Bringing on young horses

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I backed Cally a few weeks ago and have been doing lots of hacking in walk. In the school we are doing lots of walk/trot/halt/back transitions and trying to establish some steering. I still think of her very much as a baby.

The importance of getting the basics right was reinforced by my friends green horse who has some problems because her early education wasn't well established. She was backed, put into the RS and then sold a few months later. She has no steering. It's like riding a barge: you ask for a turn and she just blunders on till she is about to bump into things then turns.

But when I bought my first horse he was only 4 and recently backed. Because I bought him as a 'backed' pony I just treated him like any other pony and never gave his age a moments thought.

And at a Mark Rashid demo he was asked how he brought on youngsters, I think in response to a question about whether someone with a 4 year old was doing too much, He said they were 'started' and then soon afterwards put to work: ie up to 8 hours a day on the ranch. He said many people treated horses like babies way too long in his view and they didn't need that.But he did not define what he meant by 'started'.

So what do others do? When do you stop thinking of them as 'just backed'.
 

newforest

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It all depends on what you want to do with the horse and what's in front of you character and temperament wise.
I started mine at four having spent a year doing groundwork. That's partly choice because I love groundwork and she was in no way safe to get on! I wasn't in a hurry to be doing. I had the beginnings of some lateral Inhand before I had got on.
I stopped thinking of her as just backed probably when I had canter happening and hacking out. So for us that was another year down the line, she was 5.
She went from just started to young and green.
Now at 7 she is green, in some people's eyes though she is actually still young. Fully grown physically, mentally I have noticed the change.

To me I wouldn't put a 4year old into 8 hours a day on a ranch work, they are still growing. The bones haven't all fused, mentally they get tired. Riding schools accept four year olds but I think the workload is light as in leadrein?
But, it depends on your term work. Maybe most of it is on a loose rein in walk.
 
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No_Angel

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My girl is 8 this month, I've had her since a foal and it's only really since she's turned 7 she seems less like a 'baby' to me.
 

Trewsers

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Madam was 7 or 8 vet could not be sure - when I got her. It's only looking back I realise how young she really was mentally - and how differently I'd approach stuff now. I'm probably lucky we have such a good partnership now cos she is my first horse. I just expected her to be able to do what was asked. I went from RS cobs straight to her. Maybe not the best move!
 

newforest

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If you send a horse away to be started, it's all done for you in two months. That just means basics and you need to bring them on for the next two to three years.
Some people rush, some people go slow. I am in the middle. It's up to you, its your horse.
 

tikkitti

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IMO although the groundwork and breaking/backing is important, the riding away properly is imperative and I think this is where a horse needs a capable rider who is unflappable as if it goes wrong with a youngster it goes really wrong. If a horse is sent away to be broken it maybe broken/rode away but upon its return it would still need to continue being ridden away. I would expect within 1-2 years to have a horse who can ride alone or in company and has seen jumps etc to at least novice level. I think it all depends on the horse for example my 7 year old was a little green due to low milage when i bought him from the field but we are getting there now and ironing out quirks. However my 5 year old dales who's not long being broke, in my ri opinion rides like a 3 year old, he's very green, and still needs to mature in the body and mind although he tries to please and there's no nastiness in him normally, he is just a total baby. Tbh I'm done with youngsters after my dales, I just have to accept I don't have the time I once did, and if Im being honest I do prefer 5 or 6 year old that's been ridden away for a year and are ready to learn a job. x
 

orbvalley

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IMO it depends on the breed too, some age mentally slower than others, others age physically slower.
Their concentration span is what I'm tending to go by for training and physically I go by my watch!
I guess it also depends on whether the horse is being sold on or is your horse for life, mines the latter hence I'd rather give the benefit of the doubt than ruin her!
 

tikkitti

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Is Cally your Fell if so like dales they are late to physically mature about 7 and as for mentally I'd go by the individual horse. My dales at 5 is still a bit leggy but is starting to deepen in the barrel, infact at the moment he doesn't ride like a stocky dales at all and rides light a lightweight.x
 

OwnedbyChanter

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Ginger is now seven he was four when i got him. I still class him as young but not green. I have taken my time with re schooling him from his race career and produced a good well rounded boy.

