Should I buy a young horse as my first horse? – a very short look at preliminary considerations…

A question of this character makes a frequent appearance in Aspire blog’s “search terms” so I feel I should share at least a few thoughts on the subject from time to time 🙂

Oscar 8 months apart

Oscar, a young gelding showing how many physical changes can happen in a space of 8-9 months…

BLANK CANVAS

The most appealing quality of youngsters is their so called “unspoilt” nature. Older horses come with their baggage and here is a chance to train a blank canvas. If you are a good painter, have a decent ability to handle your tools well, you have a high chance of creating a nice painting on that canvas, something of a pleasing quality that brings enjoyment to you and many who come to see your work.

If you are just learning your acrylics from your watercolours, you might really benefit from some faint sketch to follow so the shapes make sense…maybe some education on mixing colours so they match those in real life…

Consider:  if despite your inexperience you are set on purchasing a young horse, you might want to surround yourself with a good support team that can step in quickly when needed. This is sometimes seen as a weakness but is anything but. It shows the knowledge and appreciation of the horse’s learning process, development of habits and confidence.

FIRST HORSE – YOUNG HORSE?

I often see riders being advised against buying their first horse if it is a youngster. As a general rule, I agree. However, if you took your time to educate yourself well, rode many different horses and handled variety of them at various stages of their life, don’t let the general rule stop you from investigating the possibility further.

If a notion of bringing on your own young horse drives you to acquire the necessary skills, then you might not take the general rule too seriously.

Consider: your level of experience and knowledge of training (be honest with yourself), your ability to work on natural crookedness of a young horse, natural lack of balance, natural hollowness of the back, natural curiosity of the world and natural unpredictability of reactions to that world..

ANATOMY, PHYSIOLOGY and MENTAL SIDE OF THINGS

Knowing how horses develop anatomically and physiologically, even if in simple terms only, is an absolute must for anyone who takes on a challenge of educating a youngster. The body changes can be huge in a relatively short space of time. Those changes call for adjustments in tack, nutrition, riding demands, rider position, type of training…

Then there is mental and emotional maturity that can only develop well if the rider is aware of what he/she needs to work on.

Consider: if you are a competent rider but lacking knowledge in the above department, don’t give up – consider involving a trainer who will keep you in check and help you read the changes well. Sometimes eyes on the ground and an experienced seat in the saddle a few times a month is all you need to keep everything under control.

RIDING TIME

This is probably least mentioned aspect of owning a young horse. Many first time owners want to spend a lot of time with the horse, go for longer rides, fun rides, hacks with friends, schooling shows etc etc There are many views on young horse training including how much “stress” is too much and how much is necessary for learning to happen, but one thing is pretty sure: you don’t spend a long time on a young horse’s back…

Consider: youngsters thrive on short sessions, 25-30 minutes is often more than enough for a schooling time. Long rides are out of question for young, growing bones and unfocused minds. Variety is paramount to learning but so is routine and structure to the training.

CONFIDENCE

Young horses have an uncanny ability to know a leader from a boss – leadership comes from confidence in purpose, tasks and actions whilst bossiness, well, they see through it and they will catch any inconsistency.

Consider: you don’t have to be the bravest, most fearless rider to go for a young horse. Sure, it helps to be brave but I don’t believe it is necessary. Look at your level of confidence in your training methods, your handling methods and yourself as a person. Quiet confidence helps with patience, assertiveness, persistence and open mindedness…The qualities that have the power to bring on a well educated young horse.

That’s it for now. If I see more of these kind of searches in the blog’s stats, I will try to bring more content on this subject 🙂 Please feel free to add your own thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Wiola

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4 thoughts on “Should I buy a young horse as my first horse? – a very short look at preliminary considerations…

  1. what a great post! If you ask me, I would not do it again! I started Hafl myself, had no idea what I was doing, he neither, so we ended up in a two-sided learning process – which is okay, but it probably takes longer than necessary… and it would have definitely helped him if I had known what I was doing…so, we make mistakes, many mistakes, and sometimes it takes forever to get rid of them. Of course, we both learned a lot and we definitely know each other better than anyone else on this planet. Next time, I get a GP horse and start riding pirouettes straight away 😉

    • hahahaha when I bought my first youngster I thought I knew enough but oh my goodness 😉 I have similar recollections to yours 😀 Thankfully had a trainer on hand or I am pretty sure all would have gone rather wild 😉

  2. I’ve been working with and riding horses 40 plus years. There is an old saying that I totally agree with: “Younger horses for older experienced riders, older experienced horses for younger riders”. Time and time again, much to my horror, I see young people, who think they know how to ride etc, handling young horses and ruining them, not just under saddle but on the ground in the stable. Either no one ever told them not to do certain things or maybe they were told and they just chose not to heed. I was lucky: for many years I trained and worked around older experienced horse people, several of them masters, and I really learned. And when they criticized me, I listened, I kept a very open mind. And that is the reason why I progressed. Today, I don’t see much of this tradition. The market today is pushing people to buy, buy, buy. Yes, older horses have baggage, but so what? Older horses have much to offer, and it’s better a young inexperienced rider learns ‘how’ to ride one of those then to go out and ruin a young one. The only way to justify a young rider riding a young horse would be an ideal situation where they are under strict control by a very good instructor/trainer; but this is not realistic, because it wouldn’t be possible–in between rides the young horse could be mismanaged in the stable and a host of otherr things that could lead to behavioral problems. Years ago when I helped with the US Pony Club, I observed many times over, young riders with older horses and who turned these horses into lovely competition horses/ponies; it proves that older horses are worth gold even if they might be a little rough around the edges–they can be transformed with patience and dedicated hard work. Patience ‘is’ the key. Young riders tend to be very greedy!! They want more and more. If the horse does good doing something, instead of being satisfeid they will push and push for more, when they should not. Greedy rider ruin horses. I’ve seen it umpteen times. Unfortunately many young horses get into the hands of young inexperienced riders /or first-time owners. When I see, for example, adverts saying, “we want very experienced young riders for our young horses”, it makes me want to cringe. Ouch! Experience comes with life experience of many years, it is not something you learn over a couple of years time. It simply takes time, and young people just aren’t willing to wait. Their inpatient, greedy, and that ‘is’ what is so harmful to a young horse. It’s VERY easy to mess up a young horse without even realising it (young inexperienced riders won’t know because they don’t have the life long mileage that an older experienced rider has–they won’t know when to stop doing what they are doing) and it takes a long time to undo the mess. Sadly, young horses that are messed up get called crazy, nervous and then are being sold from one human being to another. The financial value of the horse and how a rider perceives the way it should be treated, trained, cherished, care for etc, is also an important factor too. In my view, a horse that is worth 100 bucks has to be treated in the same way as the horse that was bought for 10,000 bucks etc. I will stop here, even though I could write tons more today.

    • I agree with most of your thoughts Karin, whenever possible I always pair up an experienced rider with an inexperienced horse and vice versa.
      I also do agree with learning on older, well trained horses but I don’t think young people are always greedy and impatient. Perhaps books/movies have a lot to add by “creating a dream” in which one grows with a horse and achieves big things…My first horse was a schoolmaster and having had him for a couple of years I bought my first 3 year old when I was 19. I thought training and competing on many older horses would have prepared me well but I still made many mistakes with the youngster.

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