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Starting/Breaking Early vs Starting Late

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  • Starting/Breaking Early vs Starting Late

    I didn't want to hijack the other thread where this is mentioned, but someone mentioned the study where racehorses were studied and those who raced at 2yo had longer careers, later retirement, and more success.

    I asked a prominent Orthopaedic surgeon in Lexington about this study. This person has close ties to the racehorse industry as well, and stated that the reason for the findings of the study is that those horses who stay sound through training as late yearlings and start racing at 2yo are basically self-selecting as being stronger, sounder, etc. An unbelievable number breakdown before ever getting to the track, according to him.

    Just thought I would throw that out there. I don't think anyone is advocating breaking and jumping WBs at 2yo, and I personally think some work at 3yo is good, but wanted to point out one experts take on the data, and the need to take it with a grain of salt. Carry on!
    Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. - William Jennings Bryan

    http://www.halcyon-hill.com

  • #2
    Originally posted by buschkn View Post
    I didn't want to hijack the other thread where this is mentioned, but someone mentioned the study where racehorses were studied and those who raced at 2yo had longer careers, later retirement, and more success.

    I asked a prominent Orthopaedic surgeon in Lexington about this study. This person has close ties to the racehorse industry as well, and stated that the reason for the findings of the study is that those horses who stay sound through training as late yearlings and start racing at 2yo are basically self-selecting as being stronger, sounder, etc. An unbelievable number breakdown before ever getting to the track, according to him.

    Just thought I would throw that out there. I don't think anyone is advocating breaking and jumping WBs at 2yo, and I personally think some work at 3yo is good, but wanted to point out one experts take on the data, and the need to take it with a grain of salt. Carry on!
    Is this the article? (I've linked to the abstract.)

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15846394

    Very interesting!

    Comment


    • #3
      Late here....3 at the earliest. Many here have been started even later than that. Initially because of my lack of time, but in the end it is better for their spines and they have a much better brain in their head to work with.
      Providence Farm
      http://providencefarmpintos.blogspot.com/

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      • #4
        I prefer later as well... 3 would be the earliest and if it were MY personal horse, it would be very simple and short stuff. Most people I train for with warmbloods are waiting until they are 4 or 5 even because they are so big. Which I think is great as well.

        Im all my years of training I have not noticed a negative effect on waiting longer, so long as they are handled properly and have had some ground handling work done prior
        "My ideal horse is the horse that I fall in love with again every morning when I see his face hanging over the stable door, looking for breakfast. " - Jim Wofford

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        • #5
          I don't wait- I start them at 2, very lightly and easily, and then I turnout till spring when they are turning 3 and start them for real. I work them in all the basics- lunging, tack, under saddle, hauling, going places and work with them 5 days a week, but for pretty short periods of time, say 10-20 minutes or so.

          My motto is don't raise a sweat but do things.

          I have started many many many horses, and most of them were successful at FEI, so I see nothing to be gained by waiting. My 2 year olds are eager for a job, so I give them little easy things to do to play "grown up" to keep them happy.

          If you have the experience and skills to start young horses and not overwork them or expect miracles, I think it's better for most horses to develop a work ethic and have something fun to do. I find it a sheer joy to work with youngsters and develop them, I really love it!

          If you tend to be a anxious perfectionist, this is not your calling. Waiting has little advantage for the horse, all horses go through awkward uncoordinated growth spurts, that's part of working with youngsters. Patience and constant reward for small incremental progress is what makes it fun and rewarding without ruining the youngster.

          I know that's not for everybody, but I think it's funny when they are uncoordinated and adolescent- endearing to me. Doesn't take away from the joy of riding at all for me. I know this time is precious, they grow up so fast and soon they will be able to do more and more and then their real development as an athelete starts. And yet more enjoyment and fun with your youngster.

          I guess I just think it's all good, why wait? Just use your head and don't over do it.

