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Baby handling as a 2yo?

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  • Baby handling as a 2yo?

    It's been a while since I've had a young'un that was pre-starting age, and with the new addition, it got me to thinking about what my plan is for him this year.

    I'd love to hear others' thoughts on what you like to do with your 2yo's - do you prefer to just leave them out in the field until starting time (assuming baby gets handled here and there for routine trims/care)? Or the opposite route, exposing them to as much as possible, including tack, ground driving and field trips before backing time? Or somewhere in between...

    I can see the pros and cons of both sides of the argument, though have personally witnessed more in the way of under-handled youngsters than the oft-warned over-handled. My little guy is 2.5 now (June baby) and I don't really have any intention of starting him until late in the year - and depending on how he matures this year may only put 30 or so days on him before throwing him back out for the winter. He's got the basic skills, leads/ties, clips, bathes, and trailers.

    What say you?

  • #2
    Not an eventer, but I got a yearling straight from the breeder about a year and a half ago - she's now coming 3 (an April baby, but not far off from your boy!).

    My filly had already been handled and trained quite a bit when I got her. Breeder takes all of the young ones to In-Hand Shows, makes sure they lead, groom, are used to clippers, farrier, and vet. So, the foundation was already set. But, I have found it very helpful to continue chugging along during the time I've had her. The one time I let her sit for 6 weeks (not my choice - I had to have a major surgery) she was a bear to handle when I got back (got really pushy and forgot her manners). Based off of this experience, I vote to work with him.

    I only see my horses once a week due to distance, but I've still accomplished a ton with her in that time frame. They learn so quickly, and I feel like it's great to install as much as you reasonably can before they get big and start to realize it.
    ~*~*~*~Founding member of the Spotted Saddlebred Pals Clique~*~*~*~

    The equine love of my life: Gabriel
    4/6/1993 - 8/23/2015 ...RIP my big, beautiful boy <3


    • #3
      Been awhile since I've had one that young, but I do like to mess with them and do things as I have time. Ground driving, ponying, leading over little things in the arena (most of my babies have gotten led over tarps and feed bags and other "scary" things as soon as they were broke enough on the ground to do it). I've never taken them on field trips, but I think it is a good idea and worth it if you've got the time, energy, and wherewithal.

      I, personally, like to back them at 2yo, maybe in the heat of the summer when they are more likely to be more agreeable. I will usually "ride" them for a month...MAYBE w/t/c (like a few steps here and there of canter, just to establish forward), and then putzing around the farm. Once that's done, I usually don't sit on them again for another year. I know opinions on that vary wildly, but I've always had good luck with that on the couple of real youngsters I've had.

      Where's Fleckenawesome? It has been fun watching her via FB with her youngster, who I believe will be 2 this summer. She's exposed him to LOTS of things from a very young age, and I think it will prove beneficial when the times come from him to be a grown up.


      • #4
        Early two...don't do much other than the occasional grooming and basic ground manners. In the summer/fall, if I have time, I will pony them off a good horse on some easy trail rides, introduce walking through water etc. But really...if you don't do much with them, they are just fine. I think it is more important to let them be horses. Given the pictures of your new boy that you posted, he looks a bit on the immature side...so I would be more inclined to just groom and play with him and give him a bit more time to grow into himself.

        ETA: I have started two year olds before...but now generally do not bother until they are 3. I haven't seen any difference but do not have a huge number either. I do believe in ground driving them before backing them...but I do all that around the same time. IF you don't have another horse or have a lot of time....then I don't think you hurt them doing more. I just personally do not see really any difference in the ones messed with a ton as real youngsters and those started at 3. There starts to be a difference IMO with those that are not started until 4 or later.....
        ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


        • #5
          I am more on the "let them be" side of the spectrum, myself, although that doesn't mean she just gets to play "wild horse" out in a field.

