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How often/ much should you work a 4 year old?

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  • How often/ much should you work a 4 year old?

    Hi all! As some of you know I've recently purchased a coming 4 year old Connemara gelding. I've never had a horse being ridden regularly so young, and I'd love some input on how much is too much for a four year old. He's well built and looks well developed, not exactly sure what's still going on inside but he has a good length of back and is not bum high. He loves to work as well, will just go and go. What are your thoughts on how often a four year old should be worked, and for how long? Do you put a limit on the amount of small circles, little jumps, etc? I don't want to strain his growing body but he is so game and solid, and I would like to get him out competing this year. Thanks very much!

  • #2
    Mine is coming five, so I'm just coming out of that:

    She turned 4 in May 2012. For the entirety of the summer, most of her life was in a field. I'd pull her out two or three times a week, either to go under saddle or be ponied off my bombproof gelding on trails. Didn't put a single thought into ringwork, just basic steering, brakes, and most importantly, a healthy sense of forward and curiousity. By the end of the summer she was leading rides, loved water, was fine with varied terrains at all speeds, and just a general handy horse.

    Had a few months off at the end of the summer/beginning of fall when I went back to school for my final semester. In Nov, I moved her to a barn with indoor. She had a few weeks to settle in and then a month of pro dressage training.

    Since then, I am getting on her three to four times a week, and a fantastic, gentle dressage rider gets on her another two. She LOVES to work and mopes if she's not kept busy. THAT BEING SAID: right off the bat, we kept the rides short. Fifteen to twenty minutes sometimes, always ending on a good note. We have now worked up to about 45 minute rides, which is honestly all that ANYONE can handle when trapped in an indoor.

    The outdoor has just unmelted, so now we are going to be out there, out in the fields, and out hacking on the roads. I have developed a passionate hatred for the indoor. In the indoor I tried as hard as possible to not drill circles, instead subbing in figure-8's and serpentines. So....stress on the legs, I suppose, but not mind-numbing 20-meter circles. Ground poles, too!!

    So...that's my 4-yo plan. I gave her that summer to sit in the field because she looked really undeveloped. (She's a TB.) She just LOOKED like a baby, so I treated her like one. The difference in her form at the beginning of the summer (a just-turned 4yo) vs the end of the summer (4.5yo) was amazing...she went from being weedy and scrawny to having filled out, plus a few inches. Her mind was ready, but not her body.

    Which is where you're going to get a ton of variations in the experiences. Sometimes they're 4 and don't have the body to work yet. Sometimes they're 4 and don't have the MIND to work yet. Sometimes neither, sometimes both. Depends on the individual.

    See no reason that you can't be out competing on him this year, though!

    Comment


    • #3
      Three years old: three days a week
      Four years old: four days a week
      Five years old: five days a week.
      No drilling. Varied terrain and locations. You are just introducing concepts.

      Comment


      • #4
        My youngsters tend to be off the track, so I keep in mind that much of what they are doing is much less stressful than track life. That being said, I try to have my 4 year olds doing something most days, even if that "something" is getting on the trailer and hanging out at another farm while someone else has a lesson, or going on a hack, or going to a horse show and maybe walking around the warm-up ring. They will also have days with light w-t-c, maybe go to a few horse shows at BN or N or young event horse tests, or go to small hunter shows.

        Some will be ready for more, some can't quite find their own feet consistently. Overall though, with my youngsters, it's not about drilling or strict time tables, but instead trying to get a lot of positive experiences in their toolbox.

        Comment


        • #5
          My 4 year old is worked maybe 4 days a week, most of it is fun stuff, a bit of jumping, some dressage, lots of trail riding and learning to go places and do things. She has been xc schooling a few times, last time she acted a lot more grown up (not whinnying at barn mates, etc.). She has shown at a few schooling shows here and there in the past 4 months.
          Beth Davidson
          Black Dog Farm Connemaras & Sport Horses
          http://blackdogconnemara.com
          visit my blog: http://ponyeventer.blogspot.com

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by arlosmine View Post
            Three years old: three days a week
            Four years old: four days a week
            Five years old: five days a week.
            No drilling. Varied terrain and locations. You are just introducing concepts.
            I actually like this rule of thumb! I think this is a nice jumping off point.

            Obviously, as with everything horses, it will depend. But, I do like to ride them a few days a week. Mostly hacking and flatwork and a little jumping that is appropriate for their mental and physical maturity (as they all develop differently). My last 4 year old got ridden 3-5 days a week, and did a handful of novice events in the summer and early fall. He was just mature and took to everything very quickly and easily. And there was zero drilling to get him there. He also go a long summer vacation, and had a long winter vacation before picking back up at the start of his 5 year old year.

            But, I've certainly known plenty of 4 years old that just couldn't handle that much, needed more time to develop in one way or another, or who just took a long time to figure things out.

            I do like arlos rule of thumb. Definitely a good place to start, then tweak as needed for your guy!
            Amanda

            Comment


            • #7
              So my experience has been this: We have a coming 4yo (May baby) homebred welsh/tb who will be destined for the hunter ring primarily. The goal is to sell her later this year, but honestly I think her schedule would still be the same even if we were keeping her. She is doing 5 days/week (was doing more like 3/4 before 1st of the year) mostly flatwork and hacking out, she goes for a lesson approx 1x week where she is starting to jump (has done 2'3" ish) has really only been jumping a few weeks but is super, ridiculously, straightforward. She is going to her first show (flat and maybe cross rails) this weekend! She is physically comfortable at this level (chiro/sport horse vet has looked at her along the way) and has a really mature brain.

