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What Age to Start a Horse Under Saddle
 By Winniefield Park   •   17th Jul 2015   •   2,376 views   •   1 comments
What Age to Start a Horse Under Saddle

One of the most commonly asked questions people have about young horses is Ďwhen can I start riding ití. Thereís a lot of debate about how old a horse should be before you start to work it under saddle. I donít think there is much argument about not riding a horse before itís two years old. There are those that do however. Race and show horses are routinely started under saddle as long yearlings. Many trainers believe and will vehemently defend the argument that by working their youngsters as soon as possible it helps build bone. There is also the financial aspects to consider. Itís costly to have a field full of youngsters doing nothing when youíre looking for the next big winner to help pay your bills.

Finances aside however, building bone is important, but itís not the only thing to consider. This is apparent when you consider the number of horses that have career interrupting or ending injuries that arenít strictly related to their bone development. There are some studies that suggest that working two year olds builds harder bones than starting horses as three year olds, but again, over the long term, there are many ways early training may be detrimental.

What looks like strengthening or thickening may be bone remodeling in response to stress.

Deb Bennett PhD, a well respected authority on equine biomechanics warns however, that this isnít an indication of maturing or even overall strength

Most would agree that for the average riding horse, two is early enough. And many would argue that later is better than sooner. Training for some horses may not start until the age of five. Icelandic Horses are left with their herd until they are mature, and then started under saddle at five years of age. Lippizan Horses are started at age four. This is not because these or any other breeds are slow maturing. Bennett states that all horses develop at the same rate and that the main indication of maturity is not bone density, but the maturity of the growth plates. Whats a growth plate? A growth plate is the area of growing tissue at the end of each long bone.

Related: How Do You Separate Mares from Foals
Related: Retraining a Racehorse

A horse matures from the bottom up. While the lower legs may be strong and mature, other joints wonít be. The hock joint does not reach full maturity until age four. Joints and growth plates in the haunches, back and neck are the last to mature. And, gender plays a role too. Mares mature a bit faster than geldings, who may not finish growing completely until they are 7. If a horse is to have a long, sound career, it makes sense to wait.

Are horses more difficult to start under saddle if they are left until five years or beyond? From my observations, I would say no. Horses that are well handled as youngsters and have learned good ground manners will continue to be mannerly even when the saddle is introduced. Horses that are unhandled or poorly handled will require more work to start, because there is some necessarily Ďcatch upí time needed. But it is no harder to introduce a two year old to the saddle than it is a ten year old if everything else is done right.

So what do you think? Whatís the right age to start riding a horse?
Green Ridge Riding Stable
I think they should be five or four when they are first backed as being ridden when they are young it can damage the muscules and tissue in there backs which could ruin there (maybe very bright) future.
  Jul 19, 2015  •  2,230 views
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