You may have picked up from recent posts that I am looking at babies (or tweens, however you want to classify 3 yo ponies) that have not been started in addition to horses already under saddle. With these horses I have to consider when and how they will be brought under saddle.
For myself, I have done the following as far as starting a baby horse:
- Teaching leading, cross-tying, desensitization, bathing, clipping, fly-spraying, etc
- Introduce bridle and saddle
- Sit on horse for first time
- Ride horse with <10 rides under saddle
… And onward from there. It’s my own personal opinion that the time to start horses depends largely on their bodies. Some breeds mature faster than others and can then be started earlier. Haflingers, for instance, are typically started at the age of 2, though I wouldn’t recommend any really heavy work until later. The Irish Draught gelding pictured yesterday I would start immediately, but hold off jumping for another year.
A lot of warmbloods mature a bit later, and need more time to grow before getting started under saddle. With these guys, I would prefer the approach of throwing on tack, learning to hack, walk trot and maybe cantering under saddle, and then being chucked out in a field for a season to grow up and just horse. Then, assuming they have matured and everything appears a little more “in place” with their bodies, they could be started in a light program with gradually increasing workload.
With both of these scenarios, I think it’s important to wait to jump until the 4 year old year. Sure, start them over poles, cavaletti, and maybe some teeny tiny fences, but I think its better to treat those joints as being precious rather than attack a full jumping program. Personally, that’s why the Young Event Horse program makes me a little edgy- if these horses are competing at basically the novice level for these competitions, they are presumably schooling higher at home on a regular basis. Jumping a 4 year old that high makes me cringe a little inside thinking of those fragile joints. I know there are those that will disagree with me, but hey, my blog, my opinion.
What are your thoughts on starting horses? When is the ideal time to get a baby under saddle? Do you have a certain approach you prefer, or an approach that you abhor?