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Young Event Horses and YEH Program - Are we asking too much?

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  • Young Event Horses and YEH Program - Are we asking too much?

    This is kind of a spin off of the Training Issues thread and I'm sure a whole new can of worms. Several people have mentioned how young the horses are who are moving up the levels - and how the maturity of the horse may be a factor in some of the crashes.

    This is important to me because I'm the owner of a young horse that I am tentatively planning to compete in the YEH tests. But I have to admit I have some concern over the heights required of the 5 year olds. My horse is 4 and was just started this year as I didn't feel he was mature enough - mentally or physically to start sooner. As much as I think he's they type of horse they're looking for in terms of talent and conformation, I'm concerned about pushing him to do a course at 3'3" his first year out. I believe he has the talent to do so, but I'm not so sure about the maturity.

    This is the horse I'm hoping will be my horse of a lifetime. I bought him as a weanling partially because he jumped out of every enclosure they put him in - even at that age. Now, he's been known to jump out of a turnout with 5' high fences from a trot just to come and find me. He's not panicked, he just wants to be social. (I know this is a dangerous habit of his, and one that I don't encourage, but that's not what I want to discuss). I had originally planned to bring him out at BN/N this year - which I will still do, but I'm not sure about the YEH program yet.

    I know no one is pressuring me to do the YEH program, I will make that decision on my own. What I'm most interested in is your viewpoint on how much we ask of our young horses.

    So as an item of discussion, How much do you ask of your young horse? What do you all think of the levels of effort being asked by the YEH program? Are they appropriate for the age of the horses? If you've participated, what have you seen at the events - how did the horses behave? Were they overfaced? Or were the fences set up in a friendly manner encouraging the horses to try? Is this a program best attempted only by professionals or is there room for the amateur?

    If you look at the classical dressage training scale, there is a clear progression from one level to the next. What is the progression for eventing - specifically for XC and SJ. How do we make sure the horse is really ready to move on?

    OK, Go!

  • #2
    I think the levels are asking quite a bit. I would love to do YEH, but the amount of training I would have to do now to get ready for it is much more than my horse is physically ready for. She can't canter and turn most of the time, so how can I expect her to be doing 3'-3'3" courses next summer? I was not thrilled when they started allowing 5 year olds to go prelim. Too much too soon. Yes, by the time a horse is five they are capable, but it doesn't take into account the necessary timeline needed to produce a five year old prelim horse. I would like to see 15 year old **** horses be the norm, not old. 20+ is old. And even those horses should still be sound enough to actively compete at the lower levels.

    I fear our sport is headed the way of gymnastics. Remember when Shannon Miller was 20 at the Olympics? Everyone commented on how old she was. Good lord! Getting to the top fast does not guarantee a long run at the top. In fact, it seems to counterindicate it in many instances. I know that duct tape and baling twine hold the Earth together, but it shouldn't be required for our horses.


    • #3
      I did several of the YEH classes this year with two 5 year olds. I don't think they jumped higher the 3' (and often lower) in any of the classes (the finals are a different story). One horse was competing at novice and the other training level....they did not feel overfaced at all. That said, each event was some what different and I think that other venues had pretty tough courses.....but even maxed out....they are no where near the same level as a full event.

      I like the programs (FEH and YEH) and hope to continue to support them....but you do have to decide if your horse is ready or not. And be ready to scratch if you walk the course and think it is too much. Not all horses will be mature enough to compete....and there will be some further along etc. But these are just a class or an option for horse owners. Just because your horse doesn't do well (or even compete) in the FEH class or YEH class doesn't mean that they will not become a top event horse.....just as doing well doesn't mean they will be a Rolex horse.
      ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


      • #4
        hey there.

        good questions.
        also take into consideration that the 5 YEH Championships are at 3'6''.
        The classes at the beginning of the year will be easier than those towards the end.
        You really need to be on a 5 year old going Training or thinking about moving up to Training by the time the championships roll around if you so choose to compete. They used the training course and a few 3'6'' SJ fences at the AEC YEHC this year.

