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A youngster to "play" with?...thinking about getting a baby

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    A youngster to "play" with?...thinking about getting a baby

    I will be going back to school full time starting this winter. I'm probably not going to have enough "free time" to stay in competition shape. I'm wondering if these next 2-3 years will be a good time for me to get a foal/yearling to play around with. I've been toying with the idea of getting a baby for a while, but have not done so because I wanted to have something that was rideable.

    I have an experienced trainer that I can go to if needed, but am planning on doing most of the groundwork myself. Although I have observed my trainer working with her young horses, this will be the first hands-on experience for me. I consider myself an average rider, not super talented, but adequate to get around novice/training comfortably. I don't think I will get a chance to get experience with breaking/groundwork training youngsters unless I get one of my own.

    My reasons for getting a youngster:
    1. Has been my dream to raise one from scratch
    2. Good timing, don't need anything rideable for another 3 years
    3. "investment" of sorts (I'm thinking about this as a payment plan for me to have a really nice horse to ride a few years down the road)

    So, is it a horribly bad idea for me to start this endeavor? Give me your thoughts/opnions Also would love to hear about your experiences with the first one you've started from scratch. How experienced were you? What was the time committment?

    I'm toying with the same thing, friend offered to let me free lease his super nice mare for breeding. I would say as long as you have an experienced trainer who supports your endeavors and you understand the costs associated with raising a baby you should be fine.

    As a young rider I spent summers at my trainers barn schooling babies and I can tell you nothing is more rewarding than them finally making a breakthrough, whether it be trotting straight down a long-side, their first little jumping course or quietly accepting the bit.

    Good luck with whatever you decide!
    Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique


      As long as you have someone knowledgeable about training youngsters to help you if you get in trouble, it can be a great time to raise a baby.

      The breeder may also be very helpful, as they know the bloodlines, and what training issues have some up with siblings.

      Many foal owners become "extended family" for breeders, and they will share their experience with purchasers. Purchasers can share photos, etc with the breeder.


        great time to raise a baby, i know some that are being sold for very little due to the economy and some breeders having WAY too many horses!


          I have to say I made this decision and wouldn't trade it for the world. I bought my horse Jackson as a yearling when I was 18 and just starting college. It was perfect because it gave him time to grow up, me to study, and also time for us to bond--I would go and study with him He eventually became my Advanced horse. I have now had him for 9 years and I feel if I had older horse at the time I would have been pressured to ride all the time and slack on my school. But the "baby" aspect worked for me, so I am in favor!! Good luck with your adventure!


            Just remember, that's 2-3 years where you're not riding consistently. Then you'll have a youngster to start.

            I didn't ride consistently for about 2.5 years while I started a family. When I started back, I had all greenies to ride. Don't get me wrong...I love riding the babies. But it's a lot more difficult if you're not in riding shape and can be a confidence buster.


              I think that it would be a perfect solution. What lucky breeder gets to sell you their little bundle of joy?!

              It will be an ideal stress-buster, a relaxing mental escape for you. The time spent with young horses while they grow up is precious. And it will certainly help time fly by being busy with school, it is a long time spent raising them, even longer for those who plan the breeding.

              And you have this great forum to share all the great moments!
              The cue card kid just held up an empty cue card. For a minute there I thought I had lost my sense of humor. --- Red Skelton


                Original Poster

                Thanks for all the replies. I still have a lot of things I need to make sure of before I dive into this endeavor. Are there any good books on the subject of raising a young horse? Something that includes a lot of details, not just common knowledge on care/feeding/etc.

                Some immediate questions that come to my mind:
                - would it be better to keep yearling out in open pasture with other horses?
                - when to acclimate it to part-time stall life? (my current horse is on 6-8 hour turnout per day, pretty typical around here unless you chose the DIY field board option)
                - how do you ensure that your baby bonds with you, and not with the rest of its herd if it's turned out with other horses?

