[quote=JWB;5110559]Ask 10 people, you’ll get 12 answers.
Personally I like them started young (hacking, moving forward) so they figure out that they have a job early on. It’s when the become accustomed to their life of leisure and don’t do any real work until 4 1/2 - 5 that you get the monsters.[/quote]
I agree, that 3 year old year is such a wonderful time for them to learn new things without the natural fear of an animal evolved to a flight response. There’s a very good reason for that too - up to 3 they are still under the watchful eye of the herd so curiosity and lack of fear is still safe. As they get older, it’s good to be done with the learning and start relying on “leave first, ask questions later” since mom won’t be making the decisions for you anymore. I think that 3 year old year is your golden opportunity to teach a horse that we may ask them to do a lot of really stupid scary things from their perspective, but they can trust our judgment, but it’s a narrow window.
And if you start a horse at 3 you don’t have to progress at a schedule that has you ready to jump around a course at 4 - it’s not a hard and fast rule, you know. You can get on that 3 year old and just spend 15-20 minutes teaching him new experiences that do not physically strain him. If his trot and canter aren’t balanced, you don’t need to push him if that’s your cup of tea. If you do find he has a lot of natural balance and rhythm, he’s probably telling you he’s capable of a bit more. Common sense can be your guide.
I was progressing along the same path as Go Fish, and I looked at the winter show calendar around here :dead:, figured the weather would mess with my plans for training this winter anyway, and thought that I could push back the baby greens to late spring/early summer and do just fine. So I changed my plans to doing a lot of trail riding and hacking with my guy. He’s got a brain and a half, and I’d like to get him out on the trails this fall (assuming it ever gets here). That will put some solid walking fitness on him, and again, he’s going to see a lot of new things (this time w/o the safety of being on the pony lead with my older horse). Then he will probably get some light work in the dead of winter - just enough to remind him of his real job) and I will bring him back along in the late winter to start his show horse career. Many roads to Rome and all that.
There’s certainly more than a few disciplines that start a horse young, with the european large farms leading the charge. Those horses are showing 3’6 by the time they are 5 and they didn’t get that way by being started at 4, they are started at 3 and everyone familiar with the system knows that. Probably somewhere between 18-22 mos like a racehorse and 4 years is a happy medium, but whatever works for you. Either way, there are plenty of late started lame horses out there as well as plenty of super sound early started youngsters. If anyone had worked out the “real” answer with any decent statistical base, there wouldn’t be so many answers out there.