It's fall and if you're around any kind of a stock breed barn that shows horses in the 2 year old futurities, you've probably seen what I have - 17, 18, 19 month old horses already under saddle. There's a lot of money in those 2 year old futurities, and stallion owners are hot to "make a name for" their stud by getting his firstborns out there winning. So, despite the fact that every vet out there who isn't in the pocket of some big-money AQHA/APHA/ApHC breeder agrees that riding yearlings is just plain stupid, that their joints and spine aren't ready to handle carrying a rider and collecting themselves, right now thousands of yearlings are being ridden.
This doesn't even take into account the racing industry, also interested in winning money on those 2 year old races. Tons of little Thoroughbreds - butt high, narrow, gawky and ridiculous looking - are going for their first gallops even as we speak. Plenty break down. They break down going for those first gallops. They break down in training. They break down in their first or second start at age two. They are quietly vanned off the track, big screens put up to shield spectators from seeing the carnage. The ones that break down at the show horse barns are never seen. They are hidden in a back stall until they can be shipped to an auction or picked up by the local dealer. Curious boarders and other owners are told the horse was sold. Well, I guess it's not a total lie...
And then we just have the sea of idiots that don't realize this is wrong.
You longtime readers know that I'm 100% opposed to working anything under 3 years old. Hey, if you want to get on your 2.5 year old and go for a walk around the arena, I won't think you're Satan. If you do the same on your 1.5 year old or you're out loping that 2.5 year old for a half hour and doing sliding stops - yeah, I think you're a jerk, a jerk who's going to contribute heavily to that horse's future unsoundnesses. Show me a horse campaigned for the 2 year old futurities when it's 10 years old and if it isn't full of arthritis (sometimes in conjunction with navicular), I'll eat my hunt cap. The damage is so consistent and it's almost always there. It truly takes a horse with legs of steel to come out of this program ready and able to work for another 20 years.
Unfortunately, a lot of breeders don't care. The goal is to win the money and then retire them to breed more. We're not selecting for long-term soundness here. Geldings? Well, they're totally disposable. Break 'em down and break out some new ones.
(Click to see a larger version of the ad). Here we go - classic. Riding a yearling. Can't spell. No mention of its HYPP status even though HYPP positive horses are mentioned in its pedigree. No show record. And she wants $15 grand for it!
Here's another thing I see all the time: Young person, young horse. I'm not sure if they are trying to argue that this 10 year old child isn't heavy enough to do damage to this yearling gelding, or if this is just the usual "child as prop to sell horse" sale tactic, but either way it's wrong. You can see how downhill this little guy is. He has a lot of growing up to do before he's ready for riding! Unfortunately, his ad brags that he's already had 30 days of professional training under saddle - one would assume with someone a tad bit larger than the pictured rider. He's a March '07 baby and this ad was posted October '08. So he was started at the latest when he was only 18 months old.
Not everybody does this. I could name people in racing, cutting, reining, and pleasure that don't break out their horses until they're three. Those people exist and they are competing successfully. Many of them are making the point on their web sites and on their sale ads that they wait to break out their horses. When you see that - please consider patronizing those individuals as trainers, instructors and breeders. As with everything, your wallet is a good way to make a point.
By the way, while we're on the topic of selling young stock - I keep hearing a lot of discussion online about what horses are worth in this market. Well, presentation isn't everything but it is A LOT. Although this is a casual picture, taken in the stall, this gelding is spotless and in gorgeous condition. He looks like a $7,000 horse. And look, the stall is clean. Trust me, these details matter if you want to catch the eye of the person who has $7,000 to spend on a horse. While I actually like a lot about this colt, he's hairy, he's a little thin, and he's unfit. He might be a $7,000 colt if he were in the same condition as gelding #1 but I just don't think they're going to get it looking like this. If you were selling a car, you'd make sure it was washed and waxed for pics, wouldn't you? The same goes for a horse.
P.S. Look at this great little bargain. I think he's adorable. $1000! Go get him, someone who wants a pleasure prospect. Just don't ride him til he's 3, okay?
P.P.S. Whoever bred this, STOP IT!
P.P.P.S. GELDING BUS! Look at the itsy bitsy feet and the super long pasterns in front...those feet might be the right size...on a mini!