                If I do end up getting a baby, I want it to be the most well-adjusted, been there/seen that type as possible. My current horse, who is sensitive by nature, came to me with impecable ground manners, loads easily in any trailer, ties anywhere, not spooked when it steps on it's lead rope, easy to clean his sheath, trim/shave, etc etc...list goes on. I know this has to be from his training and not his personality.

                Another thing I am trying to keep in mind is the potential for heart break. I know that I have to be prepared to accept the consequences should the baby get injured, or turns out not to like eventing. Hearing about the horror stories of babies permanently injuring themselves before even reaching riding age scares me. What are the statistics on babies reaching maturity without significant injuries? (some horses seem to lack the self-preservation gene).

                Lastly...what is the "best" age to get a youngster? I'm almost tempted to go for the full experience and get a weanling, but maybe it's a bit much to start for my first "from scratch" experience. Can anyone suggest reputable breeders? I'm not ready to buy just yet, but one can never start browsing too early

                All this baby talk is getting me excited So much to learn!


                  I bought my first project weanling when I was 16 and a Jr. in H.S.. I left for KY at 18 (baby was a two year old then and left her in GA). I had every intention of bringing her to college second semester but my mom said grades weren't good enough so she didn't get to come until the next year and she was nearly 3. During those two years I had with her while I was in H.S. we practiced all the ground manners and ground work. She also knew how to stay in a stall overnight b/c she had to from a small injury. That never seemed to be an issue with her as she was always very laid back from a young age.
                  I did a lot of round-pen work with her...long lines ect. I actually backed her for the first time before I left for was a quick walk both directions around the round pen then done. When I am back from breaks I would sit on her again for short periods of time walk and very little trot around the pen. During the summer of her 3 y/o year when I was back in GA is when I really started more hacking in the fields and stuff. She came with me to KY and and progressed from there.
                  It turns out to be not such a happy ending as I just sold her as a 6y/o. She was NOT going to make an eventer. She did not like to be brave xcountry and wasn't a huge fan of jumpin in general but she wouldn't bat an eye on a trail ride and was the fanciest mover on the flat. It wasn't from lack of raising her properly as she was the EASIEST horse on the ground and to break and was usually quite lazy and easy under saddle as well. She had all the correct basics and fundamentals. I just really think she was not cut out to be an event horse personality-wise. It was very sad to sell her as we did have a bond but it turned out to be for the better. I would be hesistant to do it again only b/c you never really know if they're going to turn out to do what you want them to. However, it was a great experience and I wouldn't do anything differently.


                    Originally posted by NewbieEventer View Post
                    Are there any good books on the subject of raising a young horse? Something that includes a lot of details, not just common knowledge on care/feeding/etc.
                    I'm writing one, but it won't be out for about a decade.

                    Some immediate questions that come to my mind:
                    - would it be better to keep yearling out in open pasture with other horses?
                    - when to acclimate it to part-time stall life? (my current horse is on 6-8 hour turnout per day, pretty typical around here unless you chose the DIY field board option)
                    The more they are out the better, but we have done both, and not had a problem.

                    - how do you ensure that your baby bonds with you, and not with the rest of its herd if it's turned out with other horses?
                    They will bond to other horses, but slowly, you develop their confidence away from the herd, and a trust in you. Babies are curious, so bringing them in for short periods, and letting hem explore a bit will soon be fun, and they forget to be worried about the separation.

                    If I do end up getting a baby, I want it to be the most well-adjusted, been there/seen that type as possible. My current horse, who is sensitive by nature, came to me with impecable ground manners, loads easily in any trailer, ties anywhere, not spooked when it steps on it's lead rope, easy to clean his sheath, trim/shave, etc etc...list goes on. I know this has to be from his training and not his personality.
                    It is both, and also the amount of confidence the mom gives to the baby. Foals out of one of my mares are always much more independent, and self confident than the ones out of my other mares.

