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Lady Marion

In the Brooder
12 Years
Oct 24, 2007
28
0
22
Horses do not reach skeletal maturity until age six. In races in Europe, horses are not ridden until age four, but here in America we seem to be in such a hurry. No wonder we lose so many racehorses at such young ages!

The pastern growth plates will be fused early enough for early riding, so whatever it is now may be as good as it gets. Snap a still picture, and look hard before buying!) The biggest problem is the back, because the vertebrae don't fuse until around five and a half.

This is from a race horse trainer, but it can be gleaned for important information on horse maturity:

http://www.webertrainingstables.com/ridingyoung.cfm

The Significance of Too Much Too Soon.
What will happen if you put a young horse to riding much too early Two important things - and probably not what you're thinking of. What is very unlikely to happen is that you'll damage the growth plates in his legs. At the worst, there may be some crushing of the cartilages, but the number of cases of deformed limbs due to early use is tiny. Legs can be damaged much quicker and more seriously by over feeding a young horse.
Structural damage to the horse's back from early riding is somewhat easier to produce than structural damage to his legs. There are some bloodlines that are known to inherit weak deep inter vertebral ligament sheathing; these animals are especially prone to the early, sudden onset of "saddle back'" However, individuals belonging to these bloodlines are by no means the only ones who may have their back "slip" and that's because, as mentioned above, the stress of weight bearing on the back passes parallel to its growth plates as well as parallel to the inter vertebral joints. However, the frequency of slipped backs in horses under 6 years old is also very low.

When trying to explain the justification and common sense of waiting until at least 3 years of age to introduce a horse to light work under saddle and incrementally increasing that workload over the next year to a competitive/ performance level by age four, I am almost always inevitably confronted with an impatient disapproving owners condescending response in notifying me that race horses have been started early for centuries and are already often competing at age two."


And another, which explains the anatomy in detail:
http://www.equinestudies.org/ranger_2008/ranger_piece_2008_pdf1.pdf


I have a friend who is an endurance rider, and she likes to start their heavy training at eight years of age. She wants her horses to be lifelong companions, and because she is patient, she runs into very few problems with soundness. Of course, endurance riding is a LOT more stress on the horse than regular pleasure riding, so four is plenty mature. Two is pushing it. I've heard of so many good horses blown out early, even big, sturdy Quarter Horses can be ruined started too early. Entirely your decision, but please read about the anatomy before starting.
 

Lady Marion

In the Brooder
12 Years
Oct 24, 2007
28
0
22
By the way, that part about over-feeding a young horse is so accurate. We bought a QH from a lady who had fed WAY too much grain to her Paint, and he developed leg problems. We had him for a year, and gave him no grain, just minerals and good grass. He improved. We did not ride him, but gave him to a horse trainer in exchange for training our other gelding. A friend of his took him out without his consent and rode him hard. His legs blew up like baloons. Vet said he can NEVER be ridden again. Very sad to see a young horse ruined, and in this case the original owner killed him with kindness.
 

horsecrazychicklovingkid

Crowing
8 Years
Jul 10, 2011
11,661
8
251
Earth! Naw, just kidding, I'm an alien.
I don't plan to be doing any sort of heavy working, the heaviest being trail rides, which I will have my older more experienced Peruvian gelding on. I may do barrels when I get older, but I'd want a much older horse, at least six. I plan for the second year, a 2-year-old, to only do bareback riding for several months, then gradually ease into a saddle. I weigh in at less than 90. I'm positive we won't over-feed, it's going to be tight just having a second horse. I've seen tons of great horses that were started out at 2. For me, 2 years is best because the horse is learning very early on in life, and will be less set in their ways and more responsive. I know they can be damaged by early riding, that's why I'll be starting out at exactly 2 years of age and I don't want anyone else to train it, so I will be the only one riding it, maybe one of my friends, but nobody over 120. It may sound foolish, but I don't want anybody else's training. Some of my biggest problems with the horse I have is others' training. I want her to be trained that way I think horses should be, to be soft and responsive. Not where you have to jerk and kick, and I don't want her getting bad habits from anyone else either. Thanks for the advice though!
 
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