IS 2 too young to sit on a horse?


New Member
Dec 2, 2005
So I have been working with this "two year old" Percheron gelding for the past two months and I was talking with his owner telling her that she needed to get him a bridle that fit his big head and that in the next few months depending on how he is doing I would probably end up climbing up and sitting on him. Well she kinda FREAKED out and told me that her horse was too young he is only a year and a half he will not be two until June, and well she just doesnt want me to get hurt. (I thought that was what she was paying me for) I can see her point kinda and I will probably end up waiting longer to ride him (the big beast) BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is this really too soon to sit on the horse and reenforce what has already been taught from the ground?


Passionate about Pinto
Apr 30, 2003
Basel, Switzerland
Visit site
For draught breeds such as a Percheron, I DEFINITELY wouldn't be sitting on them at 2. Draughts are slow growing, and slow maturing, and he won't be fully mature til he's about 8 ;).

Consequently I wouldn't think about sitting on him till he's at least 4. The earlier you start them the more problems you are storing up for the future.

Where's chev with her 'skeletal maturity' link when you need her? :)

Bay Mare
Jun 21, 2004
In my jods!
caitiesbell said:
BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is this really too soon to sit on the horse and reenforce what has already been taught from the ground?

YES it is. He's not developed sufficiently to be taking the weight of a human. Even AT two would be far too young. Have a look at other threads and do a search on Dr Deb Bennett who discusses maturation, growth plates etc. Backing a horse too early is setting it up for problems in the future.

There are no slow or fast maturing breeds either no matter what people tell you. Some horses 'look' more mature but physically there is very little difference between the breeds (Deb Bennett also discusses this on her website).

Two is also far too young to be lunging. Lunging can be quite tough on the joints, especially when the skeleton isn't fully formed.

Shiny McShine

Bluey McBlue
Jan 14, 2002

You would want to do no more than saddle the horse up and sit on it at that age at the very most, but really why do you need to?

Most horses are physically ready for the beginnings of ridden training around 4 to 5 years of age and preferably nothing strenuous till the age of 6 or later. It is no more difficult backing a 2 year old to a 4 year old so long as you keep the handling and ground work up, so why not save the horse's back. Plus if the owner is worried about it, it is really up to her to decide what is done with her horse and what she feels is best.


Riding Is My Magic
Apr 20, 2005
Alberta, Canada.
At most, I would work with placing a bareback pad on to get the horse used to being cinched up, without the effects of a tree that may not fit correctly, or unwanted weight. As stated, draft horses take much longer to mature than other horses. Personally, I would wait to get up there until 4, start light riding at 5, and work your way up from there, but very slowly.
But then, I would rather see even light horses wait until 3 1/2 to 4 years to get started, for the sake of soundness in the future. Follow the way of international show horses- if properly started, and kept well, there are international show jumpers over the age of 15, going strong and sound. Chances are, nobody sat on them until they were 3, and no one truly rode them until they were 4, and that's just light horses, nevermind drafts.


Monty the Monster Hoss
Nov 15, 2005
Kentucky, USA
What is the point of sitting on, if you are not planning on riding pretty closely in the future? The only purpose of "sitting" on a horse that I see is to get the horse used to the weight, movement, etc, of a strange being upon it's back to prepare it for the human being to sit on and walk, then eventually do other gaits. If you do this too early, and then quit doing it, you might as well have never done it at all(and very well could have caused damage in the process.)You don't need to "sit on" too often either, because depending on the horse, it should only take a few times to figure out what is going on(which is when you would progress to actually moving.) I don't think you should sit on until your horse is ready to be ridden. I have had people tell me, "Well if you don't start sitting on him now, once he's older and you try to start riding him he'll be too big to control." WHAT?!? This is a 2 1/2 year old 16 hand Spotted Draft that already weighs 1500+(according to a weight tape)you're talking about, he's already big. Even if he does get bigger, there was no "controlling" him to begin with(sorry, had to stick in a little rant :D)

So to answer your question, yes I do think it is too soon to start sitting on. And to add in another thing, I wouldn't advice the owner to get a bridle just yet, unless she is willing to fork out the money for a few more until he is full grown, his head is still growing too. ;)


.Love me, love my horse.
Apr 13, 2005
Down Under ... Australia
I have been really interested reading and following this thread .. and I think I will comment.