          I bought a two year old in March. She is out with a herd on acreage and gets brought in for grooming regularly, and occasionally something more complex--a light longeing lesson, or trailer loading practice, or "lets go walk around and look at scary things." Just basics on being a nice horse to work around, but we do keep it relatively fresh.

          My intent with her is to back her late this coming summer, put perhaps 30 light rides on her and then turn her out again until next spring. No reason to rush, as she's not for sale, so doesn't have to meet anyone's timeline but my own.

          It sounds like our goals are similar


          • #6
            Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
            I think it is more important to let them be horses.
            Just wanted to add because this ^^ reminded me - this is probably a common sense thing that you already know, but if you do decide to handle him and teach him things, it's so important to keep it short, simple, and sweet. And I'd say not every single day. As mentioned in my earlier post, I'm only able to see my baby once a week to work with her. Even if I did see her every day, I'd probably only work with her 2 or 3 times per week at a maximum. Our sessions last anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes depending on whether we're covering old stuff or learning something new. But, they usually only last about 10 minutes.

            Short, simple, and sweet if you decide to go that route. It adds up quickly in the long run.
            ~*~*~*~Founding member of the Spotted Saddlebred Pals Clique~*~*~*~

            The equine love of my life: Gabriel
            4/6/1993 - 8/23/2015 ...RIP my big, beautiful boy <3


            • #7
              When mine was young (got him as a late 2yo), I spent the entire winter just teaching him all the basics. Lots of everything, nothing strenuous either mentally or physically. Even turned him out with one of my herding dogs to see how he'd react and get him used to dogs. I also taught him all the "riding" basics via long lining, especially simple things like walking "without me" (next to him) through/past scary stuff. Definitely worth the effort, as I saved bundles of money when it came time to send him to a pro to be backed, as she discounted me deeply because she didn't have to do much, and in my sanity later when I was able to take him to his first show and he behaved like a champ because he'd seen it all.

              And it was mostly just fun. I wanted to groom him and spend time with him. I think he turned out just fine; he's 6 now.


              • Original Poster

                Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                My intent with her is to back her late this coming summer, put perhaps 30 light rides on her and then turn her out again until next spring. No reason to rush, as she's not for sale, so doesn't have to meet anyone's timeline but my own.

                It sounds like our goals are similar
                Yes, I think they are. This one's mine (all mine!), and while there may come a time that I need or want to sell him, that isn't his intended purpose at all. As BFNE mentioned, he IS pretty immature looking right now - pictures actually make him look less goofy than he does in person - hence the plan to play it by ear and maybe climb on towards the end of summer *IF* I think he's ready.

                I do have another horse (the big, now out of shape one) to play with and really only dink around with the baby on the weekends when I have daylight, for maybe half an hour total. We've mostly been grooming, going for walks and twice now have worked for a few minutes with a saddle pad (I hate to use the word "desentizing", since it's got such a Natural Horsemanship correlation these days). He seems to be a pretty agreeable one, cautious but not overly so.

                He's out with my mini-herd, the big guy and Mr. Heinz' mare, so gets plenty of horsey interaction time. Herd dynamics are a funny thing, I tell you, the big guy (boss) takes care of the little guy (low man, who hides behind him whenever the mare is feeling particularly nasty towards him). They share a hay pile, while the crabby mare pouts by herself at her own pile. I'm thankful she's not the boss or no one would get any food!


                • #9
                  I liked Cherry Hill's The Formative Years (from birth to 2 years) when I had a youngster. Common-sense stuff, including tying, hobbling, ponying, with lots of pictures to help.

                  You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng


                  • #10
                    In my mind it doesn't matter what your plans are or the discipline you do. It is always best to handle them everyday and expose them to as much as you can before you start riding them. If you have the time I would teach your youngster all about tack, ground driving, as well as tying for at least 30 minutes while you putter around doing something else with another horse. Learning to load and do things by themselves and if you have a horse to do it on pony them everywhere you can. I have had many youngsters and there is a huge difference in the confidence level of those I was able to pony everywhere and those I wasn't able to.