        The classes are best suited for sale horses of ULR. Darren actually made that statement himself.
        Of course there is room for Amateurs in these classes. They are judging quality of horse not professional vs. ammy. True, ULR will usually have nicer horses, as they are bred out the wazoo and/or cost a million. (Windfall babies)
        So make sure you go in with an open mind. I have seen from this past year that it is tougher to qualify than many expect.

        I too have a 4 year old that we (owner and myself) would like to aim at the 5 YEH stuff in 2008.
        He hasn't started jumping yet but I am very excited to get going. He'll start this winter.

        Personally, I do not believe that horses are tested physically at 3'3''. Any horse can jump 3'. I wouldn't worry too much about your youngin over the height. If he is balanced, willing, and confident I would think he would be fine. ; ) The height certainly shouldn't hurt him.

        But yes indeed there are some 4/5 year olds that are just not mature enough and as bornfree suggested, if you have qualms after seeing the course, just scratch. No biggy.

        I followed my bud, Kacey's Rider, through her YEH experience this year. It was loads of fun.
        Boomer was aimed at the 4 YEH in 2006 but Area V wasn't on the wagon just yet and I couldn't afford to travel out of area at that time.

        good luck and keep us posted!
        Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


        • #5
          I buy one or two OTTB's a year and have for several years now. For the past 18 months, none of the 3 OTTB's I've had have been mature enough to compete in YEH while they were eligible. I do think it's asking alot, but I have had plenty of horses in the past that were quick learners and were developed enough physically to compete.
          "Gallop as if you were to die tomorrow, jump as if you were to live forever."


          • #6
            I loff the YEH and participated with my QH when he was a 4yo. Other than the first one we went into, I felt that they were all very inviting and a great learning experience. I think it all depends on your individual horse's maturity level and how they are coming in their training. If you feel that your horse isn't ready, than don't participate! No one is twisting anyone's arm to and I doubt your horse will be looked down upon because they didn't participate in the FEH or the YEH program. Some horses can handle Beginner Novice & Novice questions at 4yo and some cannot.

            ~ Jus Passed My Zipper aka Spanky, 11yo QH gelding.
            ~ Muskogee, 2yo Oldenburg Colt.


            • Original Poster

              You guys are awesome (and quick!) with your responses. It's great to get that feedback.

              Now what about developing the young event horse. I feel very much like eqsiu in that the horses are wearing out, for lack of a better term, too early. We've all heard of those horses still packing kids around T or P in their 20s, but those are few and far between. I hate seeing horses like that of my former trainer who are done at 9 - lame and/or burned out after having run Inter. or Adv. for a few years, probably before they were ready.

              IMO, 5 is too young for a horse to go prelim. Due to the increasing technicality of the P courses, I believe that this is the first level where you can really get nailed for making mistakes - horse and rider. And most 5yo horses aren't ready for that. While like any other sports, there will be prodigies and those horses ridden by BNRs, but my question is regarding the average horse - are we pushing too hard too soon?

              I know I'm stirring the pot, but I think its something to be addressed.


              • #8
                Right from the start of the program, I would have preferred 5 and 6 instead of 4 and 5.
                Some are ok at those younger ages, but many aren`t.
                I`ve asked about adding a 6 year old age level, but there`s been no response.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Ponylady27 View Post
                  IMO, 5 is too young for a horse to go prelim. Due to the increasing technicality of the P courses, I believe that this is the first level where you can really get nailed for making mistakes - horse and rider. And most 5yo horses aren't ready for that. While like any other sports, there will be prodigies and those horses ridden by BNRs, but my question is regarding the average horse - are we pushing too hard too soon?

                  I know I'm stirring the pot, but I think its something to be addressed.

                  My view is you don't base everything on age (and age is just one factor)....horsemanship involves knowing how much to push...some push too much and others not enough. Knowing what to do comes from experience and treating each horse as an individual. I have a very fancy 3 year old....he was the champion for the FEH. While I would love for him to go and win the 4 year old YEH class....whether he will even compete in a single YEH class will depend on how he is maturing. If he is ready...he is ready and if not, oh well. You have to evaluate each horse each day and not base your training on trying to enter a particular class or level of event....you pick the particular class or level of event that is most appropreiate for your horse at that time and will help them develop.

