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How long does it take to start a horse under saddle?

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  • How long does it take to start a horse under saddle?


    I have a 3 year old mare that has been at training for 6 months now.....and she seems to have been barely started under saddle...walking, leg yields and some trot, not even contact with the mouth. What is the average length of time that you send your 3 year old's off for training and what are your opinions? I can't afford to have her in training forever and I just don't know if it perhaps it isnt a good trainer/horse fit? I know the trainer is good, but maybe he just doesnt "connect" with my horse?
    Last edited by charliesangel; Apr. 12, 2012, 11:31 PM.

  • #2
    imo, depends on how much handling before actual training.. most cases sitting on in 30 days.. and marching forward from there..no framing for a while just long and low, follow your nose, lots of circles and steering.. and then on to canter.. hey you have 2 leads.... and then lengthening and shortening the step.
    also depends what its job is going to be. I am doing a 3 yr old now that needs a little better topline so doing more ground work and lots of transitions and( also from the ground ) doing flex at poll and trot in frame but don't realy ask to stay in frame when riding. yet. Same horse is also trotting all fences, trotting in and cantering out a line and some simple gymnastics. So even as a green 3 yr old she really can jump around a course..I just don't do it.

    Green broke horses can be doing quite a bit in 60-90 days.. unless they want to be rodeo stars then there is less waltz and more polka (since they need their minds occupied)

    However, not knowing your specific horse and confirmation,physical/mental maturity and such..hard to say what she should be doing..but walk-trot in 6 months of training? maybe you should be there more frequently and watch the work outs and also ask when you will be sitting on her..


    • #3
      I'm an ammy and my difficult horse (the one my trainer said, "now don't fall off because I don't know if I'll be able to keep him from coming after you") was W/T/C and trotting little jumps in 6 months... but as I recall 2 months or more of that was on the longe line without a rider.

      My OTTB has been back to work about 6 months... she's WTC, but the left lead is iffy and a parachute is recommended equipment on her bad days... no way she's ready to start over fences... yes, she was already broke when I got her, but not very IMO... I came off a lot the first month.

      All three of my warmblood mares were at least WTC in 6 months.

      I think you need to find a new pro, or find out why the pro you are using is going so slow with your mare.


      • #4
        My 3-year-old (coming 4) gelding has been in training 9 months. He's cantering courses of small jumps (2'6") and is being readied for Thermal (if the barn goes this year) in the baby greens. He has his changes, canters rhymically, shortens, lengthens, inside/outside leg, etc. Is he broke to death? No. But he's pretty steady with the pro.

        He IS an easy-going, "I'll try anything", non-argumentative type of guy. Laid-back, not spooky or reactive. We've taken him to 3 shows this past summer and fall to hang out and he didn't bat an eye. He's a Holsteiner, if that makes a difference.

        Don't know if this answers your questions or not. If, at any time, he told us that all of the training up to this point has or is too much, we would have backed off. All things being equal, I would expect more out of your horse if he's been going for 6 months.


        • #5
          I have a 3yo that's got about 6 months on her (was started in Feb but has had a month off here and there). She's w/t/c 3-4 days a week and canters little jumps once every week or two. I've only asked her for one lead change and she's done it. We haven't strung more than 3-4 jumps in a row yet. She's just still too immature IMO, and butt high again. Haven't had a pro on her yet except for her initial starting... she will hopefully go into a program in January.

          Mine was at the point yours is within the first week of being started, FWIW.


          • #6
            All depends on the horse and how much ground work had been done before it started the undersaddle work. All things being equal, a 3yo should be able to w/t/c somewhat decently in 30 days or so. You are not asking for sustained work but the general idea should be in their heads. They can also be doing some very basic ground rails or tiny fillers and getting the idea of leg yielding, turns on the forehand and haunches and some rein back.
            A good trainer is willing to do some back peddling if the baby fails to understand something and that can increase the 30 day thing but most should be doing the basics in the time frame.


            • #7
              No hard and fast rule but I expect mine to be w-t-c in well under 60 days, and then start refining. The current eventer pony had less than 10 rides (2 weeks of under saddle) last summer at w-t. Then started again in January. She was on the green-as-grass cross country course before the end of the month and competing in Beginner Novice 4 months later with a child aboard. And I think she's pretty typical of what I expect.
              Aelfleah Farm, Scurry, Texas
              BLUE STAR Arabians and
              Arabian-influenced Sportponies


              • #8

                OP - just to give you some perspective, I have a green TB that was started under saddle this summer and has had approximately 30 days worth of training on him (2-3 days a week with the trainer out at our barn) and he is doing all of the stuff that your mare is doing after 6 months.

                And let me tell you, this guy was SLOW to start because he didn't have any real groundwork on him as far as lunging, long lining, etc. I think your trainer may be taking it unnecessarily slow and you should maybe have a check-up-on-the-progress visit. Your mare shouldn't be rushed, but she should be making steady progress forward.
                "The Prince" aka Front Row
                Cavalier Manor


                • #9
                  I always say that "it takes as long as it takes".