                    Another thing I am trying to keep in mind is the potential for heart break. I know that I have to be prepared to accept the consequences should the baby get injured, or turns out not to like eventing. Hearing about the horror stories of babies permanently injuring themselves before even reaching riding age scares me. What are the statistics on babies reaching maturity without significant injuries? (some horses seem to lack the self-preservation gene).
                    Over the last 20 years, I have had 42 foals. Of those, we have had serious problems with 5.
                    *One had a fractured pelvis as a yearling, but she was sound at maturity. We broke her, and jumped her a bit, but I purchased her as a broodmare prospect, so that is what she became.
                    *One had a brain stem injury as a weanling. She was 100% sound as a yearling, and eventing as a 5 year old.
                    *Another was lost to colic as a weanling, but his new owner chose not to do surgery.
                    *The 4th had a fractured fetlock as a foal. He is eventing now and 100%
                    *The 5th was a 3 1/2 year old, started under saddle, when we lost her to a tumor/infection? (Necropsy was inconclusive)

                    So out of 42, only 2 were not alive, and sound at maturity.

                    MUCH of this depends on the situation you have them in though. I have great herd leaders, and we rarely have a serious injury here because of them.

                    My very first horse I purchased at a yearling. I lost him about 3 years ago at 32. He was still teaching people to ride, and packed my beginner husband around a 3' course at 25 years of age, needing no maintenance.


                      Babies are fun!!!

                      I have just gotten started with my first baby!! I bought him from a friend, who had bought him shortly before. Lucky for me she did a lot of the beginning work with him, and also, he's an easy baby! She got him as a weanling or a little older, and then I got him as a yearling.
                      I still have my retired mare and my competition horse, so I don't have quite as much time with him as I'd like, but he's at my house, so he gets handled twice daily for feeding and we work "work sessions" in as I can. It's been super fun. He's an Appy/Trakenher and has a great personality, so so far things are going well.

                      BUT..... he is now a VERY Expensive horse as..... a few months into owning him he colicked severely and had to have surgery. $4200 later (with a vet discount!!!!) he is a happy camper and back to normal. So.... Aside from that, he's been pretty "cheap" considering.

                      I can't wait to start getting him out. He was stall rested for 2 months then pasture rested for 1 month, so we're back to being able to really do stuff, so we're working on making trailer rides not scary and going places to do trail walks and explore. It's so exciting.

                      He's a little herd bound, but is so very easily distracted by cookies! And getting better about bonding with me too. This weekend will be our first outing to the horse park to let him see the show atmosphere!

                      Anyways...sorry.. didn't mean to ramble.. just wanted to point out that he's my first baby and aside from the colic surgery, it's been a great experience and sounds like it would work well for you too!!

                      Good luck!!!


                        Both of mine I raise from around the 2 years mark. I also had a yearling but he was very big and handled alot by the time I got him. I love knowing that I have done all the training, of course with help, on them. There is lots you can do with your baby to stay in shape!


                          Sounds like a good thing for you now.

                          You can do some things with babies but yet you can let them alone to be horses. You don't really have to 'handle/train' them every day. (Just don't make it a pet.) This is where I must add that I have had a few weanlings over the last four or five years. I had no previous experience w/babies but found that the Natural Horsemanship methods made the experience very easy and fun. Combined with good old horsemanship common sense! (I got unhandled PMU foals) They have turned into really good horses. Those who have purchased them have been thrilled, and the ones I have still will be super mares for me. Only one has yet to be started under saddle. They were all good kids, but I did try to find ones with good temperaments directly from breeders who knew the parents' dispositions.

                          Have fun!! It should fit well into your schedule of the next few years. The point about your not having a mount in the meantime to maintain your riding skills may be the only downside. You may consider sending the baby out to get started for a couple months. . . just be sure you know the trainer's reputation well. . . like the one you have will hopefully help you. I started a couple on my own but ran out of time this year and had someone take one for trail ride exposure and start the other one before time got further away from me. But I have five altogether.


                            I just did almost the same thing as you are thinking about doing. However, I have a little different situation. My wonderful mare that I event, is 15 this year. I will keep her forever but I thought it would be fun to start a youngster over the winter. By the time the youngster is in serious work--my mare will probably be ready to retire or at least lighten her workload . So I was buying her a "401K" plan essentially!

