For most horsemen who have just taken on the endeavor of breaking a young horse, it is an exciting experience. Having said that, know that it is very easy to over indulge in the schooling process that is at hand. After your horse has accepted the fact that their new job is to allow humans to put a bridle on them and place a saddle on their backs in order to ride them, the rest of the journey involves the everyday schooling of this young individual. The rules are still the same, try to make it short and sweet. Now as your horse becomes more fit, then the lessons can go on longer. As their fitness level increases, your horse may not mind spending more time being schooled; they may even start to enjoy the time spent in pleasing you.
The error you do not want to make is to put too much pressure on this young horse. Here are some of the reasons why. First, two year old horses are still very much in the developmental stages. They have not reached their true height yet, there muscles are still developing and their bones will not start to harden until age four. These young horses have ligaments and tendons that are attached to immature bones. They can only handle so much pressure at this age. Most breeds are not considered an adult until they reach the age of five years. Because of this, if you spend too much time on your horses’ back and you are asking them to perform difficult tasks; you can start a chain of physical problems. Some of them are of course, muscle soreness beyond the normal, they can start to get filling and pressure in their ankles which is telling you that the joint is not handling the work load very well. The filling in the ankle or even their knees is synovial fluid which is sent to these joints from their brain trying to heal these areas. If they keep pounding the ground with you on their backs without giving them time off, the problem will develop into other problems. Young horses’ knees are what is called open, which basically means that the joint is immature and needs more time to close in order to give the horse more support. You can find out if your horses’ knees are still open past the age of three by using x-rays. Another thing that cannot be in your horses’ favor is OCD lesions usually related to the stifle muscle. These are gaps in the growth plates on their legs. Again, this is an immature issue.
Keep in mind that when a horse starts to have a joint or muscle issue in one area, there soon will be another area that is going to be affected by this if you keep up the same strenuous regiment of schooling. If your horses’ ankles, for instance, are starting to show signs of stress and you do not lighten the work load, then this horse is going to try and compensate and put pressure on other areas of the body trying to relieve the pain. He or she by moving differently in compensation perhaps will lean more on their hind quarters and cause their stifles to become sore or their hocks start to bother them. Or they may change the movement in their shoulders which in turn could change the way they hit the ground and their feet will start to become sore or their knees will take the blunt of the pressure. If you are seeing changes in your newly broke horse in their joints or they are moving different, then you will need to make changes and adjust to correct the problem. Some horses can start the schooling process even if it is vigorous and never have one problem. Other horses can be training fairly lightly and seem to constantly be coming up with issues. It is your job to keep a close eye on your horse daily. Before you mount your horse, look down at the knees and ankles; look at the hocks and stifles. Reach down and put your hand on the front of your horses’ feet. If you feel a difference or see something, a little swelling or anything that looks different than the day before, then maybe you can change up your training plan for that day and if necessary for a few days after. Maybe just go for a trail ride and forget hacking your horse for that day and see if there is a difference the next day.
When you are teaching your horse to walk, trot or jog, canter or lope on command, to stop when asked, to pick up a lead at a half of a seconds notice, change things up and try to keep it interesting. Boredom can set in and that may at some point turn into resistance. Training horses is about being patient and being smart. Put yourself in their shoes, try to see life and schooling through their eyes and ask yourself if YOU would really enjoy the training program that you have designed for them. Be kind, be stern and beware of small things as they can turn into big things. Well-schooled horses are a great pleasure to ride and a joy to be around. Having fun is what it is all about. Don’t forget about days off, they deserve it as much as we do.
Please leave a comment if this article was helpful and feel free to ask me any questions. Bev