          Comment


          • #6
            I always find it interesting that when this comes up at least one person chimes in with "start early because I've trained X horses to X level and they all stayed sound." It reminds me a lot of the self-selection mentioned in the OP. A lot of those top horses and very structurally sound so it makes sense that even when started at a young age their bodies are pretty resilient if the workload is kept reasonable. I think it is the horses that will never make it to FEI that are more at risk from early starts. Of course I have no hard evidence, just a theory. The ones that have structural weaknesses seem like they would be more adversely impacted by early work since they have less muscle strength and coordination to compensate for their weaker areas. Or maybe there is no correlation. Just thought I would toss that out there since it seems like a lot of people who work with very nice horses have success with starting them young.

            Comment


            • #7
              Except that someone who starts "many, many, many" horses is bound to run across plenty who don't make it to FEI level, yet still stay sound. We do asHSS does, and have yet to have one not hold up. And some have the mind and balance to do a 2 y.o. U/s class. With no damage done.

              Horses do more damage cavorting in the field than with light, controlled exercise with a balanced, knowledgeable rider.
              Laurie

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              • #8
                What you guys are doing doesn't even count as "starting" compared to the study linked.
                McDowell Racing Stables

                Home Away From Home

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                • #9
                  Just throwing this out there...

                  TBs are known for a good work ethic. While I do think breeding has a part, I think it also comes from being started at a young age. Think of it as a young kid given chores and responsibility at age 6, 7, 8; compared to a spoiled, privileged child who doesn't have to work for a living until high school or later. Horses, like people, do better in life if they develop good habits at a young age. But, it's important to keep the work age-appropriate.

                  Many TBs go to the yearling sales, and go through sales prep: 60-90 days of daily grooming, 30 minutes of handwalking (or on the machine), and general fussing over. They learn to do what their told, even if they don't really want to. Good grooms will work with them consistently and fairly, and the yearlings turn into good little soldiers who take orders with a "Yes, Sir" or "Yes, Ma'am" attitude.

                  Late in the yearling year and into the two-year-old year, the youngsters still have a bit of a baby mentality and look for leadership. It makes it easy to start them under saddle, as they continue to follow orders (suggestions, really). They understand the concept of "work," and it carries with most of them through the rest of their career. Long, slow hacks and moderate jog sets in a big open field are great to lay a foundation for strength and soundness later in life.

                  In the sport world, we have no need to breeze youngsters, so I don't think we need to worry too much about breaking them down. But I don't agree with mindless drilling in an arena, either-- get them out, see the world, w/t/c in wide open spaces and learn basic obedience. Spinning around in endless 20m circles is no better than galloping in a straight line. You're out to teach the concept of work and training, not actually "work" them.
                  “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
                  ? Albert Einstein

                  ~AJ~

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                  • #10
                    I don't agree with starting young, if you mean being on thier back by that. They are "starting" training right from being born, though, from halter breaking to leading to tying, ponying, etc. I think they a sould be doing a lot of that and a lot of running around. I don't think it's a good idea to ride them before four.

                    Most of this has to do with bone development. Yes, you can have horses started at two stay sound, but to a lot of people that means into their late teens. I think horses should stay sound and working into their late 20's and 30's, and the fact that so many don't is because they are started too early. I think that extra year or two of not getting on their backs at the start puts ten more on the end. The last bones in the spine and back don't close until they are seven or eight, and tracking the damage done because they are pushed too hard to young is almost impossible to do.

                    Think about the Lippizzanners. The don't start them until five and then go very slowly. It is VERY typical for them to be sound and doing the highest level of dressage work into their late 20's and 30's. Is it because they are so much better than every other breed? I don't think so. I think it has a lot to do with going slower at the beginning and getting ten more years at the end. My first horse was raised on an 800 acre ranch and wasn't started until five, and then only pretty lightly. He was dead sound and still doing the FEI work until I lost him at 31.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I think it all depends on the individual and what is done. My partner has started hundreds of young horses and he prefers to wait until they are three to three and a half. If earlier, all he will do is get on and do a bit of walk and trot. The reason for this is that if you need to ride a horse longer/work it a bit more to teach the horse something you can't because at 2 and half many just aren't mature enough. But again, depends on the individual and of course, what is being done. That being said I have a hard time imagining that light, controlled work with a good rider at 2 and half is going to cause long term soundness problems. If a horse can't hold up to that, then quite frankly I don't think the horse is going to hold up to much. Race training is one thing, a classical approach to starting young sport horses is another.
                      www.svhanoverians.com