                    • #11
                      My baby is also 2 (she's a May 2010 baby), though she's much less goofy looking at 2 than my gelding was (he looked a lot like your boy on the development side of things).

                      She lives out 24/7 with her little herd of 4 and I pull her out to put on the cross-ties and groom a couple of times a week, and every night when I feed I play around with her.....pushing her one way or the other, picking up her feet, playing with her tail, etc. I just started a once-a-week lungeing plan as well. So once a week I take her out into the ring and do a few minutes of lunge work (mostly walking with a little bit of trotting and sometimes a canter transition thrown in....just to teach her voice commands in addition to the cluck/kiss she already knows), and then 10-15 minutes of in hand work. My goal is to slowly add tack to her until she's lungeing and/or long lining (still no more than a couple of minutes at a time) in saddle/bridle by the time we hit next summer. The plan is to sit on her at that point for 30-60 days, get her jumping teeny tiny baby jumps, and then back out to pasture to grow for another year.

                      In that time off I don't do anything (no lunge work, no grooming work, just good old time to eat and grow).

                      But at this age I like to expose them to as much as I can.....before they get big and full of themselves!
                      Flying F Sport Horses
                      Horses in the NW


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by PNWjumper View Post
                        But at this age I like to expose them to as much as I can.....before they get big and full of themselves!
                        That was kind of my train of thought.

                        I had planned to drag him along to some of the local shows this year, where I'll be able to get him a stall to hang out in while I ride. I wish I had an arena to play in, but for now I imagine it will be plenty sufficient to work on ground manners and adding pieces of tack to go for a walk in.


                        • #13
                          That age is plenty old enough to learn their manners, to be handled regularly, to be asked to do little things that will help them later in life, etc. I like to tie them up and make them stand for a little while fairly frequently--teaches them patience and reinforces respect for THE ROPE. I like to handle them all over, run clippers over them, flop blankets and towels and ropes around them, and take them for walks wherein they MAY NOT barge into my space or ignore me when something more interesting is on the horizon. Teaching them to not lean INTO pressure but rather to move AWAY from it can be done at this age via groundwork, and can take a surprisingly long time for them to figure out. I also like to take them to shows and have them see the sights if the basic manners are installed.
                          Click here before you buy.


                          • #14
                            I have a 22 month old. When he first got here in September I was super jazzed to work with him an took him on lots of trail walks, walked over tarps, etc. He had some baby exuberance over things but showed himself to be very brave and took everything in stride so after about a month I mostly stopped messing with him other than when necessary - farrier, vet, grooming, kicking him out of the stall when I'm cleaning, etc.

                            The only thing I do now is reinforce manners when I have to work around him. For example, when I let him in the stall after I clean each day I ask him to walk toward me, then ask him to back up and move side to side away from pressure. I do literally one or two minutes of this. I also make him turn his front end a few steps in the opposite direction from the grain bucket when I'm hanging it and he can't have it until he's done so, again for manners. The two additional things I've started are standing in cross ties for a couple of minutes each week and introducing the clippers by plugging them in and letting them run while sitting on the stall wall. Neither of these things had been done with him so I thought I'd better introduce it.

                            In other words, very basic stuff. When he misbehaves I keep it calm and fair. My primary goal pre-starting is to teach him that I will be very clear about my expectations and I won't budge regardless of the tantrums he throws but I will never get angry or rough and I will always be fair about my expectations.


                            • #15
                              at 2.5, my girl was lightly started under saddle and then we left her alone for a year as far as riding goes. She still got plenty of handling over that year though. She went to some FEH shows, USDF in hand stuff, and did her AHHA mare approvals at 2.5 and her BWP approvals at 3. I took her to local schooling shows just to hang out and by the time she went to her first horse trial, she was very well traveled and loading on a trailer and going places was just no big deal to her.