                  I personally agree that 5 is young to be going Prelim...but I can see that there are some horses who can skip around a prelim with ease....What I hope is that at any level...no one is drilling that 5 year old day in and day out all year regardless of the level.
                  ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                  • #10
                    I have opted not to do them. I have a 4 and a half year old draftx. I am just now cantering a 2 and a half foot course with him. Because of his size (17 hands and still growing), I don't want to push him...I want him to last. I would rather move him along slowly and do the novice stuff at age 5 or 6, rather than having to compete him at that level when he is 10 because he is broken down.
                    Lori T
                    www.facebook.com/LTEquine for product updates on the lines I rep


                    • #11
                      I had hoped to take my coming 5 year old OTTB in a YEH competition or 2 in 2008 UNTIL I read the requirements. I think way too much is being asked. I happen to think a young horse experienced enough to face Prelim questions confidently, at 5 years old, has been worked too hard and done too much.
                      I think a horse who spends a longer time in kindergarten will make his moves up through T, P, I and maybe A with more confidence, soundness and generally will be a happier partner in the long run.
                      Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.


                      • #12
                        Here is a question..... how many people who are making the statements that they wouldn't do the YEH because of the heights in the rulebook have actually been to a YEH competition?? Have you seen (in real life) what is going on or just basing your opinion off what you read in the rulebook?

                        Most of the questions are not Training or Prelim questions at the YEH. Usually they will jump part of a Beginner Novice or Novice cross country course with a few Stadium jumps that might be alittle higher thrown in. I know that most of them are way below the max height requirement (especially early in the year). Now in the Championship at the end of the year, there may be a bigger fence or two (which it should be for a CHAMPIONSHIP) but I bet the vast majority are still going to be a good 3 to 6 inches smaller than the max. Just because the rules list the max, doesn't mean that everything is going to be that big. Instead of totally downing it based off what you read in the rulebook, I would advise contacting organizers to see what they plan on setting up. Most organizers that I know want the YEH to be very inviting and positive for the horse. That is what the entire program is based on. To showcase upcoming youngsters and give them a positive first experience at the horse trials.

                        And just because a horse might competes at Prelim at 5 doesn't mean that it will automatically be done by age 10....... I just get sooo tired of these blanket statements. I think just about all of us (other than a few who are in it for the $$ or just don't care) want our young horses to go on and have long successful careers. Should I be hung out to dry because I moved my guy up to Training in May of his 5yo year??? He was more than ready and not backed off a bit and as far as I can tell, none the worse.

                        Everyone should do what is good for each individual horse throughout their career. Some horses are ready at 4 to go and show, some aren't ready till they are 7 or 8, and some never ready.

                        ~ Jus Passed My Zipper aka Spanky, 11yo QH gelding.
                        ~ Muskogee, 2yo Oldenburg Colt.


                        • #13
                          Kacey and I did the YEH and managed to make in to AEC's in both YEH and novice. I had raised him from a colt and he was a yearling when we heard about the YEH program and from then on, that was my goal. Unfortunately, everything in our area fell apart for YEH when he was four. I offered to do as much work as possible to help venues run them, but it was not to be. When he turned five, we made the decision to go out of state and area to attempt to qualify.

                          I'll tell you this... the road to getting them ready for it is a tough one. The stadium fences are no big deal, but the number of cross country fences that they need to have been exposed to in case you get one on your course is a rather large number.

                          I schooled Kacey like mad to get him ready. We did almost every schooling show in our area and all of the schooling days.

                          I feel like the way that we prepared him was well suited for him. Schooled XC everywhere, careful not to overface him, but expose him to as much as possible. We then only introduced height for the stadium fences to make sure that he was comfortable with it, which he was.

                          By the time we arrived to AEC's, he had competed in 3 YEH divisions, and let me tell you, the judging and the courses ran the gontlet. We ran a course at the COHP in an event derby. The course was very well designed and fun. Most of the fences began at novice height with a few training level height stadium fences. It used banks, hills, and turns to show balance and learnablility of the horse. The course at Maui Jim was essentially a stadium course at training level height. And our course here in TX that I helped run was a true YEH course. Banks, water, coops, and maxed out stadium fences as it was less than a month to AEC's. We scored anywhere from an 80 to a 68.5. AND, to top that all off, they changed the way they were scoring things mide year. So, I did a lot of communicating with USEA on the scoring to ensure that we qualified.