He is not green he is established in all paces. Over jumps. Fillers. Xc and hacks alone and in company all of which i have taught him. But he is young in comparison to the horses he competes against in the big classes and in dressage terms only seven and scoring very well he is doing well for his age with so much more to come.
 

chev

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I'm one for going slowly I'm afraid. We introduced them to halters as foals and lots of handling like picking feet up in very short bursts and then left them alone to be horses, At between two and three we'd introduce them to the outside world, walking out on the roads with an older and safer ompanioñ. Again in small doses.

At four we'd introduce tack, longreining and if all was going well a rider. Then they'd get chucked out over the winter after backing to give their brains a chance to take it all in. Then we'd start them properly at four and a half to five. Id call them backed by that time. By the time they were six I'd say they were going well under saddle.

Most people I came into contact with said I was babying mine. They aimed to get theirs ridden as quickly as possible. But one thing I noticed is that while their horses went through the Kevin's stage at about 2 til 4 or even 5 mine were easy in comparison.

I don't agree with Rashid on this one. It's just working with a horse, not babying them,
 

Skib

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I think if you read Rashid and watch some of his videos you will easilly find out how he starts horses. I may even have some notes somewhere. I have no idea what is done here in the UK but what Rashid insists on has to be seen as his strong reaction against the USA Western tradition of backing a horse and riding it away the same day - a fast workmanlike process probably developed to save time and money on cattle ranches and exemplified in competitions in USA, where well known trainers are allocated horses and compete to train them as quickly as possible using their own method. Rashid wont do this. But John Lyons and his son or sons, do do this. Lyons book Communicating with cues is one of the first books I had as a new rider and I admit it helped me enormously when I helped on the yard and shared.
Notes sent to me by a friend in 2005 describe Rashid teaching an young horse first to lead nicely.
Her notes describe the leading and that progresses into "lunging" (which progresses into ground driving - tho we didn't see that).
By lunging, Rashid does not mean standing in the middle of a circle as we do in the UK. He regards this as a wasted opportunity. He goes with the horse, organising transitions and alterations of speed within the gait. Keep the connection and be consistent with the cues, from the ground and the saddle.
Then he long lines.
Then he does the same but with bridle and saddle. Cant remember but he may also let the stirrups hang against the sides of the pony. In a Western saddle you wouldnot be able to run the stirrups right up anyway.

I have watched at least twice while Rashid gets an owner to actually sit on their horse for the first time. Usually on the second day of a clinic, as this year in Hampshire. Because of the preparation long lining and tacked up in preparation, it has always looked simple - and is very similar to the approach of Michael Peace - and there is video of Peace backing (first time sitting on) a horse.

In America and in the old days in Scotland, young horses learned a lot of their work by going out with their mothers, We watched a 4th July parade where several foals (I dont know the terminology) were out in the Parade at their mother's side if the mother was drawing a float or being ridden by a participant. And foal used to go out with their mother when the mother was ploughing in Scotland. The horses learned like that. So on a working ranch or in a trail ride centre it would make sense to work the young horses - as they will be in company with other horses from whom they will learn. But equally in the Colorado mountains where Rashid comes from the winters are very hard and the horses are taken lower down the valley and turned out for winter, so there is no work for part of the year.
 
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KP nut

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Thanks @Skib
I know MR never rushes backing and refuses to do colt starting clinics.
http://www.markrashid.com/semantics.htm

I followed his broad approach in backing Cally - long reining, lungeing, tack, lungeing in tack, backing and that whole process took 7 weeks and was stress free throughout.

It's the 'what next' bit I am wondering about. He does not, as far as i can tell, then spend another year to 18 months 'bringing them on', nor have I ever heard or read that he turns them away after backing. He gives his whole herd a break from time to time but that's not specifically the 'turn away so brain can absorb backing' process that is so common here.

Of course all horses are wherever they are on their stage of training and the journey is never complete. But I view Cally and Zak very differently. If Zak struggles with bend or balance in canter I just work on that. If Cally struggles, eg with steering, I see it all through a 'she's a baby' filter and perhaps I expect less of her than she could happily give.

