I don’t think there is a set answer to that question. It definitely depends on the individual horse when they are ready to start. I have a young filly that I defiantly will not be able to start till later this spring, even after she turns 2 because she is physically slow to mature and a bit light boned also. I have a colt in the barn that is not 2 yet and we are started on him all ready. He is physically much more mature and a bit heavier boned. Height doesn’t make the difference to me. Both of the horses I’m speaking of are about the same height. A taller colt doesn’t mean he is more mature. A colt may be taller and bigger but not fully physically mature. If this is the case there is more weight on his legs. I don’t mind if a young horse is small.
One of the most important things to think about is how much stress you put on the young horse. That is a much more important issue than is when to start. I have started hundreds of young horses and never had any trouble with joints and legs. The biggest thing you want to keep in mind is to keep the physical and mental stress low when you start the horse. 1. Footing: Make sure that the footing is good and soft. Hard ground is hard on the joints and it is much more likely to cause the horse to slip and strain themselves.
2. Mental stress: keep the stress low for your colt. Work with them slowly and quietly to keep them slow and quiet. You cannot injure a colt’s joints at a walk or trot.
Have your ground work done and the colt properly prepared for the first ride so he will be relaxed and you can keep him slow the first time you get on his back. If you get on him before he is ready, things will get out of control and fast, and that’s when you run a higher risk of injury. Fast, pounding movements, hard stops, and quick turns are what put stress on young joints. If our young horse’s movements are soft, slow and smooth as we trot around the training pen it is very low stress and we can build up strength in the muscle and joints.
The advantage of starting colts when they are around 2yrs. is that they are not fully physically developed and are not as strong and tough to get along with. If they were a year or two older and physically more mature and set in their ways, there can be more difficulties than a soft impressionable young colt. If we are trying to get young horses ready for futurities we have set dates we must have them ready by and performing at a certain level. The sooner we can get them started, the slower we can bring them along in their training, giving them plenty of time to build and mature before we start to step them up and ask for more.
If a young horse seems very quiet and there are no futurity plans for your horse, then there is no hurry. On an average, stock horse type anywhere between 2 and 3yrs. old will work well. For some lighter boned breeds such as Arabians, you may want to wait a little longer.
So as you start your colts this new year, get a professional to evaluate your young horse if you have any doubt, but remember the biggest issue when starting your colts are: good footing, ground preparation, and going slow to let them build up to the stress. If I can be of any help feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck and God Bless,
Monty Bruce is a multi-time Reined Cow Horse and Reining Futurity and Derby champion. Monty, his assistants, and students have won numerous World and Reserve championships and are continuing to succeed in the show pen.
The Monty Bruce Training Center is a full-service equine facility that specializes in Reined Cow Horse, Reining, and the Performance Horse. The Center strives to provide superior care and training for all equine needs. Visit MontyBruce.com for more info.
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