                      "Simple: Breeding,Training, Riding". Wolfram Wittig.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Beentheredonethat View Post
                        I don't agree with starting young, if you mean being on thier back by that. They are "starting" training right from being born, though, from halter breaking to leading to tying, ponying, etc. I think they a sould be doing a lot of that and a lot of running around. I don't think it's a good idea to ride them before four.

                        Most of this has to do with bone development. Yes, you can have horses started at two stay sound, but to a lot of people that means into their late teens. I think horses should stay sound and working into their late 20's and 30's, and the fact that so many don't is because they are started too early. I think that extra year or two of not getting on their backs at the start puts ten more on the end. The last bones in the spine and back don't close until they are seven or eight, and tracking the damage done because they are pushed too hard to young is almost impossible to do.

                        Think about the Lippizzanners. The don't start them until five and then go very slowly. It is VERY typical for them to be sound and doing the highest level of dressage work into their late 20's and 30's. Is it because they are so much better than every other breed? I don't think so. I think it has a lot to do with going slower at the beginning and getting ten more years at the end. My first horse was raised on an 800 acre ranch and wasn't started until five, and then only pretty lightly. He was dead sound and still doing the FEI work until I lost him at 31.
                        That is one anecdote. In order to do a true comparison, you would have to have two similarly bred individuals, one started at 2+ and one at five, give them similar work and track their entire careers. I know of NO studies that show starting a horse CORRECTLY with AGE APPROPRIATE WORK at 2+ shortens their work life over one started at 4+. And the horses that don't last are those in the hands of trainers who have a throw away mindset and do not know/care about making a horse last as long as possible. Because no one can control these horses' lives completely, unless you retain ownership, there just isn't a way to conclusively make this statement be true.
                        Laurie

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by lauriep View Post
                          That is one anecdote. In order to do a true comparison, you would have to have two similarly bred individuals, one started at 2+ and one at five, give them similar work and track their entire careers. I know of NO studies that show starting a horse CORRECTLY with AGE APPROPRIATE WORK at 2+ shortens their work life over one started at 4+. And the horses that don't last are those in the hands of trainers who have a throw away mindset and do not know/care about making a horse last as long as possible. Because no one can control these horses' lives completely, unless you retain ownership, there just isn't a way to conclusively make this statement be true.
                          Two horses would also be antidotal. You would need enough horses that all the other variables such as genetics, accidents, riders...etc were factored in. Such a study would be huge in numbers if not impractical. I think the discussion is important but I am not sure their is enough evidence on either side to say that a young horse is behind in it's training if not started earlier (Klimke started his horses later and thought they did better because of it and he did very well with many horses) or to say that they break down under light work at 3. I think there are too may factors to make either conclusion and it comes down to personal preference. Probably the reality is that it comes down to the individual horse and their physicality and mind.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            It gets into the grey area as people have different definitions of what "started" means. I think it is important to put some training on them when they are younger, as in more ground work the younger they are. I have said before that many horses I have come across that were started later (not ridden until late 4) sometimes have more holes because when they are older I find many people go faster with them than if they were younger because they think they can handle it. While they are ready to handle it physically they are not always there mentally. I think it is good to work with 3 year olds and ride them (lightly) so that when they are 4 they can start work. Think of it as pre-school, a child that has gone to pre-school will likely have more success in kindergarten than one who has not. Now if you are patient and can go just as slow at 4 as someone at 3 then no I don't see a problem. That is just my view on it, that yes riding a 3 year old with just some light w/t/c some then turned back out and brought along more at 4 is ideal to me. If very large or very immature then 4 and 5 would be better ages for it. Whatever age they are, just don't rush.
                            http://community.webshots.com/user/jenn52318

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                            • #15
                              There is really no way to do any real study, and everything will be anecdotal when you're really looking at this, as it is with the definitions of what starting is. I believe young horses should be out and working and stressing those bones and soft tissue by being out, running around, going up and down hills, etc. I think it's being on their back that's an issue.

