“Hi Stacy, just wondering what age you start training horses. I have a foal who will turn 2 in January. I am trying to sort out a training plan and am wondering how many hours a day or week you would spend on training. Also what you would do regards to training a foal. A lot of people have told me to just leave her alone until she is 3 because she will be a dangerous horse if I start to early. She can be quite cheeky while in the paddock tending to the other horses while feeding out hay, but I just ignore that. Maybe I shouldn’t have her running with the other horses??? Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated.” -Brenda W
There are several things to consider when answering this question. The question of what age to start training is a bit tricky because it depends on what you consider ‘training’ to be. With my own personal foals I raise I start the ‘training’ young but I don’t do physically hard training. I wrote a blog that discussed this topic and you can click her to read it.
When people send me horses for official ‘training’ they are usually two years old. This is a common age for Quarter Horses or stock breeds to be started under saddle. Having said that I will also tell you that I have sent home horses that seemed too physically immature at this age. Two of the horses we currently own were not started until they were closer to three. One that we own is over three years old and has less than 4 months of riding because she is tiny and we are taking our time.
I have not heard of the idea of a horse becoming dangerous if it is trained too early. I have seen horses of all ages that were trained to be dangerous because someone didn’t know they were making mistakes. It is more common for people to spoil young horses…which can lead to a dangerous horse, but this is again caused by poor training. Good training is good for the horse regardless of age. Young horses can greatly benefit from learning groundwork skills.
I love turning horses out together and watching them. Your observation that she can be ‘cheeky’ with the other horses would lead me to believe that she could have a more dominant personality. If I had her I would put her out with Popcorn because he is great at teaching young horses to have manners as you can see in the video below. With the information you provided I don’t see any benefit to keeping her from the other horses.
If I owned her I would be doing groundwork already. I teach them the basics of groundwork; lead, tie, rub with the stick n string, move front end, move hind end, walk around me on a lead line, etc in the first few months. Then I do a ‘refresher’ course every 4-6 weeks until I start them under saddle.
Maybe she won’t be ‘cheeky’ with you. Maybe she will accept you as a leader without too much fuss. The way I view it is very similar to raising my children; I want their respect at 5 years old because if they have been allowed to have an attitude around me and then I decide to start correcting the attitude at 15 years old, it won’t be fun for either of us.