There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding the best age to start your young horse. Nowadays, people are pushing their horses younger and harder in the hopes of jumpstarting their careers. This decision can have a lot of negative impact on the development of the horse mentally and physically. Consider these factors when making your decision.

Most trainers will begin evaluating their horse for work when he is between two and four years of age. There is no set rule about which age is perfect, rather each horse must be examined on an individual level to determined physical and mental maturity.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • The age of your horse
  • The breed
  • Workload you will expect of him
  • Physical development
  • How mentality mature he is
  • His conformation
  • The rider’s size

Your horse’s body and mind will be nearly mature between four and five years of age. Certain breeds, such as Arabians and select Warmbloods, are slower to mature in all aspects. You must also be mindful of their conformation and any grow spurts they may experience. Your veterinarian can evaluate your horse physically.

The demands you place on your horse should be moderate and gradually increase over time. You should keep in mind a three year old shouldn’t be ridden for over an hour, especially when just starting. Training sessions of 10 to 15 minutes are ideal in the beginning, but can be worked up to about half an hour. The rider and trainer should be experienced and position themselves lightly on the horse’s back.

When pushed too hard and young your horse may later on experience bowed tendons, bone chips, arthritis, blown-out hocks, back problems, stifle injuries, among other physical aliments. Mentally he may become restless, anxious, aggressive, and exhibit arena sour signs.

Young horses can benefit from a patient trainer that is concerned with their well-being. While many are interested in entering their horses in big money futurities, it is better to make sure he is truly up for the challenge. In the end, you’ll be glad you protected his future.