Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Value of starting a horse at a young age

Pictured right: A Tinsel Nic weanling who will be started next November.
As the first of the year is approaching, and all the long yearlings are about to turn two on January 1st, I want to bring up the value of starting these youngsters right away. So many people want to wait until the horse is three or four or even just two and a half. I want to suggest that this is setting the horse up for failure right away. Now, this is refering to people who want their horse to have a career and specifically in the disciplines of reining and reined cow. There is a big push for these horses to be ready for the futurities at the end of their three year old year and then on to the derbies as a four, five,and six year old. Often at the cost of the young horses well being, soundness, and mental state. I disagree with pushing them at all costs, but I think there are those that can mature and develop at a steady pace where they would be ready for these events. This is the process that we suggest in our training program. Take a long yearling that is mature enough and big enough to ride, and in November put a light start on them. A lot of ground work and then just lightly riding them for a steady month. Then give them December and part of January off. At the latest, starting them by February 1st of their two year old year. Then you can slowly start them back up and they have a little bit of handle on them already. Now they are set up for a bright future, being able to somewhat take your time for the next year and half to get ready for the futurities the summer and fall of their three year old year. So what happens if a horse is started late? Every month that goes by the more urgency you feel to get them ready, the more apt you are to not give them much time off and the worst scenarior: if they have an injury they will never have enough time to recooperate. Where as a horse that has been started on time will have room to give if it needs some time off. Even just a couple of weeks to clear the brain. The older a horse gets, the more set in their ways they become and the harder it is for them to transition into a work program. If you think about it your horse competing against other horses who have had 4, 5, or even 6 months or more training than him/her it is almost unfair for your horse to have a chance. And being behind does not end there. You will then be behind the following year and those there after when your horse would be competing in the derbies. It will take a few years for your horse to catch up to these highly trained competitors. Now, I do believe there will always be a select number of outstanding horses that will surpass these odds and rise above the rest even with less training. But, I would not want to mess with these odds. Because you are always taking a risk, even when you do everthing possible the correct way. They are only animals and they are not perfect. I love these animals, and I love seeing the look in the little long yearlings eye. The look of curiousity and excitement. Wondering...what is going to happen next?