                  How long is "It depends":

                  On what you did with the horse prior to any work commencing under saddle.

                  The temperament of the horse and how biddable it is.

                  Whether you want it pushed on regardless or produced slowly or carefully.

                  How well you want the job doing.

                  Whether you've expressed the desired outcome in terms of "just things to be achieved" or a level of achievement.

                  What the owner's capability is once the horse goes back there.

                  How much time and money you have.

                  I'd suggest if the OP is uncertain that a conversation with the trainer might be best recommended. Ensure you both have common understanding about what the aims and objectives are. Ensure there's clarity about the expectation on both sides. Arrange to go and see some training sessions and ask the trainer how long it's likely to take to reach specific objectives. As the trainer has had the horse for 6 months he's more likely to be able to advise now then before he knew the horse.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by charliesangel View Post

                    I have a 3 year old warmblood mare that has been at training for 6 months now.....and she seems to have been barely started under saddlet...walking, leg yields and some trot, not even contact with the mouth/bit. This seems very slow in my opinion.....she is a smart, easy to work with but a sensitive mare. No behavioral issues. What is the average length of time that you send your 3 year old's off for training and what are your opinions? I can't afford to have her in training forever and I just don't know if it perhaps it isnt a good trainer/horse fit? I know the trainer is good, but maybe he just doesnt "connect" with my horse?
                    As for no contact, I don't believe three year olds can be on "contact", she should be able to allow connection with the bit and steer.

                    How far along was she when you sent her? I sent my 3 year old out last spring, he could be saddled, lunged,and bridled. He left for 30 days and he came back able to walk, trot and canter. Very basically, I took it from there.

                    How far along does your mare need to be when you get her back?

                    I think that in 6 months, she should at least pick up the canter, halt, make a nice figure eight at the trot, and be able to trot a little course of poles on the gound, if not jump an X too. Unless, she came in straight from the field, never wore a halter or been in a stall.

                    It might be time to move on.


                    • #11
                      Dearie, it takes as long as it takes. Talk to the trainer about how your horse is doing in training. Now that they have worked with her a while what is the estimated timeline?
                      I know not all horse trainers are qualified or honest, so I can understand the suspicion, but far far too many trainers push horses too fast to please owners because of threads like these and the assumption that 60 days should get you a horse ready to show.
                      training a horse really is a pyramid, the base takes longer to fill than the top.
                      chaque pas est fait ensemble


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
                        training a horse really is a pyramid, the base takes longer to fill than the top.
                        I like it! And agree.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by charliesangel View Post

                          I have a 3 year old warmblood mare that has been at training for 6 months now.....and she seems to have been barely started under saddlet...walking, leg yields and some trot, not even contact with the mouth/bit. This seems very slow in my opinion.....she is a smart, easy to work with but a sensitive mare. No behavioral issues. What is the average length of time that you send your 3 year old's off for training and what are your opinions? I can't afford to have her in training forever and I just don't know if it perhaps it isnt a good trainer/horse fit? I know the trainer is good, but maybe he just doesnt "connect" with my horse?
                          Goodness, the mare is three! IMO is sounds like you have a great trainer, you should be thanking him every single day for not pushing your mare. Now give her some time off with some light hacking until next spring and start up again then when she is more physically mature.

                          Also, I would not ask for contact until a horse is strong over the neck and back and WTC solidly. As a matter of fact if the horse is started correctly and ridden correctly you wont have to ask once the horse is ready, she will seek it all on her own.
                          On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


                          • #14
                            I started my boy in the spring, and I take my sweet time and am not really in a rush and he's w-t-c, starting on contact (I like them to carry themselves reliably at 3 gaits first, so maintaining contact is "later" on my list), gone on some field trips (shows, trail rides) hacks down the road, tons of poles and has recently started jumping small fences. He could physically and emotionally be way past that, but I have no plans for winter, so slow is fine.

                            That said, he's very willing, was prepped for the sales as a yearling, showed on the line as a 2 year old and I gave him 30 days u/s as a 2 year old where he did w/t then took most of the fall/winter off. In other words, he had a good base for this spring.

                            I guess if I had a horse at a trainer for 6 months and was barely started under saddle, I would hope I was getting feedback from the trainer on why that was the case. There's plenty of good reasons, and this is the one part of working with a horse that you want to get right the first time if at all possible, so more time is fine. I don't see that as the larger issue, but rather that you are not sure why things are progressing at this pace.
                            Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                            • #15
                              How mature is this 3 yo WB and how many days a week/for how long is the trainer working with it/what did it know how to do when you sent it?

                              Without getting these questions answered, cannot answer OPs question.