Cally herself appears mentally completely relaxed and happy. She is unbalanced still as you'd expect, but she absorbs new experiences with total equanimity. She had never been plaited up before the birthday party (see other thread) and responded to it by falling asleep! I can't really see a reason for turning her away. She is only worked about 3 times a week anyway so I'm sure her brain can absorb as it goes along! but I know turning away is popular, so I was wondering what others do/plan to do and why. @orbvalley 's new pony is being professionally backed and from her thread will be w/t/c/steer/hack out within a month. That seems a pretty standard time-frame if you send your pony away for backing. I know people who have sent their pony away for just 2 weeks and come back having already begun w/t/c. On the other hand, @Wally says he won;t be cantering this year but will be mainly walking in straight lines.

I am sure there is no definitive right or wrong and it will depend on 1000 factors, But it is striking how differently it is done from person to person and country to country and I was wondering what to make of it all! In particular the turning away question.
 

tikkitti

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@KP nut, although Im not sure about MR our local NH trainer does give her horses consolidation breaks and will send them home for a month or more, she doesn't rush things and gets fantastic results. She has worked alongside Buck Brannaman and is a experienced trainer.x
 

tikkitti

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Also my dales was broken at 4.5 so I don't plan of turning him away although will just continue light work, short bursts of schooling throughout summer and take things as they come, if things go to plan by next summer he will be ready be out there doing a bit.x
 

orbvalley

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@orbvalley 's new pony is being professionally backed and from her thread will be w/t/c/steer/hack out within a month. That seems a pretty standard time-frame if you send your pony away for backing. I know people who have sent their pony away for just 2 weeks and come back having already begun w/t/c. On the other hand, @Wally says he won;t be cantering this year but will be mainly walking in straight lines.

I am sure there is no definitive right or wrong and it will depend on 1000 factors, But it is striking how differently it is done from person to person and country to country and I was wondering what to make of it all! In particular the turning away question.

Ah KP nut I have clearly misled you, sorry. My ri has been working on my pony daily since mid-april starting with groundwork and desensitisation which continued for the first 2 months at least. She has been on my ri's farm since birth and so was already very basic trained in head collar and lifting up feet etc (just for security/health/safety reasons). She lived in her small herd on hectares of farmland and so is already naturally very muscly and well balanced IMO. The actual saddle work only began about a month ago, again daily or in the beginning 2 or 3 times in short bursts of 5-15minutes. The whole procedure will have taken 4months once she's finished the end of this month. The canter will be just a few strides at a time, no long bursts at all. My ri is a great believer in working transitions more than the allure as this is what she believes builds a good solid skeletal and muscular frame for the ponys life span. My ri has only been able to work inside this 4month time frame with Cocaine as she has been so receptacle to learning, knows immediately when she has got something wrong and searches for the right response and finally that her attention span has been up to the programme. Basically she has not hit any hurdles with her that would slow the backing process down.
The turning away after is not something she does, she has said that because her horses live out 24/7 she believes they have plenty of time for the sinking in process to work its way in between the sessions which may be maximum 1hour a day out of their 23hours of freedom.
Hope this helps at least clear up any belief that theres a magic system over the either side of the hill:)
 
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Sorry I should have quoted you more fully: Sounds like Cocaine is doing similar to Cally: I began working from the ground with her at the beginning of March, had my first sit on, at the end of April and have ridden her regularly for short periods since then. So I am more than 4 months into the whole process too. I'm glad to hear she won't be turning away. That's reassuring as I see no reason to either. Cally is also out 24/7 and only worked 3-4 times a week so she has ample 'soak' time.
 

chev

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Have to admit one of the reasons we turned them away was down to weather. It's mild here so lots of rain and very windy. It never used to bother me but I have become a bit of a fair weather rider. Especially where youngstock was concerned.
 

orbvalley

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I love riding in the winter! Reminds me of when I used to ride at school in London - it was always freezing:D
Just in discussion with my ri as to when we can do our next session which was planned for 5pm today but its between 35°-40° here and the horse flies wasps and hornets will just stick to Cocaine throughout the whole session. No solution though as its not going to cool down any time soon:(
 

newforest

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I lunge in the rain, you have the school to yourself. Everyone evaporates here if they get wet. I don't choose to ride in the rain but I will do groundwork in all weather bar ice. All weather school means for all weather-except we freeze.
 
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