I was hoping that you would mention this .. but I'll ask anyways.

Have you ever trained a horse (a young horse at that) to be broken in??

I don't mean to sound negative or rude .. but to be honest I don't think you have. My reasons - 1. You think that it's time to get a bridle for his 'big head'. I mean, come on, unless your doing inhand showing, there is no point. He is still growing - like duh. He isn't even two - he is still maturing to his destined shape. So I would NOT recomend a bridle. You have NO use for it .. he will still need his teeth done anyways .. and plus, Your NOT riding.

2. You think, and I will quote,
well she just doesnt want me to get hurt. (I thought that was what she was paying me for)
. Sorry - but do you honestly think that someone would PAY to get you hurt?? Or even want you hurt?? Do you think your going to get hurt?? If you think this, I personally think you should step away from the horse. If your willing to alow yourself to get into a position to get hurt, why would you?? This horse almost sounds dangerous towards you.

And now to answer your question of ..
BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is this really too soon to sit on the horse and reenforce what has already been taught from the ground?

Ofcoarse I think it's way too early to sit on that poor horse. He's hardly even two yet, and I don't give a flip if you want to get up and 'test' him out or what ever ...

Yes, I do put this harshly because you MUST understand that this horse isn't even two - It may not seem a big deal yet .. but there is honestly no rush!! This horse obviously has a career of being ridden for the rest of his life .. at least alow him to be grown up enough to deal with this!!!!

I will also point out, you said you have been working with this horse for a few months. If I am training a horse, like Missy, I wouldn't even consider sitting on her back unless I have confidence in her, and she has trust and confidence in me to show her the way through. And because I have waited - I have had no accidents. I know it seems supernatural .. but think about it. I spent over 6 months with her ... more than that, and I have sat on her .. what .. 4-6 times?? Only ever in walk. And I have never had any accidents, she is calm when I do ride, is relaxed and trusts me through difficult situations. The opposite was G - she didn't wait to gain confidence and jumped straight up. She has fallen off about 5++ times, and Missy can't confide in her .. example - she wouldnt walk through water. Fair enough, her first time. G tried for 10 mins then gave up. I took over, walked her straight in.

Sure, it doesnt seem a lot and prob wont effect you in any way .. but geez. Common sense please? That's all it is ... I personally do NOT believe in backing a horse until at LEAST the age of 3. I am strong about that .. but thats just me.

I do not blame his owner for 'freaking out' .. I would have to if you asked me.

So .. question time:

- how many (if any) horses have you trained before?
- What have you done with him so far?
- what else do you plan to do with him?
- How much do you trust this horse?
- More importantly .. how much does the horse trust you?
- Could you lead that horse past something scarry or through water for the first time or past barking dogs without him freaking out?
- Just out of interest .. what was the .. erge to ride him?? I am not discriminating .. I am just curious


New Member
Sep 28, 2005
I wouldn't even consider sitting on her back unless I have confidence in her, and she has trust and confidence in me to show her the way through. And because I have waited - I have had no accidents

There is an enormous amount of truth in this statement. If you don't imediately recognise the truth of it, think about it next time you are out with your horse. I'm a novice at colt starting, so some of the rest of Cheeky's advice strikes me as a little harsh - everybody has to start somewhere - but she clearly has excellent 'feel' for the horse. She says maybe it sounds 'supernatural' - well, maybe it does sound off-the-wall if you've never thought of it this way, but once you have, it makes perfect sense. "Listen to the horse". Once you've figured out how to do that, he will tell you, very clearly, when he's ready.

Both my two, once I started listening to them, were started, backed, ridden out, have done their first trail rides, negotiated ditches ... all without accident or incident, because we waited, listened, developed trust and set up a 2-way dialogue.

I can also tell the same story as Cheeky ... my DH didn't take time with joePony - "he's broke for you isn't he ? I'll just get on him and ride". joePony pitched a bucking fit and DH was back on the ground. joePony has never bucked with me - I didn't think there was a buck in him !


