Will it be the end of the world?

I have a 2.5 yo homebred TB. He will be three on his “real” birthday which is March 21.
I’ve done tons of ground work, so hes good there. He is getting very tall, like 16.3 almost, and pretty fresh because i broke my foot in April so have been limited in my abilities to to do stuff with him for awhile due to fear of him stepping on me. I actually broke my ankle in 3 places and my foot in two, still using a bone stimulator because the foot is still broken but its ok for me to ride etc.
I’m back in action and the weather in FL now is fit for human habitation so I’m planning to get him backed, he’s already good about the saddle and all of that. I’ve taken him to some schooling shows and other things so he could look around and go on sleepovers and such. I would like to have him walking and trotting in a fairly civilized manner and maybe do a crossrails class at a local schooling show in February.
I’m all about bringing young horses along slowly and so forth, so that would be all he would be doing until hes 4. Obviously I dont expect anything near perfection, just for him to go forward and get from one side of the cross rail to the other even if he chooses to walk.
Is this an unreasonable expectation of a coming 3 year old to do a crossrails class?

Certainly not “the end of the word” but why would you want to? I don’t see what would be accomplished. Planning for a show when the horse hasn’t even been sat on yet seems like setting yourself for failure or frustration.

“Jumping” before 4 is generally taboo. Do I think x rails are going to somehow destroy your horse’s legs? No. But I don’t think it’s necessary and probably better to let them mature and learn where their feet are. I think your time would be better spent hacking out.


Yeah I don’t think jumping eight crossrails is necessarily too much physically (I’ve seen horses that ran over hurdles at 3 be sound and successful many years later) but I probably wouldn’t do it with a young 3 year old either. Hop over a telephone pole or small log on a short trail ride or hack with another horse, sure. Follow through a creek or water jump and up and down teeny tiny banks, definitely. But I don’t know that I would do a ton of ringwork in an indoor with a baby and I don’t see where either of you gain much from doing courses just to get around at that age. A coming four year old who has been hacking all year and slowly introduced to flatwork and then to jumping in the ring, yes, but my expectations for a coming three year old are more just real baby stuff-- stand at the mounting block, walk and trot forward in big circles, canter in a straight line, go on a low key short hack. If they are that far along by the fall of the two year old year I think generally it’s best to just let them have the winter off to grow up. If I went to a show at all at that point I’d probably just let the horse chill in hand, maybe do one or two laps under saddle at a time when the ring is super empty.


Check show rules about this, some require them to be 4.

Personally, I’m not a fan. What’s the rush? Showing should be about showing off your training, not overwhelming a baby or green horse and kicking them around because they have a good temperament and will do it.

There really is no need to take a baby to a cross rail class. You can go and hang out and spend the day enjoying the show atmosphere and learning. A horse will take something away from that more than they ever will being shown before they are ready. Showing before ready can lead to issues down the road that never leave.

Spending your money on a lesson or training session would be money better spent.

Just my 2 cents, as someone who owns and retrains many TBs.


He’s unlikely to break down on the spot, but two things might hold me back. One, he’s physically changing so much now that he might be at an awkward stage that means he has to relearn a lot later, or find it too difficult. And if it’s too difficult he’ll remember that later.

Two he’s mentally immature too - babies I have had had the attention span of a gnat and when the attention goes away they have tantrums best handled from the ground.

All in all, it’s just not really worth it. You’ll be just as advanced in a year if you start him later TBH.


End of the world, no, but really unnecessary. I would wait until he’s 4 to do any jumping. If I’m being honest, I’d probably wait until late 4 or even 5. You’ve got a million other milestones you can focus on at 3, no need to literally jump ahead and show crossrails on a baby who is just barely under saddle.


i would never “kick him around”. Like I said, I don’t care if he just walks. And ribbons etc are a non issue.
Mostly I’m looking for some sort of a goal to motivate myself. If we meet it that’s fine if we don’t, well that’s ok too.
Living in N FL, someone referred to an indoor, but there is no need for that here. Unfortunately, there is big fat lack of any challenging terrain such as creeks etc for any trail riding as well, until you have ridden far and long into the woods, and i definitely don’t want to ride him anywhere near that long yet. I do plan to take him out when i can when other friends are available with which to ride.
I realize his limitations at this age, so any riding would be very short like maybe 15 minutes would be a long ride once he’s backed, or when he says he’s ready to quit, whichever comes first. Either way we will go to the schooling show, whether we do any actual classes or not. As someone else said, it’s good for him just to go look and spend the night away from home. He has done well so far at staying away overnight.

I agree with most others. I’ve started and ridden lots of young horses, and in the past I would just work towards eventing goals. But in the last few years my experience had broadened and although I do get jealous of not being able to “join the fun” sometimes I’ve realized there are so many things I could do that I never did.

  • I learned to teach my horse to sidle up to the mounting block (this is the BEST)
  • how to get a horse to put its head down on command (for haltering and bridling)
  • how to hold up their own foot so you don’t have them leaning on you
  • teaching them to be calm/solve their own fear on the ground. Really interesting & helpful!
  • work in-hand until they can do a proper western halter type pattern. You will have the best-behaved horse on the property!

There is so much you can do. It’s a drag having such a young horse that you can’t ride much, but all the time you put in now will pay off later.


