and rideability high on the list.