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When can you start to drive?

The answer will depend on your horse

By RAY ARISS / Horsetrader columnist - February 2nd, 2011 - Q&A Hey Ray!

HEY RAY: When do you start an Arabian driving or riding?
Teresa Holden
Marysville, CA

HEY TERESA: Your question is very interesting to me because there can be so many answers depending on what your goal or motivation is in getting him started.

If your goal is the well being of your horse and the longevity of the relationship, the best time to start him is when he is mentally and physically mature. This can be something as easy as having a vet x-ray joints and having an evaluation from a professional trainer as to his mental preparation to be started. Many professionals believe that driving your horse is acceptable at a younger age over riding. I have heard of people starting horses under saddle like Arabians as well as Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses and Tennessee Walkers as young as 12 to 16 months.

I must say that, most of the time, the reasoning behind this accelerated timeline is the motivation of money in the industry. You truly need to know what you are doing in order to succeed within these constraints.

When possible, I prefer to start my horses a little older than younger. An older horse allows me the peace of mind to deal with any situation that may come up during training, without the fear of getting him hurt because of physical immaturity. It is true that there are some breeds like the Arabian that will mature sooner than, for instance, the Warmblood type horse. So, in your case, beginning to teach your horse the fundamentals of driving at the age of 24 to 30 months may be acceptable providing you keep a close eye on the joint situation of your horse.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t teach your horse at the youngest of age anything that adds to the quality and safety of his and your life. There is a difference between mental teaching and the physical discipline of training your horse. I tend to definitely worry more about the physical aspect of training over the mental because I feel confident that if something is misunderstood by the horse, I can fix it. Sometimes when a horse becomes physically hurt because of immaturity, there is no quick fix.

There may be an advantage to teaching your horse to drive, (not to be mistaken with ground-driving) before riding because of the extensive foundation training that should go into a driving horse. A well-trained, solid driving horse is a well-trained horse. I tend to put a driving foundation on all my horses. The process allows the young horse to expect the unexpected through a variety sensory challenges that will mature the horse into a safe mental state that is good for everyone.

So Teresa, I hope you find this helpful as you apply your common sense and good judgment to whatever horse you are working with. The key here is to take each horse as an individual when you are hoping to scope out an approach for the rest of his life.

As always and above all trust your instincts and think safe, Ray

Horsetrader columnist Ray Ariss, husband to Pippa Ariss and father of six, shares his insight into the relationship of horse-and-human twice each month, in print and on www.horsetrader.com. He lives and trains in “Horsetown USA”, Norco CA, at his bustling StarBrite Riding Academy. Does your “horse-human” relationship leave you with a question for Ray? Just go to www.horsetrader.com and click on the “Hey Ray!” section, then submit it!

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