In my area there are lots of jumper shows and CTs with poles classes. It gets them used to the show atmosphere and different rings but because it’s poles very low impact. My guy is older but just being retrained from the track and we spent all summer/fall season doing poles classes and intro A dressage tests. It’s been great building our confidence, we could trot or canter depending on the day. I would look for these because I know a goal is important but your young guy is quite large and the gangly stage won’t really be super safe to introduce jumping. Enjoy the journey

I would not. At that age I think that backing them at home and ground driving then maybe trail riding at the walk around the farm and some nearby fields is a good goal. I’ll back and start at three, ride them three times a week, ideally a mix of basics in the arena and short jaunts around the farm if they have a brain and a steady companion. Some three year olds don’t make it very far out of the arena under saddle if they’ve led sheltered lives and I think I might die! I will ground drive everywhere I can: it builds confidence for them to go places without someone leading them and reinforces the aids and also voice commands. I also lunge them out in the field and let them pop over small ditches, water jumps etc on the lunge from a walk or slow jog as well as small jumps in the arena so they learn how without a rider and that jumping is no big deal. Then give them a few months off over the winter when they are generally idiots anyway and start then back up again as 4 year olds.


I’d wait. He won’t even be 3 yet. I generally do start jumping them sometime when they’re 3, but not before that summer. I see no problem with taking him in a walk/trot flat class, though.

somehow i can’t use the quote function but that would be great if we had a poles section at the schooling shows. We used to some in hand classes that i did with my last home bred (shes 19 now, we foxhunted and she was my whips horse for the last 15 years or so) and they were super fun plus a great way to get the babies out and about.
He already does most of the things that Blugal listed, except for the more advanced in hand work, due to my broken foot and ankle and the hellish FL heat for the last several months. He ties, loads, had plastic grocery bags all over his stall, walks over tarps, ground drives and all that other good stuff. .
We only have 5 acres, and there are no fields and streams etc around me to ride. I live in NE FL and where i am there is none of that due to the masses encroaching upon us unfortunately. I have caught the little s&*^ jumping over the jumps in my arena by himself and hes funny.
If they still have walk trot this year ill probably do that too, but the only caveat is there a lot ot children and ponies at these little shows so the ring is usually PACKED. I’m pretty brave but not that brave lol.

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That’s less than 90 days from now and to date he hasn’t been ridden a single lap around any arena anywhere.

Maybe in February he goes to the show and you do intro A on a lark or a flat class walk trot. Maybe.


that might be fun. i’ll check and see if there are dressage shows coming up. IME those tend to be a bit more sedate, with an added bonus that their venue is much closer to my farm .

I’ll still put a time on it and that will motive me to get out there on the days when i’m maybe not feeling it as much and keep me on a schedule and then he will just do whatever. I fully believe in going at his pace, whatever that may be, and not mine. With the caveat that this little guy is very smart and learns quickly so i need to keep him mentally challenged

I had one of those. I actually got to the point of being ready to back him within a week and gave him about six weeks off because it was almost four months before his third birthday. I then spent a couple of weeks on refreshers before proceeding forward to getting on.

I still have him, 21 years later. :heart_eyes:

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A show shouldn’t be the motivation especially with a baby. Setting a good solid confidence building foundation should be the goal and motivation.

Can you do some natural horsemanship clinics instead? Something like Harmony Horsemanship offers.

Why not go to the show and just hang out? Why push the horses envelope that far so fast and so soon? There is no need at all. You want the first outings to be easily and something the horse can do easily at home with their eyes closed. Seems like majorly rushing and potentially causing anxiety and trust issues.

Are shows the only thing that motivates you?


I think it’s more of a fun I want to play with my horse thing. And maybe being around other people and some ohhs and ahhs. So yeah take a short trailer ride, practice some tie ups, hand walks etc. I used a cotton lead rope that I braided a panic snap into for emergency quick release. Also have a chain handy just in case you need to add for control; worse case scenarios be prepared.

I’d worry more about your foot!

no shows arent my only motivation. Its more i just want to get my young horse out and about to learn about the big wide world. Unfortunately where i am in NE FL there is a big fat lack of horse stuff to do. It’s not Ocala or Middleburg VA. I have no plans on pushing him at all. He’s either ready or he isn’t and if he isn’t ready that’s fine. I think Jealoushe is reading things into the situation that are not there.
This isn’t my first baby, i have one homebred that will be 19 and she’s doing great.
He and I have already been going to whatever shows and such that I can find without having to drive across the world and walking around, hanging out etc. As I said he is very smart and I think we are both getting a bit bored. So I’ll start playing with him again now that im more or less as healed as I’m going to get and the weather is finally tolerable here. He’s been very good at the shows we have already gone to, and I took advantage of being there early to walk him around the rings and walk him through the cross rails course.
As pony grandma said, i bring a chain because once he gets bored he turns into Curious George and gets into everything lol. And I’m so over my foot ugh. That’s what i get for trying to clean tack lo… But you’re sweet to be worried about it.

I think it completely depends on the individual as to what they can realistically do at what age. I’ve had a grand total of one three year old who was capable of going to horse shows and jumping a course in a nice, confident manner. Several who did it at 4 and just as many who were having trouble with the concept at 6 or 7.

If you’re looking to set goals for personal motivation, why not break them down into interim steps? Getting him truly backed, riding in the ring, riding the perimeter of the property, getting on and off the trailer, eventually self-loading on the trailer. Make a list of all the skills you’d like him to have as a Grown Up Horse and tackle them one by one.

But always listen to them tell you if they are not ready to graduate from kindergarten.


yeah like i said earlier, i wouldnt care if he just walked it as long as he was going ahead lol.
he already self loads like a champ and is super brave about all that. I’ve run out of ideas for ground work things and scary things to rub on him or hang in his stall or make him walk over around or through. I’ve even exposed him to fire crackers, smoke bombs and 6’ tall sparklers that i found. and sprayed him with silly string in his stall. He. does. not. care. lol