                            I started out looking at unbacked 2 yo's but ended up buying a 3 yo that had already been started. I have only had her a few weeks--but she has been super fun to work with. I'm kind of glad that I didn't have to teach her everything, since I have never brought up a baby either! But I figure that in 2 years, she'll only be 5, and if she doesn't turn out to like eventing--I can sell her. She will still be quite young and I am not looking to make money (that would be a joke after all the board and lessons I will sink into her). I just like working with a youngster because it is fascinating to see them develop physically and mentally when you work with them. In just 2 weeks, her canter has improved by leaps and bounds. She has gone on her first few trail rides and walked through deep, murky puddles. All of these little things are very rewarding to me!

                            The nice thing is, I still have my trained horse to ride. That's the only problem when you just ride a greenie--they lull you into riding them like a baby all the time. When I ride my older mare--I am RIDING. When I ride my greenie--I am more or less, just steering and maintaining the forward and the tempo. So it is good to have one of each to ride if possible!

                            Good luck--sounds like a fun project for you.


                              I would recommend it, and it's a buyer's market right now. Even a weanling will have some basics, one of the two foals I bred left here at 6 months knowing how to halter, lead, pick up his feet, tie and had been 'sacked out' to ropes all over (future driving horse).

                              The up side is that you can work with a youngster on and off and still make progress, there is no rush. The down side is that you will need a lot of patience! it seems like they try everything but they do outgrow that.

                              If you choose carefully with some knowledge of the breeding, odds are better that you'll get one that will be able to event. As for turn out, I have a yearling new to us that's out with three adult horses ages 5,6, and 7. The two that aren't alpha are herding and kicking at her mercilessly, so I am sure to stall Bella by herself at night for some relief.

                              As for my experience level, I had very little work with babies before buying a bred mare and getting a foal on the ground that next spring. The difference is that you really have to be aware of the "every thing you do with your horse is training" with a baby, whereas with an adult horse you can be a little more casual and get away with it.

                              Let us know what you find!


                                I love bringing along foals.

                                It will cost a lot more than you think. Many many things can go wrong--growth related issues, just never being a good match when you get them under saddle, not working out for the sport you had in mind, not growing to the size you were shooting for, etc.

                                That said: Foal #1 did not work out, we just never saw eye to eye under saddle and then he had a late growth spurt and developed OCD. I spent a lot of money on him from breeding to mature horse and ended up sadly selling him. He was over a hand taller than mom, and almost a full hand taller than dad at 17+ (far bigger than I was shooting for)

                                Breeding #2: mare lost foal 5 month into pregnancy, almost foundered due to hormone cascade and stress

                                Foal #3: easy peasy lemon squeezy, got my beloved 10 yr old mare, could never afford to buy her if I had not bred her. Super fun horse. Right on the money at 16 hands.

                                Foal #4: Verrrry fancy. Verrrrrry challenging. Called in the cowboy for first 30 days, which became first 60 days (30 days in the fall, winter off to grow up a little, 30 days in the spring). Now, with five months at home with me under her girth, she is becoming fun. For about a year and half there I really thought she might be too much horse for me, period. Thankfully we have met each other in the middle somewhere. She's only 4 and should have some more growing to do, but she's small and slight (15.2, 975 lbs when fit). Smaller than both parents.

                                Foal #5: Overshot the height I was going for (I was hoping 16 hand range, but she's already 13.1 at 4 months so I am thinking 17 hands--she's much bigger than my big colt at the same ages so far). Has been one of the most laid back and easy going as a very young foal.

                                I like Cherry Hill's The Formative Years, which is a foal to two years primer. All that stuff goes well for any young horse before being of riding age; her Making, Not Breaking is another good book about getting them started.

                                I keep doing this crazy and expensive thing called Bringing up Youngsters, in spite of my ups and downs with it. I never thought I would ever sell a colt I had bred and raised, either, but there you go. It was just never loff.