                              Of course sitting on them and doing a few minutes is probably really not going to do much damage. But, once started, people tend to keep going and push harder, younger. I think the issue with that is that it interferes with the bone development.

                              Again, it's all anecdotal, but most people think a horse and rideable into their 20's is an amazing thing. Why? Why shouldn't most horses be doing this? I think there is a correlation between starting later and having many more years of soundness and ridability at the end. I provided my examples. Does anyone have any of horses started younger that typical stay sound and working at any level, let alone at higher levels?

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                The Maryland shin study as it has been nicknamed is the definitive authority in my opinion when it comes to training TBs to be race horses. To do the study they had study groups and control groups and all were killed and necropsied to see the effects of the training on their bones. Sort of defeats the purpose for us breeders! The MD shin study raised some surprising results however. The conventional wisdom was miles and miles of miles and miles before doing any real speed work and we learned that all that did was prepare them for more miles and miles. As with anything in life common sense has it's place and a real horseman can read the individual horse and tailor their training specifically for that individual as opposed to throwing the book at them all and seeing who is still standing in the end.
                                McDowell Racing Stables

                                Home Away From Home

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                                • #17
                                  The US Cavalry didn't start their young horses until 4 1/2 to 5, not only the ones they bought but also the ones they bred. Cavalry definitely had an interest in making sure their horses had long working lives (except in war, of course). They started LUNGING at 4 1/2. Remember that until the Cavalry disappeared it was our international sport horse team. So we're talking jumpers and eventers and such dressage horses as there were.

                                  Also remember that 2 year old racing is relatively new; in the old days of heat racing, horses were MUCH older in general. . Fashion, great 4 mile heat mare born in 1835, raced until she was eleven. She started racing late in her 3 yo year. Boston, her opponent in the famous North vs South races, also started for the first time at three, but really started running late in his 3 yo year. He won 17 races in a row, lost one at six, then was undefeated at seven. His last race was at ten which he won. But they didn't have nearly as many starts.
                                  Last edited by vineyridge; Jun. 14, 2013, 10:35 PM.
                                  "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                                  Thread killer Extraordinaire

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                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by vineyridge View Post
                                    The US Cavalry didn't start their young horses until 4 1/2 to 5, not only the ones they bought but also the ones they bred. Cavalry definitely had an interest in making sure their horses had long working lives (except in war, of course). They started LUNGING at 4 1/2. Remember that until the Cavalry disappeared it was our international sport horse team. So we're talking jumpers and eventers and such dressage horses as there were.

                                    Also remember that 2 year old racing is relatively new; in the old days of heat racing, horses were MUCH older in general. . Fashion, great 4 mile heat mare born in 1835, raced until she was eleven. She started racing late in her 3 yo year. Boston, her opponent in the famous North vs South races also started for the first time at three, but really started running late in his 3 yo year. He won 17 races in a row, lost one at six, then was undefeated at seven. His last race was at ten which he won. But they didn't have nearly as many starts.
                                    This is interesting to me (particularly the cavalry part). I imagine if they thought they could start them younger they definitely would. People used horses a lot harder and they were a lot more widely used then too (obviously we know that, but it's easy not to think about how it was). There had to be some reason that was the norm.
                                    DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/

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                                    • #19
                                      I think it was more an economics/ease of care thing. Why break them before they were old enough to stand up to combat and long marches? Cheaper and easier to leave them in huge herds, which they did, let them develop more physically, grow up mentally and break them when they could immediately advance on up to their job. Or be sold ready to do another job. Does the Army write anywhere of their belief on this?
                                      Laurie

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Read the US Cavalry Manual--Horsemanship and Horsemastership-- from 1935. It was put together by General Chamberlin, and later the Horsemanship sections were revised for civilians by Gordon Wright.

                                        Let me see if I can find the sections that I am paraphrasing.
                                        "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
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