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how often/how long to work a 3 yo.

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  • how often/how long to work a 3 yo.

    Just starting my 3 yo (born 4/08) on the lunge to prep her for being backed this winter. Up until 6 weeks ago, she was just a pasture ornament

    I would love some BTDT advice for starting a youngster off right. I am wobbling between working her more frequently (5+ days/week) for shorter sessions (10 - 15 minutes) or less frequently (3-4 days/week) for longer sessions (20+ minutes).

    Or if I should be doing something different all-together

    Also ideas for what to do during those sessions would be appreciated as well. We do a lot of transitions, getting her used to voice commands, as well as learning to go forward. We're just now introducing the bridle (under a halter) and next we'll move to side-reins.

    Other than 'work' we do all sorts of other ground lessons - so my question really is about the ring work portion of starting a youngster.

    A little background : she is a 1/2 Welsh 1/2 GRP mare who still has some maturing to do, so the trainer that is going to back her feels like she needs a few months of work before she'll be ready to carry a rider.

    Thanks for any insight.

  • #2
    I'm a big fan of lots of short sessions. I knew a trainer who said even that even if all you had time for was a quick lead around the barn, you should handle the youngster every day. I have a weanling who I groom and take on walks everyday... At this point, she's basically a very large dog

    As far as training, I would recommend ground driving! IMO its one of the best training tools to prepare a young horse for riding.


    • #3
      At 3 1/2 ( so glad you waited !!) She should be mentally ready for learning under saddle. I start all my own youngsters and wait until they are 3--3 1/2 to start riding. I have always had good success with 20-30 minutes of riding ( once they get the idea of it). I do only walking at first and work on turning, stopping, backing, moving off leg pressure and the cue for forward . When that is understood I add some trotting mixed in and I keep that into their 4 year old year. I know that is too slow of progress for most, but I never have to go " back" in my training later on.

      If you have your girl fairly fit on the lunge she should handle 30 minutes ( light riding-- mentioned above) 5 days a week well. I wouldn't use any " artificial aids" at first, just keep it easy and don't worry about head set or anything until she is well past green. Good luck.


      • #4
        When I started my hunter at 3 1/2, he got maybe 15 minutes of an arena school and then an 45min/hour walk around the trails. Some days we skipped the arena school, but the long walk around the fields was pretty standard.

        3 or 4 days a week.

        eta By this I mean undersaddle, not ground work. Somebody else does my ground work, then I show up when it's time to swing a leg over for the first time, lol.
        The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
        Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
        The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY


        • #5
          I started my current 3.5 y/o as a late 2 y/o.

          I swear my filly was born broke lol but initially started with lunging w/t/c, getting her to respond to my voice commands (halter not bridle).
          Then after she was comfortable. I put a saddle on her and walked her around and then progressed to lunging with the saddle but ixnay on the stirrups incase they slip and hit her barrel.

          Eventually, (about a week or two... depending on when you see she thinks nothing of the saddle), add the stirrups, bring them down, lift and bonk her barrel lightly so she does not panic when they do slip and accidently hit her sides.

          I then added the bridle over top of the halter, and hand walked her wigging the bit and attempting to steer slightly with the reins so she gets used to pressure.

          When she was comfortable with this, took abought 3 times for my filly, I then lunged her with full tack but the line attached to the halter.
          I did this for a couple weeks and then started sacking her out and when nothing phased her I had a friend hold her while i made noise on the mounting block and patted her back and barrel all over so she knew it was o.k to have humans above her head.
          I gradually leaned on her and then after a few times of this procedure I drapped myself over the saddle and had my friend lead me around so I took take a quit and safe exit if she got very upset.
          Nothing happened she was quite happy, so I got on, feet in stirrups and had a friend lead me 2-3 times until I would walk by myself, taking some contact meanwhile having someone beside her head walking.

          This process from lunging with tack to getting on and walking myself occured over about 3 weeks. But might be different with your filly. Watch for signs of unhappiness and swishing tail.

          My filly was a bit swishy but did nothing about it.

          Keep the sessions short since their attention span and learning is about 15-20 minutes. After each session give your horse 48 hours before the next session since it take about this long for young horse to absorb all you have taught.
          I found if I ran into a snag one day, I corrected once, then quit. The next day I worked with her, I would have sworn she sat in her stall thinking.... "so what exactly did she want me to do..." and she got it easily the next time.

          Good luck and have fun, I did find it hard not to get overzealous and teach another new task if she was being really good. Lots of praise too!


          • #6
            My 3 yr. olds ride lightly about 4x a week.


            • #7
              Originally posted by pryme_thyme View Post
              The next day I worked with her, I would have sworn she sat in her stall thinking.... "so what exactly did she want me to do..." and she got it easily the next time.
              The young mare I am working with is just like this, and I have used similar words to describe the process. When we have a setback, it's almost as though she has to think it over for awhile. Invariably, the next time I ride, she has figured it out!
              I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh as that was! My very heart leaped with delight at the sound. --Nathaniel Hawthorne


              • Original Poster

                Thanks for the replies! Sounds like I am doing okay so far, but will definitely look for more information on ground driving and eventually I hope to add that into our repertoire


                • #9
                  Great advice and I agree with short - but lots of it outside - walking around the fields, driveway, roads, whatever you have! And let her tell you what's enough and what's not.
                  co-author of 101 Jumping Exercises & The Rider's Fitness Program; Soon to come: Dead Ringer - a tale of equine mystery and intrique! Former Moderator!


                  • #10
                    At this point in the year, most 3 yr olds I've dealt with are either being left alone or about to be left alone until the late winter or early spring. But they've usually had 6 to 8 weeks of light riding a few days a week. Most have a very basic grasp of w/t/c, have been out of the ring a good bit, and, if they are quite bright and taking to everything very easily, they may have started walking and trotting over little "jumps" (we're talking things that they can just step over, and VERY brief. More of a fun, very low key "game"). Then they spend the winter growing and eating, maybe occasionally being ponied on a nice day around the farm.

                    It's silly, but I prefer to deal with the backing and early rides with the benefit of summer heat! It also means that they don't have to get stuck in the indoor but get a broader education without making it boring, boring ring work. Kids in kindergarten don't sit at desks all day memorizing boring facts, why should "kid" horses have to do boring circles in the indoor.


                    • #11
                      I would do less lunging. I think riding (with a light and balanced rider) is much easier on their legs than repetitive circles.

                      Ponying would also be good for fitness, or ground driving.

                      My current 3 year old was trained without lunging due to an injury. All her prep work was done in hand. This experience has made me question the need for lunging a young horse anything more than minimally to get them used to tack and basic voice commands, although I have never been into lunging more than 10-20 minutes due to the strain on joints that repetitive actions like lunging cause.
                      Freeing worms from cans everywhere!