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New trainer needs advice

So i am training a horse for the first time and would like some progress advice. My colt just turned 2 in june and i was wondering: what do you expect your colt to have learned by 2 years old? What training do you focus on after he turns 2/ what should he have a good grasp on by the time he turns 3?
i am training him to be just a riding for pleasure, trail horse.

How much horse experience do you have? What has he done so far? A horse that has been handled daily since birth is going to have a different set of expectations at 2 and 3 years old than a horse that hadn’t been handled much until that age…


i have spent my most of my life with horses. Hes been handled pretty regularly since he was a week old

This depends on the maturity of the horse( physical/ mental) . For me a 2 year old will have had extensive ground work( not lunging) Light work in the round pen( walk , direction changes, maybe a little trotting). My 2 year olds are comfortable being saddled and bridled.

I start mine at the walk under saddle as a late 2 year old and we may not progress to under saddle trotting for months, but spend a lot of time walking, turning, stopping and understanding completely what I am asking.

Everyone does things differently. I take my time and I never have had to go back and teach something over again. I have all the time in the world.


He has leading, walking on lounge line, body handling(picking up feet, moving over, grooming,etc), down also i have put blankets on his back

While I am sure this was not intended, be careful about saying you’re training “just” for pleasure or trail. Being trained as a pleasure mount, if anything, means your horse should be MORE highly trained, not less, as the word “just” often implies.

A pleasure horse needs to be pleasurable to work around. Thus, he needs to be well-mannered, responsive and easy-going. He needs to get lots of exposure to distractions and new stimuli. He needs to become reliable and steady in most circumstances so that he is indeed “pleasurable” to be around. Personally, I feel ALL horses should be these things, but this goes doubly for a horse that is going to be used as an all-around good mount.

In my book, a two year old should be able to halter, lead, tie reliably, trailer, pony, stand to be groomed and have his feet handled and can be started in his introduction to wearing tack - this is regardless of whether they are being pulled out of the field at 2 and having this education started right then or whether they’ve been handled regularly since birth. I will have done quite a bit of groundwork prep with him so he understands how to give to pressure on various parts of his body in preparation for being ridden. By the end of the two year old year if the horse is mature enough I will likely have put a handful of very easy rides on him for exposure; he gets to wear the tack, experience me getting up and down off his back, understanding he can move off with me on him, and maybe we go for a couple hacks around the property.

No horse in my book is getting “onto the payroll” until into their 5th year. Depending on how the horse matures I might start doing more exposure work and riding a bit more often into their third year, but I’m not asking much of them before they turn 4.


Yeah, candyappy, thats pretty much what i have been doing so far.

I just mean hes not going to be a cow horse or eventing horse or cart horse. But of course i am handling him to be an easy going, wasy to work with horse

Great. Thank you for the extensive answer Abbie.s

A 2 year old can learn a lot, but generally still has no attention span. I like 5-15 minute sessions a few times per week.

If they’re relatively mature/well-handled, I’d do walk, jog, halt, and back in hand. Hand walk around the property to see the sights. Stand straight tied and cross-tied, get a bath, stand for farrier/vet, fly spray, fly mask, blanket, walk through puddles, wear a saddle and bridle. If they haven’t shown in-hand, they’ll learn to get on the trailer and go for a ride somewhere.


By 2 yrs old, hoss should load & trailer quietly & well. Accept bathing of every body part. Trims of face, ears & legs.

At 2 yrs old horse can be introduced to saddle & bridle. Depending upon how many times a week you work, horse should learn to stand quietly for mounting and be taught to move off your leg. Overall, horse learns to yield to pressure. I like to give them a year off after they WT under saddle, then start from scratch with the riding well after their 3rd birthday. That is not always practical.

I would be very wary of taking a 2 y.o. or even a 3 y.o on trails alone. I hope you have someone who can work with you and be your mentor IRL.


Good to see i’m pretty on course so far with him and theres a few things it looks like i need to work on more.

I definitly wouldn’t be taking him on a trail myself yet.

One of the best things I did was handwalk along the roads around the barn. The barn where he was boarded was ideally situated close to roads of varying levels of traffic. We had a dead end road all the way up to country highway. There was a bridge over a small river, railroad tracks, and a residential subdivision. I hand walked him at various times of day, on various days of the week so he got to see garbage, traffic, kids playing, people mowing grass, blowing leaves, working on their cars, barking dogs, drivers of various vehicles stopping to talk to me, rattling trailers, tires splashing through puddles, and so on.

