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Starting a horse at 2?

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  • Starting a horse at 2?

    My baby is two now, but he still looks so young... . He's grown a bit, but I can't see riding him too much still at this age. What age do you start your horses?

    I thought about bringing him in and putting him under saddle for a week or 10 days just to give him the idea and then putting him back out in pasture, the trainer said Tom Dorrance or Ray Hunt or somebody recommended that. What do you guys think?

    PS I'm not showing him or anything, he's just going to be a trail horse, and I have his mom already for that, so there's no big rush. Just want to do what's best for him.

  • #2
    I have a two year old. I bought her this spring, and I'd thought to back her this fall and turn her back out. She's right about 16 hands now, with a March birthday.

    I have had SO many people--vets and otherwise--tell me that she's just a lovely horse and that I should wait and not sit on her. Some say backing her late next summer is fine. One vet, whom I respect quite a bit, practically begged me to not even sit on her until she's a full four.

    Now the plan is to look at her late next summer and make a decision about sitting on her then, and just work on the ground until she's ready to sit on. She's not for sale, so I really have all the time in the world. There's no real compelling reason for me to sit on her now.

    There was a thread recently over in sport horse breeding titled "what are you doing with your 2 yo" or something like that, and I don't think there was a single poster that said they were going to back their horse this year.

    Pics of my girl are here: http://pets.webshots.com/album/582505855rjhYQq She's tall, but she's still quite narrow and looks like a baby horse. No reason to rush


    • #3
      I did a lot of groundwork, saddling, ground driving and all the preparation for riding with my 2 year olds (Morgans). They weren't started until they were 3. Riden for a couple of months, given the winter off and then brought slowly back to work. Like you, I had another riding horse so I wasn't in any rush with either one of them.


      • #4
        We don't start ours until they are 4 at least, but since we add miracle gro to our feed, we end up with monsters.

        We chuck ours out to pasture after the weaning drama is over with and just let them grow. I've always thought that the grass and sunshine did more for them than being in a stall, and they still get fed/handled handled daily. In the summer they are out 24/7 with a group of 4, then when they turn 3 they come in and we start doing the saddle/bridle/lunging bits. They get the winter off, then in the spring of their 4 year old year they get a rider a handful of time. If there is a big growth spurt over the winter, we hold off a little bit longer on the rider.

        I've always thought that waiting a little bit longer is better off in the long run if you want a horse that will hold up over time. It's so hard when you have something with incredible talent, but its well worth it!


        • #5
          I wouldn't get on. When I raised my colt we did a lot of what I called 'game playing' until 3.
          Rub saddle pad everywhere, flap saddle pad everywhere, this game was "Trust me not to hurt you with anything I have ahold of and you get a reward."
          Then a surcingle.
          Then surcingle with pad and a little longeing.
          Then saddle with stirrups removed off and on and off and on from both sides, in the proper place and further back toward the hip.
          Then with the girth attached and dangling and making noise.
          Then on, girth up, rub rub rub pat pat pat and off.
          Then saddle, girth up, go for a walk, start longeing. then add irons.
          Jump up and down all around.
          Jump up and down and lightly pull on saddle
          Bang flaps around. Just be as obnoxious as possible.
          Then wearing a sidepull headstall and ground driving.

          There is certainly enough you can do to fill up two years without putting a rider up. Just break it all into little steps and make it a fun game that you do a little of every day. Anything you think you might encounter out on the trail, try to simulate and work through. This way you get that 'born broke' first ride and more soundness down the line.

          If you have someone you trust thats very petite I don't think throwing someone up for a few minutes here and there at about 3 1/2 would hurt, but otherwise I don't believe in riding babies.

          But, YMMV and that's just my opinion and experience.
          It's a small world -- unless you gotta walk home.


          • #6
            We bought a two year old quarter horse and planned on starting her at 3 but she was very immature physically. At 3 we started her under saddle and then put her out to pasture. She is now 4 (in may) and we will finish her he a little later in the summer.