                                  We have gotten youngsters twice, and have enjoyed it. Our first youngster was a 2 year old Irish Draught/TB cross. He was a bit of a handful for a while because I don't know much about babies and am timid. My daughter was also fairly ignorant. Fortunately, we have access to good trainers. He was supposed to turn out to not be very big and to be a big mover at the trot. He is a 16.2h presence. His trot is very ordinary, but he has a lovely canter and is a good jumper. The baby is now a lovely 7 year old who is well loved by all of us.

                                  Baby number 2 is one we looked at repeatedly when we bought the 2 year old. We didn't actually buy him until he was 4. He is full Irish Draught. This guy has been much easier to bring along than the other horse. I don't know if this is because he is full Irish Draught or if it is because we know a little more than we did when we bought the 2 year old. He is now a very nice 6 year old.

                                  Buy a breed that is known for being quiet. Go and meet some of the babies siblings and cousins. See how many have grown up to be the kind of horse you enjoy. Be prepared to pay a lot of money to trainers because this is your first baby. Be prepared to be knocked over when you baby runs up to greet you and forgets that the ground is muddy. Be prepared to pay money to a handler if you show in hand and suddenly realize that you can't get your baby to go through the gate to go into the arena.

                                  I am glad that we bought our youngsters. They have turned out to be lovely horses. However, raising them when you don't know what you are doing, is not always easy.


                                    My current event mare is a foal I've brought up - born on the farm. Definitely the way to go if you're looking to improve all aspects of your horse knowledge and it's fun too.

                                    My biggest piece of advice is to get a baby from a "family" where there are older siblings out there doing the job you want your baby to do. Find out what they are like growing up and as adults.

                                    My mare was the calmest foal ever- we called her Zen Baby. She grew up to be a flighty spooky thing with an ATTITUDE. She can also jump the moon and has fancy movement when she's sufficiently motivated so I've stuck with her. Plus she's an easy keeper and she's cute.

                                    There's plenty to do with them when they're too young to ride - but it can get a little boring if they are easy. Mine wasn't easy, so we had plenty to do!

                                    But the reward when you do your first "pre-elementary" cross country course is as big as galloping around the biggest Prelim course.


                                      Pippa Funnel's book called Training The Young Horse is great, and focusses on Eventing! It's very readable.

                                      The only thing that hasn't been mentioned is what are you planning after school? Just think about the fact that having a horse, especially a youngster that you'd be less likely to want to leave in someone else's hands might tie you down a lot.

                                      As far as training methods go, having used various natural horsemanship methods combined with, as someone else said, more traditional methods and common sense, as well as TTouch if I could start my own youngster (one's not in the cards for a good few years though) I'd definitely use TTouch. I did a week long "starting the young horse" clinic at Bitterroot Ranch, then used the methods all summer on various different breeds & ages of horses (I worked there), I think I can safely say it works. It's solid, but also adjustable.
                                      "Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tides" - Garth Brooks
                                      "With your permission, dear, I'll take my fences one at a time" - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey


                                        I did exactly this. My senior year of high school my mare had a foal. Around this time my event horse passed way so when I went to college I took my then yearling horse with me. I had a blast. I was able to work at the two farms he was boarded at during my time in undergrad. At one farm I broke dartmoor ponies and learned how to drive ponies and navigate on the back of the carriage and it was a blast... At this farm I also got him started when he turned 3. The farm I boarded at my last year of college was a steeple chase barn and I learned ot gallop and jump chasers. It was fantastic. I got to bring along my own youngster with help from experinced professionals and at the same time ride other horses and learn new skills. However, since I was not "seriously" training and competing the way I would with an older event horse I was also able to play ultimate frisbee, kayak and camp a lot, bartend some, and maintain As in college.

                                        The one thing that is interesting about youngsters is you have to let go of the fact that "you know everything they don't know...." In that you know they have never seen a jump like that before and it could be spooky, or you know they have never crossed a stream before and they might not go... if you can let go of that and be a confident leader most come around just great! And yes, with a young horse even the smallest achievements give you a huge head rush.

                                        My young horse is now eight and going around prelim. We know each other front and back and it has been an amazing experince to bring him along from birth!