Sunday, November 11, 2007

Discussion: How much training at what age?

(For those of you who complain I'm not "positive enough," apparently confusing me with Mr. Rogers, the pictures today are of yearlings I think are super great bargains for their price range. They are all $2000 or under. The picture name is their DreamHorse ID...just right click and hit "properties" to see what that picture name is. See, all of you whinos, I'm being positive!)

Best word EVER by the way, who came up with that again? You are brilliant.

I think that we all agree that it's irresponsible to have unhandled horses that you bred, and I think most of us disagree with riding yearlings here. But past that, how much training do you think is appropriate for a young horse to have at every stage of his life?

Do you handle sucklings while they're still on their mother? I believe in handling them from birth. I think they need to realize right from the start that humans are a part of their life, just like their mom, and that humans will be touching them all over. You can halter them and start teaching them to lead pretty early on, not to mention picking up their feet. Even a young foal can pick up a foot for a second and it's a good lesson to learn.

What about weanlings? What are the next lessons? If you start handling at weaning, how do you go about that? What are your tips for approaching the spooky foal? My observation is that they're a bit like feral's easier to get your hands on them if you aren't making eye contact. Some will let you scratch their butt first; some like the shoulder or even the underside of the jaw. There's always a first place that you're allowed to touch on a shy foal, and then it expands from there.

I've got a 7 month old and we need to work on holding the feet up for extended periods for the farrier (he picks them up readily, but is fussy about holding them up for trims). I also want to start running the clippers around him. He's already pretty good for baths. I need to practice loading in the trailer, too, although he didn't give us the least bit of a fight the first time, and unloaded like he had done it a hundred times. I do not think that will be a challenge with him.

How much do you do with your yearlings? I have a great old polo pony here who will pony anything, so I'm thinking we're going to do a lot of ponying with my colt next year. I don't particularly like longeing yearlings because of the torque on their neck and the stress on their joints. We will probably do a little basic longeing to work on voice commands but it'll be in the round pen so I can do it on a soft line. I'm also planning on taking him to some shows, just to see the sights. I know he will not halter for AQHA, being half Thoroughbred. If we can find a hunter show with in-hand classes, we might give that a try. I really like for them to see everything there is to see in the world before you have to be on their back. Just less drama that way.

I don't like to push two year olds at all, so at two we'll do things like pony and longe with tack on. I'll probably go for some bareback walks in the second half of the year, but I won't seriously start training him until he's an honest 3, which will be March of 2010. The plan right now is to get him green broke here, maybe take him to a few hunter schooling shows for ring experience, and then send him out for finishing and serious showing. I already know he is a better colt than I am a rider, so I definitely want him to go to someone who can do justice to him. (After, of course, I research them to death and make sure they are not shady, shortcut-taking horse beaters, of course!)

I actually have someone in mind already, who does AQHA but also does warmbloods, so I'm kind of assuming the odds are good they're not the kind of folks who tie horses around in a single twisted wire snaffle.

All right, let's talk - what are you doing with your weanlings? Yearlings? Two year olds? Three year olds? What do you think a horse should know at each age? Please post your breed/discipline if you have a specialty, it'll be interesting to see how the responses vary.

And a related question: I think a lot of people break out long yearlings because it's hard to sell them otherwise. Do you think that's it? I mean, past the 2 year old futurity crap which you know I'm no fan of because some trainers really abuse their legs to get them ready. (Not all, there is no need to e-mail me and defend yourself, I know you're not all bad.) Do you get unbroke young stock sold, or do you find you pretty much are stuck with them until they are green broke?