            My daughter is 15 and she plans on this being her horse for the next 25 years. The horses health is our priority and the vet just did not feel like she was physically ready to finish and really push. I think people focus too much on the age of the horse and rather than letting a horses physical maturity dictate when it is ready to start.


            • #7
              Forgot to add too, my QH mare that I bought at 2 didn't even look like a 'real horse' until about the age of 6. So, sometimes even if they look grown up, you know they still have more maturing to do overall for quite awhile.
              It's a small world -- unless you gotta walk home.


              • #8
                I could not imagine going on my 16.3hh 2 yr old - even reluctant to get on my 3 yr olds.


                • #9
                  I really try to wait until they are three. I've met a few, very few, 2 year olds who were ready mentally and physically for backing and light riding. I know of many coming 2 year old QHs that go off for pretty heavy duty cutting training and are competing as 2 year olds ... same as racehorses. But I also know a lot of them end up with health issues later in life.

                  In rescue, it's rare that I'm starting babies, so it's kind of fun to be working with my three year old right now.
                  If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
                  ~ Maya Angelou


                  • #10
                    When my colt turned 2, he was introduced to tack, the idea of driving, the concept of me being over him (that one really started the day he arrived, with my habit of sitting on the fence he got very used to me being 'taller' than him'), that a person climbing the mounting block is not the same as a cougar perching in a branch or on a pile of rocks and weight on his back. (Leaning over him and light pressure) With his new Mama, he has had his first ride, brief and uneventful, he's going to have maybe a handful more 'rides', and then be allowed to 'think it over during winter' and officially start next year.

                    In my time learning to start horses, one of my projects was a 2yo, on the 3 side of 2, and cleared by vet to start work. Same deal, minus driving.

                    My Mustang, at 2 he'd been fully tacked and I'd gone as far as standing in the stirrups from either side, but mentally and physically he just wasn't 'there' yet, so he was allowed to finish growing up and is now (at 4) ready to kick it into high gear.

                    Since I've discovered I'm not bouncing so well even though I've yet to hit 30 (frighteningly close, though), I see no point in rushing into it. Some horses at 2 may be ready to lightly start...but I'm happy to wait until they're 4. Lots of ground work that will play into it before then, but much more fun to start a more mentally and physically mature 4+yo than a baby brained 2yo, IMHO.
                    Owned by a Paint/TB and an OTTB.
                    RIP Scoutin' For Trouble ~ 2011 at 10
                    RIP Tasha's Last Tango ~ 2010 at ~23
                    RIP In Sha' Allah ~ 2009 too young at 5


                    • #11
                      I would not start him until he's 3 or even coming 4. There is no big hurry so why rush it? He'll be more mature physically and mentally by then. I do not believe a horse should ever be ridden as a 2 year old. If you are wanting him to be a lifelong partner for someone then give him the gift of time to grow up a little bit more. I didn't start my baby until he was coming 4. I knew he was going to be my trail partner and I wanted to give him the best start I could. I believe starting too early can mean soundness issues later on. There is plenty you can do with him on the ground before then.
                      "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."


                      • #12
                        Psychologically horses are most open to new things at 2. Though physically they aren't really ready to carry weight or work hard.

                        What I do with babies is make sure they have done lots by 2. So they get tacked up, lead around, ponied on trails (mostly just walking) if I can. They learn voice cues. If they are suitable I take them to some local line classes, etc etc. That way they are totally relaxed about such things when they are older.


                        • #13
                          I've always done lots and lots of groundwork and handling from the age of one to the age of three (haven't had a horse younger than one.) I wait until the horse has matured physically AND mentally before even attempting to introduce a rider. With a solid foundation in groundwork, ground driving, voice commands, etc. introducing a rider tends to be easy (when they're mentally mature.)
                          If wishes were horses then beggars would ride...
                          DLA: Draft Lovers Anonymous
                          Originally posted by talkofthetown
                          As in, the majikal butterfly-fahting gypsy vanners.