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Thread: Leaving them to mature...

  1. #1

    Default Leaving them to mature...

    Scout was 2 in April and is getting a big lad (15hh at the bum), I have no intentions on sitting on him until at least this time next year. But mentally he is still a yearling, compared to Star, my friend's 2yo. But at the same time he is really chilled out and takes everything in his stride..
    So I'm wondering if I'm going to have to leave him even longer before backing, I appreciate he's still got a year to mature and I wonder if now he's away from his mum he might grow up a bit?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2011


    I'd wait and see what he's like in a year.
    There certainly isn't any harm in introducing a saddle and seeing what they are like at 3. As long as they are physically mature than just sitting on them won't hurt, it's not like he can do much ridden wise till he is 4 anyway so he has a whole year of doing long reining, sitting on, hacking and stuff before he has to really start to think about doing stuff with a rider. It might make him grow up a bit more to actually be doing a job.

  3. #3


    He's worn a saddle a few times and isn't bothered in the slightest, and has long reined a few times too. I think until April I'm just going to walk him in-hand and get him to as many shows as I can

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Normandy, France


    I don't think you need to decide for sure at the moment, my advice would be not to plan too much! Back him when you think he's ready, and then proceed according to how he takes it. If he takes it well then great, you can continue with his education. If he doesn't take it well, then you know he still needs more time, maybe leave it 6 months and try again. There is no rush to get him backed, and when you get him backed there is no rush to get him going, if he needs another 3 months or another 12 months before you try again then so be it.

    Twirl, Rags and Dessie were all backed at the same time last Feb, all with the same amount of backing prep (ie. absolutely none). In June you rode Twirl and saw for yourself how mature she was, well she was just as mature when she was first backed and so clearly had the right mindset to be doing ridden work. Rags, she has finally developed the same sort of mentality - but it has taken her a good 9 months longer to get there. Then there's Dessie who is so immature mentally you wouldn't believe from her behaviour when ridden that she and Rags have had the same amount of work put in. As soon as she'd been backed I knew she wasn't ready for ridden work and instead I gave her most of the rest of the year doing absolutely nothing. I gave her that time to grow up some more. I didn't get her going until this year, and even then she has still been much more of a challenge than Twirl and Rags ever were, because of the way she thinks. The contrast between her and the other two in terms of mental maturity is really quite astounding - and they had had exactly the same background prior to backing.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    North Yorkshire


    River has just turned five and has only been very lightly backed so far. It's difficult to judge where they'll be even a few months down the line, so I didn't make any firm plans about her education and we just played it by ear. I introduced a saddle when she was three and we began some long-reining over the summer and autumn after her third birthday. I sat on her bareback for the first time as we were coming into the autumn, and with a saddle for the first time shortly before her fourth birthday. We had maybe half a dozen "sits" and had progressed to walking a short known path to and from the field with Mr Sez walking alongside.

    She was probably ready to get on with a bit more work last year but we had to move somewhere with absolutely no facilities which made everything much more difficult as I couldn't even do anything with her in the field, so we were restricted to the bridleway, which wasn't so bad for long-reining but worried me in case I came off and she charged off. The first time I decided to actually get on her out on the bridleway in October last year, she reared up and came down on top of me and through a five-bar gate, although to this day I've no idea what actually happened - she has never been very spooky or nervous, she was used to all of her tack and to being sat on and she knew that bit of bridleway so it really could have been anything from an "off" day to having a panic because she couldn't see her fieldmates. So this year is going to be the year we crack on (assuming the weather ever improves enough for us to use the school!)

    I actually think the extra year has been good for her. She's always been a very confident girl and quite mature-minded, but she seems to have physically filled out quite a bit in the last twelve months. Two (and even three to a degree) was a bit of an awkward age for her, no longer really recognised as a "baby" by the rest of the herd and not quite sure of herself or her place in the hierarchy. She went through a number of best friends that year, and seemed to completely fall out with Salsa, who she had always adored to that point, for almost two months. It was the time she started pushing her luck with me as well and needed her boundaries firmly and consistently established - it's not just the Terrible Twos for human children By the time she turned three, she was much more settled in herself again, but it wasn't until the end of last summer/early autumn that she seemed to suddenly be a grown up.

    Some youngsters are adults in babies bodies and some adults are still foals in their heads As Steph says, having things to do may help him learn the mindset for "work" but he may also just need a bit of time to figure out how to be independent from his mother, which may include finding a surrogate mum for a short while. My guess would be that he will quite probably change fairly dramatically this year as he leaves "yearling" behind and starts finding his feet.
    [FONT="Book Antiqua"][COLOR="Sienna"]He's of the colour of the nutmeg. And of the heat of the ginger...he is pure air and fire; and the dull elements of earth and water never appear in him
    *Salsa* 19th April 1998 - 7th July 2013[/COLOR][/FONT]
    Forever Loved and Never Forgotten


  6. #6


    Gem was backed at 5/6ish and was still very much a baby at 8 - no wonder the guys who broke her found her impossible. She was a naughty 3yo when I got her aged 8. Only difference between her aged 8 and a newly backed 3yo was her lessons in how not to behave (or how to act badly under saddle!)

