DEAR DANA: I have a 2-year-old Quarter Horse mare that I bought as a yearling with a goal of making her a futurity horse. Now that it is time to start riding and training her, I’m just not sure if she is mentally and physically mature enough for all that it might take to make her a top futurity horse. Any advice? – Jaime
DEAR JAMIE: I understand your concerns about starting this young horse. You are not alone in making this decision! It is important to look at each young horse as an individual to determine if they are both mentally and physically mature enough to handle the kind of exercise that it will take to get them into the show pen at this early age.
I love making young horses — I like to put my foundation on them as young horses, then carry that over to finish them into a broke bridle horse. I want my horses to last far beyond their futurity years. I don’t want to push my young horses to break down or burn out.
It’s important to fairly judge the strength and potential of my 2-year olds. I want my them to be a decent size to carry a rider. Even if they aren’t too tall, I like them to have enough body to carry me. If the horse is on the small side, I may still start it, but will work it in short sessions with a light rider, maybe only a few days a week. I look for good bone in their legs and feet. I don’t want my 2-year old to be downhill, and while they are constantly growing, they still have to lift up their shoulders and carry the rider’s weight. When gravity is working against them, it can create unnecessary strain.
If the horse is fractious or has a lot of energy, they may need a lot of work and riding to prepare. Does the horse have the strength to handle that kind of workload? I can tell a lot by doing my groundwork to determine what kind of horse I might have. During my tying, sacking out and ground-driving process, I spend a lot of time on the details to make sure I don’t miss the steps that may bite me later.
Remember that each horse is different and they all have different learning styles. I vary my approach and even my training techniques horse-to-horse. I hope this helps you to find out if your horse is ready and has what it takes to be a futurity horse.
Do you have a question for Dana? Simply go to www.horsetrader.com and click on the ‘Dear Dana’ section, then submit it!