Monty the Monster Hoss
Nov 15, 2005
Kentucky, USA
Bravo Cheeky! :D You said what I wanted to say, I just didn't have the guts to be "harsh."(afraid of those flames, I am:eek: ) When I started my first reply to this post, I was being very bad :p I had to go back an edit several times. Naughty me:p . Once again, bravo Cheeky!:D

Morwenstow Stud

Morwenstow Stud
Aug 31, 2005
Just to add my two penneth. I see lots of comparison of horse age to human age. I was always taught that there are approximately 3 horse years to one human year. This means that at 2 a horse would be rougly the equivalent of a 6yo child.Would you expect or ask a 6yo child to go to to work? I'd be disgusted by anyone I knew that was backing a 2yo.

stormy's mum

Feb 2, 2006
my ri backed her colt at 2 and he was just fine no bucking or anxiety he trusts her completly if you are experianced enough you can get on their back and slowly introduce weight and movement race horses are raced at 2 i would not ride them a lot but getting used to weight will help them in the long run. just bellying them and sitting on them would be alright but no running


Well-Known Member
May 20, 2001
I think many of the 'crimes' we commit against young horses won't surface until they are older. That's why it is so easy for people to ignore that what theya re doing is ignorant and wrong.
If they sell the horse on somebody else will get to deal with the fall out. If they keep it they still have the luxury of being in denial about the fact that they contributed to the horse's problems.

1 morejump

New Member
Feb 21, 2006
backing baby

I have 3 year old, 4 in June, Belgian mix. The lady I bought him only did ground work and some lunging. When I bought him he was so much more advanced than other horses twice his age because she had done a lot of work using a properly fitting saddle without getting on.

As far as actual riding goes, that first summer we did ride. Not much I understood very well that too much riding on a youngster can do damage, we didn't do more that 10 minuets of very light trot and walk work. During the school year he got his time off and during the summer we did light trot/walk work. In the summer of last year, when he turned 3 we moved and got land of our own and he is getting the full year off. When he is 4 we are going to start with the Dressage basics, in-hand work.


.Love me, love my horse.
Apr 13, 2005
Down Under ... Australia
KateWooten - congrats on your horse :)

but she clearly has excellent 'feel' for the horse.

Aww .. you make me blush lol! Thanks :)

negotiated ditches ... all without accident or incident, because we waited, listened, developed trust and set up a 2-way dialogue.
I thought that was cute .. 'negotiated ditches' .. and its great to see a young horse have such confidence in a rider :) Congrats!

cvreagzayn - hehehe thankyou :) I try to put my opinion accross effectively and .. gentley as possible :p But I dont think that there is any point 'sugar coating' something like this ... this is a horses' life at risk and a riders.

I agree with your post too cvreagzayn :)

Morwenstow Stud - I agree. I am very disguested when I see horses for sale that are just two years old and have already learnt to jump over 1.5m with a rider and begin dressage .. its disgusting.


caitiesbell said:
(I thought that was what she was paying me for)

This poor owner is!!!:eek:

Sorry, but how can you, with a clear conscience, accept payment to bring on someone's youngster and demonstrate such a complete lack of the absolute basic knowledge and horsemanship. If only we could show this thread to the owner and advise them to get some suitable experienced help.

You really got me (and apparently a few others) backs up, please please for the sake of your own safety and the horses you are in contact with, go get some lessons and training.


Riding: Dare to fly?
Aug 28, 2004
nj USA
the three year old i am considering purchasing, was backed at 2 1/2 and turned out for the fall and winter with no work done to him.

He is still bumhigh, but is very level-headed and allowed himself to be ridden again for the first time since august last week. He went well, needs work on steering, but is a calm and steady mount. If i do buy him, we will be working on ground manners and perhaps some clickertraining, and allow him to grow and develop a bit before I hope on and ride him. And even with riding him, We won't be doing much more then walking and trotting, and absolutely no jumping until he is at least 5, and even then simple crossrails will suffice. Although I will be getting him used to ground poles as soon as i possible can, i am in no rush, and want him to carry on as a baby.
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