    [COLOR=Magenta]A [/COLOR][COLOR=Orange]horse [/COLOR][COLOR=Lime]gallops [/COLOR][COLOR=MediumTurquoise]with [/COLOR][COLOR=DeepSkyBlue]his [/COLOR][COLOR=DarkOrchid]lungs,[/COLOR] [COLOR=Magenta]perseveres [/COLOR][COLOR=Orange]with [/COLOR][COLOR=Lime]his [/COLOR][COLOR=MediumTurquoise]heart,[/COLOR] [COLOR=DeepSkyBlue]and [/COLOR][COLOR=DarkOrchid]wins [/COLOR][COLOR=Magenta]with [/COLOR][COLOR=Orange]his [/COLOR][COLOR=Lime]character.[/COLOR]

  7. #7


    We backed troy at just over four as he wasn't mentally mature enough to do it any sooner. I'm so glad we waited (despite criticism) as he has turned into a lovely riding horse. We did lots of walks in his saddle and leading out so by the time we had sat on him we were ready to hack within two days and he was so confident. He loves work and hasn't looked back since.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Petersfield, Hants


    Agree with Joosei! Annie has matured loads over the last year. This time last year she was climbing through fences, galloping around and generally being a bit of a PITA! Now she is a lot calmer, and more about the eating than the running around See how he goes - whilst there is no hurry, he may change loads!

  9. #9


    Interesting reading from a study on horse bone development - copy and pasted

    Dr. Deb Bennett is a 1984 graduate of the University of Kansas, and until 1992 was on the staff of the Smithsonian Institution. Her degree is in Vertebrate Paleontology, which emphasizes the anatomy and biomechanics of fossil animals. Dr. Bennett is known as an authority on the classification, evolution, anatomy, and biomechanics of fossil and living horses. Her research interests also include the history of domestication and of individual horse breeds.

    "Owners and trainers need to realize there's a definite, easy-to-remember schedule of fusion - and then make their decision as to when to ride the horse based on that rather than on the external appearance of the horse.
    For there are some breeds of horse - the Quarter Horse is the premier among these - which have been bred in such a manner as to LOOK mature long before they actually ARE mature. This puts these horses in jeopardy from people who are either ignorant of the closure schedule, or more interested in their own schedule (for futurities or other competitions) than they are in the welfare of the animal.

    The process of fusion goes from the bottom up. In other words, the
    lower down toward the hoofs you look, the earlier the growth plates will have fused; and the higher up toward the animal's back you look, the later. The growth plate at the top of the coffin bone (the most distal bone of the limb) is fused at birth. What this means is that the coffin bones get no TALLER after birth (they get much larger around, though, by another mechanism). That's the first one. In order after that:

    2. Short pastern - top & bottom between birth and 6 mos.
    3. Long pastern - top & bottom between 6 mos. And 1 yr.
    4. Cannon bone - top & bottom between 8 mos. And 1.5 yrs.
    5. Small bones of knee - top & bottom on each, between 1.5 and 2.5 yrs.
    6. Bottom of radius-ulna - between 2 and 2.5 yrs.
    7. Weight-bearing portion of glenoid notch at top of radius - between 2.5 and 3 yrs.
    8. Humerus - top & bottom, between 3 and 3.5 yrs.
    9. Scapula - glenoid or bottom (weight-bearing) portion - between 3.5 and 4 yrs.
    10. Hindlimb - lower portions same as forelimb
    11. Hock - this joint is "late" for as low down as it is; growth plates on the tibial & fibular tarsals don't fuse until the animal is four (so
    the hocks are a known "weak point" - even the 18th-century literature warns against driving young horses in plow or other deep or sticky footing, or jumping them up into a heavy load, for danger of spraining their hocks)
    12. Tibia - top & bottom, between 2.5 and 3 yrs.
    13. Femur - bottom, between 3 and 3.5 yrs.; neck, between 3.5 and 4 yrs.; major and 3rd trochanters, between 3 and 3.5 yrs.
    14. Pelvis - growth plates on the points of hip, peak of croup (tubera sacrale), and points of buttock (tuber ischii), between 3 and 4 yrs.

    and what do you think is last? The vertebral column, of course. A
    normal horse has 32 vertebrae between the back of the skull and the root of the dock, and there are several growth plates on each one, the most important of which is the one capping the centrum.

    These do not fuse until the horse is at least 5 1/2 years old (and this figure applies to a small-sized, scrubby, range-raised mare. The taller your horse and the longer its neck, the later full fusion will occur. And for a male - is this a surprise? -- You add six months. So, for example, a 17-hand TB or Saddlebred or WB gelding may not be fully mature until his 8th year - something that
    owners of such individuals have often told me that they "suspected" ).

    The lateness of vertebral "closure" is most significant for two
    One: in no limb are there 32 growth plates!
    Two: The growth plates in the limbs are (more or less) oriented perpendicular to the stress of the load passing through them, while those of the vertebral chain are oriented parallel to weight placed upon the horse's back.

    Bottom line: you can sprain a horse's back (i.e., displace the
    vertebral growth plates) a lot more easily than you can sprain those located in the limbs.

    And here's another little fact: within the chain of vertebrae, the
    last to fully "close" are those at the base of the animal's neck
    (that's why the long-necked individual may go past 6 yrs. to achieve
    full maturity). So you also have to be careful - very careful - not to
    yank the neck around on your young horse, or get him in any situation where he strains his neck."

    Dr. Deb Bennett

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2009


    Personally I wouldnt even be sitting on him at three if hes going to be a big lad Beth. I dont think we have any place sitting on them at three. The only time I have ever backed a three year old was by accident. Horse bought without papers and passport (before them) went on sellers age (again before the whole dentist thing) was bought as an apparent 3 yr old, horse was kept until '4' and i backed and rode it away fro my friend. Vet was out doing jabs and owner wanted her wolf teeth looked at, vet looked and asked what age we thought horse was, turns out she had just turned three. Needless to say she was plunked back in the park and left until the next year and i was mortified.

    Cobs and larger horses are slower maturing physically and if your wanting him long term and with decent joints, whats a year of your life really compared to their comfort. When I get my next baby will probs be either yearling or two year old and it wont be having my ass plunked on it til its fourth smmare, regardless of how mature it looks or acts.

    Listen, smile, agree and then do whatever the hell you were going to do anyway.


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