Tuesday, July 15, 2008

At what age should a horse first be ridden?

How young is "too young to ride" is often a heated debate among horse people. My opinion is just one of many but I hope that you'll take the time to research some things (don't just take my word for it) before you form your own opinion of when you should begin riding a horse.

Many people are under the impression that it's okay to begin riding a horse at 2 years old. When I'm talking to people with this belief, the next sentence that follows (without fail) is: "they run racehorses at 2 years old". And I might as well go ahead and say it: This must be one of my #1 pet peeves when it comes to horses.

What many people don't realize is that yes, racehorses are ridden at 2 (often at 1 yr old) BUT racehorses are usually retired by 6 or 7 years of age. Many are retired before that. The most sickening part is that many are permanently lamed and many have to be euthanized (put to sleep) by the age of 2, 3 or 4. I wonder how many yearlings are injured while in training and euthanized before they ever make it to the racetrack that we will never hear of?

If a horse survives the training for racing, and lives long enough to be retired, almost every one has arthritis and joint problems from being ridden so hard at such a young age and are no longer rideable after racing. To me, it's a sad, sad thing to see a horses life ruined at such a young age as 6 or 7, just to "entertain" and make money for people.

Before you begin riding a horse, please consider that a horses skeletal system is not matured until they are around 4 years old, (some breeds take even longer to mature). Their bones are simply not fully formed, not strong enough and not designed to carry a persons weight at 2 years old. Riding a horse too early causes all kinds of joint problems.

If you want to do what's best for your horse and help to lengthen their lives, it's best to begin "light riding" (such as in the ring or on easy trail rides) when the horse is around 3 years old, and no "hard" riding (such as galloping with a rider) until 4 years old or more. I know some people who do absolutely no hard riding until the horse is 5 or 6 years old.

There is lots of ground training that needs to be done and many ways you can spend time with and enjoy your young horse while waiting on them to get old enough to ride. And it's worth the wait. Think of the long run: If you are patient and allow your horses' bones the time to grow and mature, you can have a strong, healthy riding partner that can happily carry you well up into their twenties.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

What is sooo sad is, I just heard today that a trainer down the street, told one of his boarders it was time that she start riding her 18 month old horse, which is about the same size as my six month old filly. It is so sad that they think this is ok. Thank you for posting you info, I hope people read it and then think about the damage that can be done.

Anonymous said...

i agree with you and also what about them being sent to slaughter houses for there meat and hair, just so the owner who spent 2 million dollars on a racehorse, who only made him back 50,000, can get more money for his "investment". sickening. i do hate the sport or any to do with animals.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. The information really answered my question. I hope that I will be able to ride one of my favorite horses (not by its looks) at the stable that I go to soon.

Anonymous said...

Really riding a 18 month pony now that is just wrong

Jingle said...

Anon, about riding an 18 month old "pony" - I'm hoping I'm mistaken and not you, but "pony" isn't an age. A pony is a horse that will never grow taller than 14.2 hands, no matter how old it gets. Anything taller than that is considered a horse.

But I completely agree, this is crazy. A woman nearby who owns and boards tons of horses (owns 15, boards 30 or so) breaks her horses before they are two and rides them on a professional drill team at 2-3. We're talking galloping, sharp turns, etc. It's insane, and I wish she wouldn't do that but I'm not in any position of authority to speak to her about it unfortunately.

Please feel free to email me your horse questions and I'll do my best to answer them or at least point you to someone or someplace that can. (Scroll down to the "About Me" section and click on "View my complete profile" to send me an email) I look forward to hearing from you! ~Melanie