Monday, May 25, 2009

Riley ain't on the honor roll, but he likes to roll!

As regular readers know, my three year old Riley has been ridden -- once -- last Tuesday. On Thursday I long lined him a little, but couldn't resist leading him to the mounting block and leaning into the stirrup. Maybe because there was no one at his head, he responded differently than he had on Tuesday -- his eye was very worried and he chewed anxiously. A very unhappy look. I patted and praised him, called it quits for the day, and haven't worked with him since. We're in no hurry, we have no timeline. I want him to think it's all fun.

Sheldon (pictured left) is also a Hanoverian. He's one month older than Riley and is showing Training level 3 at a recognized show in NJ this weekend. Riley competed against Sheldon in-hand at breed shows, to our detriment ;-). The photo was taken when he was a yearling -- traditionally the ugly duckly stage, right? This black beauty was top colt or reserve at almost every show. And now he's doing Training 3! He was not gelded when I last saw him as a two year old. Maybe they're raising him as a stallion prospect.

5/26/09 Update! The scores are in and this youngster got a 67.2% on T3. What a good boy!

There are good arguments for waiting to break/ride, and for my boy I think it makes most sense to wait. However, I've heard compelling arguments for starting a horse early:
  • They're more malleable when young.
  • They're not as strong and it's safer to start them when they can't buck that hard :-).
  • You can always turn them back out to grow up some more, and meanwhile you've laid a foundation.
  • Some horses mature faster than others and can handle early work.
  • Stallion prospects may need to prep for the 100 day test.
I'd been thinking that this year would be too soon to take Riley to a show. But maybe in the fall we could try Intro level. The main thing would be to keep the ride short and sweet!


  1. I think it all depends on the horse, and how the horse matures mentally and physically - I think where people get in trouble is in being in a hurry and doing things with the horse that the horse isn't mature enough to handle, either physically or mentally, or both. Unless it's all about money (which horses don't care about), there's no reason not to take your time, even a bit longer than necessary.

  2. IME, it (readiness to show) depends entirely on the horse. We waited until May of my boy's 3yo year (he is a late June baby) before backing him, but he took to it like a duck to water and was doing W-T-C classes at recognized shows by September. We just started our dressage work together in February but I believe he'll be ready for Intro and possibly Training by July. He is just a worker by nature and loves having a job to do. There are other young horses in my barn who are clearly having trouble wrapping their heads around this riding thing and are still at *least* a full season away from the show ring.

  3. All the Thoroughbreds I had were started at 2 and all had long, productive riding lives. I think it's a matter of "work" as opposed to basic training. As I've mentioned before, long lining is super for starting a young horse as he learns all the rein aids before you do a lot of riding.

    Riley looks to be a well developed boy and short riding sessions should not be too much for him. Intro in the fall would be just fine as it's all just walk/trot.

    I think the more experiences a horse has at a young age, the better for him down the line.

    Riley might have been worried because it was you and he was concerned he might disappoint you, especially since riding is such a new experience for him. Lying over him like that and patting him all over is a good idea.

  4. I am not sold 100% on the 100 day stallion test for three year olds. It seems like too much too soon for young minds and young bodies. I can understand the rush, horses require a lot of money and they may be looking for a return on their investment. I think in the long run it would be better on your baby's joints to wait.

  5. They didn't break the horse I am leasing until he was 4 and a half years old. Now, only six months undersaddle in I have dragged the poor thing to a few shows and he has been a total rockstar. And I think a lot of that has to do with his age. Since he is older I have found him to be much more sensible then the 3 year olds I know. He is also a very fast learner. Those people probably want to show at BLM's this year if they are doing T-3. I wouldn't want to push a young horse that quickly. Even now the horse I lease only gets 4 rides a week so we don't kill his joints. And one of those is a fun ride so we don't fry his brain. Every horse is different, but I do think that taking your time with Riley is the best thing you can do for him. I have found it is much easier to teach a horse when they are ready to learn then to have to re-train a horse that didn't really get what was being asked of them.

  6. My daughter had a hard time learning to read when she was 6. It seemed to fry her brain. Then all of a sudden in clicked, and by the time she was 9, she was reading on an 8th grade reading level. So yes, it all depends on the horse, like children.

  7. I think taking a youngster to shows is fine, for experience. But I would never work one for too long or too regularly until they were physically ready. I would not want to push for just a few young horse awards, and set them up for unsoundness. Not speaking specifically about the horse in your post as I don't know them, but I think some people may push too hard, too early.

    Intro with Riley sounds like a nice idea to me if he's ready then. :) GL

  8. Agreed, it completely depends on the horse. My little appy was started 3 weeks ago undersaddle and is loving it. He was completely non-chalant about having his trainer mount him and everything has been pretty smooth since, no bucking or anything naughty besides getting startled on occasion at random things. He seemed 100% confident and 'ready' for lack of a better explanation about how we decided it was time. The lunging and long lining was a big yawn for him and we were running out of interesting things to do on the ground short of teaching him how to stand on his head or something :) He'll be three next week. He's in full training in May and June with a great Natural Horseman trainer. I plan to ride him lightly from July until November, then turn him back out until next Spring. I'm completely sure Riley will let you know when he is ready too for the big adventure of going from a lunging horse to a riding horse. Good luck!

  9. Increased strength is a response to a stress-rest cycle. The only way to prepare bone for performance is to stress it to trigger remodelling during a rest period. The process is severely limited once maturity is reached. Early life in the pasture only prepares the horse's structure for life in the pasture.


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