                          The AEC course was pretty big, IMO. The stadium fences were all 3'7" and we began with a fairly large oxer. The XC fences included a log oxer, a skinny, a house a stride from the water, and then a jump out. Kacey gave me an amazing warmup, but I think we sat and waited our turn too long and he lost some of his drive. Leslie Law fell off and they looked into some footing in front of some of the fences before we continued.

                          After watching all of the horses go, it was easy to see that he was one of the most immature 5 year olds there. He was peaky to the fences, but jumped everything the first time except for the house into the water. Had the judges only seen our warm up, I think they would have been impressed.

                          And our dressage could have been better as well. He wasn't moving qute right. We came home to find that he had an abscess festering. He was not off, but not moving well.

                          Kacey's sire was VERY slow to mature. The didn't even start him until he was six because of it. I think Kacey is pretty similar.

                          So, now, we've made the move up to training level and managed to qualify for AEC's again. But, we are slowing down a bit now to try to let his mind mature. He knows his job and is more then willing to do it, but he just needs more time to mature. It is so hard not to push, but there comes a point and time when you have to sit back and slow down and let there brains take in everything they have learned.

                          Point being, do what you can with your youngster. But listen to them. It is hard to go and have your baby picked to pieces by judges. You know your horse, and ultimately, you know his potential more then a judge b/c you know his maturity level. We finished 15th our of 16 at AEC's. I was bummed, but let me tell you. You WILL be seeing Kacey and I make it to advanced in the future. He just won't reach his peak until a year or two later then those other horses and well, his body and mind will have much less wear.

                          And, one more thing, I know I ramble. Denny said that he wanted more of a five and six year old program. I have heard there is talk of taking YEH into the 6 year old world, but that it would be very similar to intermediate. That's A LOT to ask of a six year old. IMO, they need to back up the five year old division and make it more like the four year old division we have now. Add a four year old division that is much more comparable with novice and b/n. and possibly add a 6 year old division that is training/prelim.
                          We wouldn't push the youngsters so fast, and b/c it would give them so much more time to mature, it would allow that many more horses and riders to participaste.

                          That said, good luck! I would be thrilled to help you and give you any advice that I can along your journey. It's always nice to have a third party to get a fresh, unbiased point of view!


                          • #14
                            YEH veteran here ;-)

                            I have done the YEH for the past 3 years ... With different horses.

                            3 years ago the classes were really easy and I agree that they got harder and harder with time.

                            This year, I was a riding a very, very immature, gangly, I don't know where my feet are type of guy. The thing is that he is proabably the most talented horse I have had in my hands in my entire life.

                            He was tied for 1st at BN after 4 weeks under saddle (with a 28 in dressage !!!). This horse is so balanced and so supple that it's a joke. He is very, very trainable and overall has the best brain ever, nothing phases him.

                            As far as jumping, he is a WB and is not really impressed with anything lower than 3'. So, there is no point for him to 'crowl' over 2'3 for ever.
                            In dressage same thing, his 20 m circles at the trot and at the canter are alsmost perfect , no need to go around for hours.

                            So, in his case, doing the YEH was the right choice. And it was physically easier on him than running a full HT.
                            I actually entered a Novice event in august and retired on the XC because it was too much. It was not the heigh as he was jumping higher in the YEH classes, but the full XC was just too much for him.

                            I rode him in average 3 times a week, jumped every other week and that's it.
                            He was in a middle of a growth spurt and had a medical issue before the Championship and didn't perform at his best there, but he still did OK and I think it was a good experience for him.

                            He will do the 5 YO next year and probably do Novice and maybe Training if he feels good enough.

                            I think that the height of the fences is not an issue for the horses. It's the drilling and repetition that put stress on them. My horse got a month off in the middle of the summer and has had less than 25 jumping school in his entire life !!!!

                            We had to take 48 X rays of his joints (stallion requirement) this fall and a scope and every single medical exam you can think off and everything came back as clean as it can be in a vet book. So, It seems the YEH season didn't do any damage to his immature body.