                              She was expected to be able to stand on cross ties for grooming, stay tied to the trailer (with her buddies, never alone), and be a civilized citizen on the ground.
                              The rebel in the grey shirt


                              • #16
                                I bought Bailey late in his 2yo year, and while he had a decent foundation (some round pen work, easy to handle, etc) he needed fine tuning. We started on basics. Listening, manners, etc. He learned patience by being tied to a support beam of the barn for a couple hours a day. We desensitized with everything. We loaded in the trailer. He got bitted up and put in a stall for a couple hours to, literally, chew things over. I saddled him, ground drove him, ponied him, and played. He learned how to lunge, and he learned how to clip.

                                When they are under 2, I am a total fan of leaving them out as much as possible and handling them on a weekly basis. After they hit 2 or 2.5, I'm all about handling and exposure, especially if you have a solid citizen to show them the ropes. Getting them used to being handled, manners, patience, etc, is important because one day he will learn he's WAY bigger than you. One of my absolute pet peeves is a horse that won't tie. The one that tops that is a horse that will stand tied until they determine they are done, then pull and break a halter and run loose. Once they learn they can get away with breaking a halter, then you've got a LOT of work ahead of you.

                                My opinion would be to do as much as possible, but remember he's a baby. Keep sessions short. The most I would work with Bailey was 45 min, with breaks. The more you expose him to now, while he's a sponge, the better he will be later.
                                runnjump86 Instagram

                                Horse Junkies United guest blogger


                                • #17
                                  oooohhhh!!! I keep going back and forth Danny is 1.5 (May baby) and is BIG!! Well, for me... he's 15.2 at last check, and definitely higher in his butt. He's out with Roany, the 30 year old mare, and Fleck.. who really doesn't play with him. He's BORED BORED BORED!!!! So I feel like I have to do things with him or else he destroys my farm! He's been ponied on trail rides more times than I can count.. at least 20 plus. He's been tied to the trailer and expected to hang out while I work with Fleck, stuck in the trailer while I rode Fleck and then worked him, worked in hand at other farms, played in ditched, water, banks etc. He is now learning to lunge (very short times and maybe once a week.. limited trotting), and we'll progress to long lining. Part of me wants to sit on him this summer because I've seen what he can do while playing!!! And I'd like to not die. And he's big... and bored... and mischevious. But part of me hesitates because he's a baby!! though i'm not sure I'll be able to help myself. He's so good and looks like so much fun!!

                                  I think he does a little bit of both. When I do my 80 hr weeks.. he pretty much gets fed, blanketed occasionally and manners reinforced. When I do my 0 hr weeks.. he gets lunged/worked in hand/clipped/etc.

                                  We'll see if I can stay off him once he turns 2! I'm just so excited about it!! I do confess to sitting on him already... Three times! Once he was sleeping, so I crawled on. Then he was parallel to my trailer.. just hanging out... so I climbed up on the trailer... eased my leg over..... eased my butt down... eased my weight on him... GOOD BOY!!! and got off. hee hee... I couldn't help myself!


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Originally posted by FLeckenAwesome View Post
                                    We'll see if I can stay off him once he turns 2! I'm just so excited about it!! I do confess to sitting on him already... Three times! Once he was sleeping, so I crawled on. Then he was parallel to my trailer.. just hanging out... so I climbed up on the trailer... eased my leg over..... eased my butt down... eased my weight on him... GOOD BOY!!! and got off. hee hee... I couldn't help myself!

                                    If I didn't have another horse keeping me busy and a lack of daylight to work with, I'd probably be much closer to this. He's just so darn gangly right now, still very narrow and angular and really looks like a baby, especially when you see him next to his big buddy.


                                    • #19
                                      My (late) 2yo ties, leads at walk and trot, stands for farrier/vet/judge/baths, loads, and travels. My current prelim horse went on xc schools in-hand as a 2yo. My 3yo is a bit behind after 9 months of stall rest, so she hasn't gone walking around xc :-) but she already did everything else..... Not planning on sitting on the 3yo until this summer, she's only 15.1 and has a LOT of growing to do.

                                      Third Charm Event Team