Monday, January 23, 2012

Training a Long Yearling

Megan wrote: "My husband and I recently got back into horses and bought a Palomino mare in foal two years ago and last year she dropped a beautiful filly. This May she will be two years old. Some friends of ours are telling us that since she is now considered two years old it is okay to saddle break her. Although we are anxious to have another riding horse I am concerned about ruining her. What are your ideas on when you should start breaking a horse? Anything you can tell us would be appreciated."

Megan, your filly is considered a long yearling, coming two this year. While the horse racing industry races non-mature horses in this category, it doesn’t mean it is in the horse’s best interest. I'm sure not to make any racing trainers and owners happy with the statement, and to be sure, the majority of people in the racing industry are straight up and provide excellent care for their horses, but I think this practice of putting physical stress on non-mature horses is not in their best interests. I think horses are raced young, before they are physically and mentally prepared well enough, because there is pressure on turning a profit after years of expense counting the brood mare carrying the foal. Well, I'm getting off track here,...the subject is basically how old is old enough to saddle break a horse. Anyway, good for you that you are concerned with your filly. Be patient and you can have a good horse for decades to come.

I am assuming your filly is halter broke now and actually breaking or gentling your filly has already began if you have handled her and petted on her as this is all good for the horse. You can continue handling her, training her to lead up correctly, getting her used to pressure and release, teaching her to back, lunging her, accepting a paste wormer tube, blanketing her, handling her feet and making her safe for a shoer to trim, and getting her to stand quiet, and, possibly ponying her with the mare are all steps in my mind that lead up to and make her safer to saddle break.

I think it is generally safe (for the horse) to be introduced to the saddle at, or around the two year mark. I don’t suggest that you are out riding her mile after mile, but to get her broke and gentled to the saddle, give her a short ride or two a week, then when she is three years old she ought to be physically and mentally mature enough to handle an increased riding schedule even though she may not be physically mature even then.

Many ranches follow this formula......Breaking the horse to the saddle at two years old and putting some schooling on the horse. Then turning out for the late fall and winter, then come spring the horse is used as part of a Cowboy's cavvy (work string).

This is just my opinion. Others may think different. If you are considerable of the horse as you are patient then you'll be fine. Safe Journey to you and your horse.

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