                            He has not been ridden since October and he will probably start back under saddle in February. For no, he is being a horse and just having fun.


                            • #15
                              Remember, also, what the aim of the YEH classes is. It is not a program designed to be an intro to eventing, nor is it a class to "get your feet wet" in the sport, or to identify a good horse that will likely top out at Preliminary. If it were, it'd be alot harder to judge and we'd hear the same complaints that a horse ridden by a pro might "look" easier or smoother than one ridden by an ammy. But the YEH program is designed to try to identify potential world class horses at a young age and to encourage the breeding of same. Thus, the class requirements ask for enough of a test to show the horses' capabilities and quality, which means that the classes - particularly at the championships - need to ask enough of a question to allow the horses to showcase their ability, and the class rules are designed to be forgiving of green mistakes (thus you shouldn't feel like you need to have your horse exposed to all types of questions at that level). You do not need something imported for a gazillion dollars, or something ridden by a pro to be successful, but realize that the quality of the horses is getting higher every year, and most of these horses truly aren't impressed by a 3' fence.

                              Some horses are ready for the YEH classes at 4, some are not. Some horses are ready to jump a bigger fence at 5, some are not. And, some horses develop that ability and come into themselves during the year, thus many of the classes held earlier in the year are quite a bit smaller than the upper limits of the class specifications. The point is that everyone needs to consider their individual horse's attributes and development and be smart about where that horse is in his or her growth or experience. Sure, being able to point to competitive results in the division is a boon when you go to sell one, but I also don't think it changes the purchase price much - a nice horse is a nice horse and THAT sets the price.

                              I've now had youngsters in the YEH program for three years. Our warmblood cross was very mature for his age and was easily ready to canter around the little course as a four year old and was more than ready to handle the five year old questions. Our now rising six year old TB couldn't have found his front feet if he was looking at them as a four year old and so didn't do any YEH classes, but is very comfortable as a five year old as he grew into himself and was fairly successful in the classes. Neither of these horses were pounded on - they were brought along carefully and correctly, and they are both pretty exceptional animals. I hope they will both have long careers doing whatever they end up deciding they want to be.


                              • #16
                                If the horse's name rhymes with "Manno" then yes.

                                Expecting WAY too much.

                                "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries


                                • #17
                                  I concur with what Got Spots said.

                                  You bring the horse along at the rate that is appropriate for THAT horse.

                                  If it happens to coincide with thte YEH timing, great. If not, skip it.

                                  Brain was in no way ready for YEH at 4, but was definitely ready at 5 (got 2nd).

                                  chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


                                  • #18
                                    At the heart of this issue is really the question: are we moving horses up too quickly? In a word, maybe. I was amazed in CoTH to see that Ringwood Magister, Tiana Coudray's adorable grey on whom she won the * at Galway is only 6! And I believe that she says in the article that she wants to run him in a ** in the summer! (Of course he's super nippy, and his young rider is very experienced, they made a good looking pair).

                                    I think that horses can be moved up in a responsible successful way even when young, but I think that the pressure is on for a horse to prove itself in its youth, or else owners and riders want to move on to something that WILL go. I, personally, am glad that we ran my *** horse at Prelim until he was 8. He's a smarter advanced horse for it. Maybe, in the end it's a question of rider experience--if you can give a 6 year old a confident ** ride, then, well, why not give it a go?


                                    • #19
                                      [QUOTE=VicarageVee;2830408] I, personally, am glad that we ran my *** horse at Prelim until he was 8. He's a smarter advanced horse for it. QUOTE]

                                      LOVE this and totally agree with it!!!

                                      "It is better to upgrade a year late than a day early"....I use this quote from a very good trainer.


                                      • #20
                                        Everyone is talking about young horses and jumping but I'm just as concerned about young horses and dressage. I like denny's idea of 5 and 6 as YEH years but I doubt that would ever happen.

                                        If I were shopping for a horse, I'd be more interested in a 6 year old with a couple of seasons of hunting experience (preferably with a hunt that requires a good jumper) than in a 4 or 5 year old with YEH placings.