                              OP, care to fill us in?
                              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                              • Original Poster

                                Wow! Thanks for all the responses! My mare is a Hanoverian. She did have some lunging and round pen work when she went to the trainers so had a very, very, basic start. She is a total pleaser, smart, easy to work with but is sensitive...although not hot or spooky at all. He is several hours away so I only get to see her once every week or two. I am alllllll about taking it slow, and I think with a slow maturing warmblood that is definitely the route to take. But when I mean she is not even trotting yet, I mean I think he has taken a few steps of trot with her and thats it. I am just concerned that she is progressing way too slowly. I have had many 3 year olds and some took longer than others, but at 3 months I would expect to see her walk, trot, cantering. I am not naive to the fact that each horse is different, and I am not the type that is expecting her to be finished or show-ready. But she should at least have the basics down. Thats all I wanted done and I was to bring her home then and work with her myself. I have tried talking to the trainer several times about this and I don't really know what the next step is. Do I take her out and bring her to someone different or do I leave her for a few more months?? The problem is with the latter is that I have given him a few more months than originally planned and she still isn't progressing. He says she is but I do not agree. I have only been on her one time and needless to say it was not a good ride. I was led around one circle and my horse was freaked out the whole time. I have asked him if she is just not "mentally" ready and should I just take her home until the spring (of course working with her a bit) and he said absolutely not, she was physically and mentally ready and that would be the worst thing I can do. I know she is being worked with....although I do not know how much. Its kinda a one man and assistant operation and they are very busy (have great reps too) but I wonder if they arent working with her as much as they just have too many horses?? I have had bad experiences with trainers in the past with them not doing anything with my horse so I am very leery of anybody at this point unfortunately. I am just feeling stuck I thought I would have her home by now and its such a disappointment........

                                In my opinion she is MONTHS away from being ready to come home. She seems as green as can be still.
                                Last edited by charliesangel; Apr. 12, 2012, 11:32 PM.


                                • #17
                                  We offer a Young Horse Starting and Development Program as well as start our own performance horses and in our experience it usually takes between 6-8 weeks. That being said, there are of course exceptions.

                                  One of our own mares, who is an alpha mare took approximately 3 months to start because we had to spend a lot of time getting her to respect personal space.

                                  That being said, one of our other mares, was happily walk, trot and cantering under saddle in 3 weeks. It was a natural progression and everything came naturally.

                                  Pic of the starting process Taken June 2009

                                  Pic taken 1 year later June 2010
                                  Ryu Equestrian & Facebook Page
                                  Breeding Horses Today, for the Equestrian Sport of Tomorrow.
                                  Osteen & Gainesville, Florida.


                                  • #18
                                    Every young horse is different. Clients will ask me that proverbial question: "how long will it take?" I have no crystal ball or magic wand. When that 3 year old comes to me, if groundwork has not been done properly, then that has to be addressed. And, backing youngsters IS dangerous. We take our lives in our own hands every time we put our hands on them....always best to go from Step A to B slowly before progressing. You work with what you have every day, not what you want that horse to be. Some days the pressure can be put on them, other days not. I strongly encourage owners to come see their youngsters often no matter what the distance. Some of mine have taken several months, injuries etc....others a short period of time. How they were started as foals dictates ALOT!!!!

                                    On the other hand, there are trainers who go slow to keep their cash flow steady....I don't agree with that.

                                    Good luck, go see your baby as much as you can....stay on top of the training....this kind of work is not easy for anyone. Takes years of experience to know what to do when. Have fun with your youngster too! They grow up way too fast!
                                    Bethe Mounce
                                    Head Trainer, AmeriCan Romance Equestrian
                                    Brentwood CA


                                    • #19
                                      Honestly, if I were you, I would just take her home, go back to light groundwork for the winter with some time off, let her grow up, then send her off to a good hunter trainer in the spring when she is 4.

                                      It doesn't sound like you really trust this trainer all that much, and if your horse has been there 6 months and you are having communication issues, just move on. It's FAR from the worst thing you can do for the mare. If she is accepting tack and the weight of the rider on her back and turning and going forward from the leg, that's all you need.

                                      I disagree that starting youngsters is really that hard, I think they are way easier than dealing with a horse with bad training. It's certainly an art and a specific skill, but 90% of horses are so trusting and willing and want to do the right thing, that's why the training usually goes pretty quickly.

                                      Anyway, that's just my .02. I think the best thing is to take some time off and move on to a trainer you trust and have a better relationship with next year.
                                      On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


                                      • #20
                                        There is taking it slow...and wasting your money. I have started horses that are just too immature/unbalanced in their growth to balance well enough to canter, so I walk/trot, trail ride, walk/trot poles and do some basic lateral work (leg yeild & turn on the forehand) and if they still don't feel like they should canter, I suggest to the owner to let them sit for a while to mature.

                                        6 months and your horse can barely trot? Maybe your horse really is just not ready to do more, but what exactly IS your trainer doing to help the horse progress? If the horse is just being kept in a holding pattern waiting for it to mature, then it may as well be sitting in a feild.
                                        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!