After I taught him about long lining, I long lined him down the road. At first I halted him and stepped up to his head when we encountered traffic, then progressed to simply halting, before just continuing our walk. He is as road/traffic safe as a horse can be.

If you work backwards you’ll realize that I had to teach him to take the bridle, the surcingle (and/or saddle), learn to respond to rein aids for turning and halting, accept the lines draping around his body, go forward on command without being led, pay attention to me when I was behind him, and so on.

Think about what you want to do, and then think about what he needs to know to do that. Then break that knowledge down into smaller pieces and teach one at a time. If he’s having trouble learning a piece maybe it’s not a small enough piece - what’s he getting hung up on, and can you make that smaller thing easier by teaching it a different way. Like I didn’t start long lining from behind him, I started at his girth where I could reach forward and “lead” him if he got stuck, then moved back a bit at a time.

Have fun!


Wow loved this answer. Thanks for the great advice

This old-fashioned thinking has proved to be detrimental to the long term soundness of the horse. Young horses NEED work to strengthen their bodies. They build bone and strengthen tendons and ligaments in response to work, and there is a window of opportunity to build a strong, solid physical foundation that is only present when a horse is young.

You may want to read up on this, as there is real evidence supporting working a youngster. The best source of this information is the Equine Injury Database, which has over 10 years and millions of bits of data.

"This data is definitive. It shows that horses that began racing as 2-year-olds are much more successful, have much longer careers, and, by extrapolation, show less predisposition to injury than horses that did not begin racing until their 3-year-old year. It is absolute on all the data sets that the training and racing of 2-year-old Thoroughbreds has no ill effect on the horses’ race-career longevity or quality. In fact, the data would indicate that the ability to make at least one start as a 2-year-old has a very strong positive affect on the longevity and success of a racehorse. This strong positive effect on the quality and quantity of performance would make it impossible to argue that these horses that race as 2-year-olds are compromised.

These data strongly support the physiologic premise that it is easier for a horse to adapt to training when training begins at the end of skeletal growth. Initiation of training at the end of growth takes advantage of the established blood supply and cell populations that are then converted from growth to the adaptation to training. It is much more difficult for a horse to adapt to training after the musculoskeletal system is allowed to atrophy at the end of growth because the bone formation support system that is still present in the adolescent horse must be re-created in the skeletally mature horse that initiates training."



Coming from a warmblood background for me a 2 year old horse knows solid foal ABC (plus hand walk, trailer …) and lives in a pasture with horse friends. Best would be a hilly pasture if available.
SRS e.g. starts the stallions at the age of 4 and they are in work until they are 20+. Race horses are ridden by very light people straight ahead. Dressage horses are ridden by people with ‘normal weight’ in various school figures and circles. Different kind of riding, different goal, different age to usually end the career.

My two year olds typically have at least 90 days under saddle by the end of their 2 year old year. It’s not hard work, it’s not hours of pounding in the round pen - but I breed for good minds and with 20 minutes, 4-5 times a week starting in the summer with plenty of week long breaks through the fall, they should be able to go around under saddle at a walk/trot/canter each direction and have a good understanding of steering and stopping.

I also haul them to shows and expect them to be able to stand in a stall and be quiet and take in the sights. I expect them to be able to be in hand and be on a longe line at shows. I expect them to trailer quietly and be able to be worked on by vets, farriers, etc.

This is my 2017 filly, who has been under saddle for roughly 30 days now. She’s a quick study and understands all three gaits in each direction and has graduated from the round pen to the indoor. We’re not asking for collection, we’re not asking for advanced movements - just be able to balance with a rider on your back and go forward willingly. The first few rides, we don’t even use a bridle - just a halter. (Some use sidepulls, others bosals, others start them in snaffles from the get go.)

I won’t jump anything until they’re 4 or 5. I do believe that is too hard on their body. I also will make personal allowances for “freaks” – I have a 3 year old who was not worked with until this year because she was every bit of 17hh as a late 2 year old. Her mind and her body are very slow to mature; despite being a half sibling (same sire) to the filly above. I didn’t think she could mentally or physically handle “growing up” until this year. Unfortunately, that also means that she isn’t progressing as quickly as most since she now has to be convinced that, yes work sucks but you cannot be a free loader the remainder of your life - but she’s gradually coming around. :lol: The younger they are when you make them “get a job”, no matter how easy it is, the less stink they put up about it.