              Some of the others I have know as 4 yo's were already out eventing, 6/days week of work/ novice level evening/ YEH champs type track... They were VERY mature for their age (mentally and physically). but I think they were the exception.

              I feel like what we are doing with my homebred is kind of a pace i am comfortable with, but we did not pound her as a 3yo. She wasnt even backed until mid summer well after her 3rd Bday, but I dont see why an average 4yo (of course everyone has their exception) cant be getting out and about doing some shows/ jumping etc and maybe even an event or two at the end of the year...

              Comment


              • #8
                My 4 year old ArabxConnemara needs to be worked as much as possible. She is very high energy and a bit adhd. It depends on the horse.
                On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog

                Comment


                • #9
                  My OTTB, Rudy, at 4 was in 5 day/week work. Rides were about 30 mins, mostly dressage and hacks. He jumped about 1 x a week. He was also going novice competitively.

                  My appendix homebred at 4 was 3-4 days/week for about 30 mins. Jumping every other week. Not one show.
                  Yes, I ride a pony. No, he would not be ideal for your child. No, he is not a re-sale project...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I really like GoForAGallop's run down. Thanks for typing all that up, GFAG!

                    As long as my young horses aren't for sale, I definitely prefer to error on the side of *too little* than potentially risk doing *too much.* I've got a three year old myself (today is her birthday!) and since she's for me instead of for sale, I'm just taking my sweet time with her. She's not been started yet at all, and I plan on putting 30 or so days on her in early fall, then turning her back out for winter and pretty much following GFAG's course of events during her four year old year--although we will likely take the winter off again, instead of moving indoors, just due to what we've got available around here.

                    OTOH, if she were for sale, she would be lightly backed right now and we would likely aim for the three or four days a week plan all summer. Doubt it would hurt her, but why push it, since we have all the time in the world?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                      I really like GoForAGallop's run down. Thanks for typing all that up, GFAG!

                      As long as my young horses aren't for sale, I definitely prefer to error on the side of *too little* than potentially risk doing *too much.* I've got a three year old myself (today is her birthday!) and since she's for me instead of for sale, I'm just taking my sweet time with her. She's not been started yet at all, and I plan on putting 30 or so days on her in early fall, then turning her back out for winter and pretty much following GFAG's course of events during her four year old year--although we will likely take the winter off again, instead of moving indoors, just due to what we've got available around here.

                      OTOH, if she were for sale, she would be lightly backed right now and we would likely aim for the three or four days a week plan all summer. Doubt it would hurt her, but why push it, since we have all the time in the world?
                      I'm a talker.

                      Forgot to mention that my scenario is like Simkie's...my little mare is to be my personal competition horse, and I am in absolutely no rush with her. A confident, secure-in-their-abilities, fine-tuned youngster is my goal. I intend to get her out competing a bit this summer, but won't have the funds to do it seriously until NEXT summer, so we have no major goals to be working towards.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        It depends on the horse. I actually prefer to jump a little more. We will go for a few weeks with no jumping but then jump every other day. Jump often...but not a lot of jumps. Sometimes just one or two jumps. I find it sinks in better.

                        I like to hack them out, go hound exercising, do some little shows. I've had one or two who even did a bit of eventing (novice) but typically going eventing isn't my focus.


                        My rule....don't drill. Ride them like a horse, but lower your expectations. They are allowed to be 4 year olds and have moments of not being perfect.
                        ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Lots of good advice!

                          I tend to play it by ear. What the horse does depends on how mentally and physically mature they are, and how reactive they are in temerament.

                          I have a coming 4 yr old now, and he does about 15-20 mins 3 or 4 days a week. 5 mins or so on the lunge, working on obedience and canter balance, then a bit of walk trot + poles u/s. I got on him for the first post racinging ride 2.5 weeks ago. And he's still growing quite a bit.

                          By the time the snow goes away, he should be broke enough to hack out(hopefully lol).
                          Unrepentant carb eater

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Thanks for the tips! I think through the summer I'll aim for 5 days a week, 30-45 minutes. He has such a good brain, he loves to learn and he has a very long attention span! He also seems quite physically mature. Aiming for a couple entry level events this year, as most likely he will be for sale come fall! Unless he's going to be one of those once in a lifetime freakishly talented ponies, then I'll find a way to keep him around

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              With my 4 year old last summer, I rode between 3 and 5 days a week, lots of hacking, some light dressage, and once a week or less jumping. If I did 5 days a week, I gave her most, if not all, of the next week off for recuperation. I did one 3-day clinic, several dressage lessons, 1 horse trial at lower than BN and a dressage show at Training Level with her, between April and November. She then had from the end of November to the beginning of January off.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Depends on the horse - but a British native breed, such as the connie, will mature a lot, lot later than a TB. About 7 years old rather than 4. But then that is compensated for by the intelligence of the breed. And their longevity. Take it slower rather than fast and you can still have a great horse at 25
                                "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

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