Monday, May 16, 2011

Performance horse training.

Hmmmmm....I don't know much about these types of things so this is just my uneducated observance.  I went to a barn a couple weeks ago to check it out.  I have been considering boarding for a few months so that we can plant our pasture.  This barn and trainer concentrate on  western pleasure horses.  He takes young horses trains them for a year takes them to some big shows and sells them upwards of $100,000.  I got to even jump on one of his horses in training.   First of all I really think this guy knows what he is doing.  The things these horses can do is pretty dang cool.  He says his goal is that he can move any one leg at any given moment and that they can do.  He earns their trust and all the horses seemed relaxed and EXTREMELY well cared for.  The barn is heated in the winter so when I came in early spring and they all have these amazing shiney summer coats I felt kinda sorry for my furry dirty horses hanging out in my pasture.

In riding the young horse I felt way out of my element.  I had never had any formal training in western pleasure.  I always look at western as not really having to know much.  That if you can ride english, western is nothing.  In most cases I would say that is true but not these horses.  They are trained and trained well with aides beyond anything I have ever done.  I actually think the whole idea of it could really help in the dressage arena.

What I didn't like.  I am not sure about all of this ethically.  I am sure there are some strong feelings on either side of the coin but I personally have never really asked myself what my feelings about it was.  The age of these horses.  One he got on and showed me hadn't even turned two yet.  I guess they can be shown at two so I am sure it is a regular practice for people to train this heavily this early.  That in an of itself is a big question but my biggest problem is that out of the three horses he brought out all 3 had something going on with their legs.  Swelling and even lameness that he says they work out of.  First thing I noticed looking at each of these horses is how tiny thier hooves were.  Before I knew their age I was just confused why they had such small feet but then he told me their ages and then it made sense.  They do not get turned out at all.  They actually have no pastures at all.  I know that with performance sport horses this is probably common.  I know track horses don't see a pasture.  I just felt bad for these horses and have to wonder if they are going to have life long lameness issues because of pushing them to far too young.


  1. I'm not sure I could board there and have to look away all the time, which is what I would have to do to stand it. I know nothing about Western riding, but my gut gets involved when horses are worked too young. Even if there's not a thing wrong about it, I don't think I could convince myself to accept that. No turnout, though, makes it a barn I would never take my horses to. Horses need to move freely, in their own space, period.

  2. No, this is not the norm for performance horses in all disciplines. This is only the norm for people who do not make the wellbeing of the horse their priority.

    I would not get on a 2 year old for any kind of money. There is plenty of good research out there that joints in the legs, back and neck don't close completely until the horse is well past three, even four. And the back is the last thing to close. So this whole "I felt their knees and they were fine" excuse is bunk. And yes, those horses will all have lifelong lameness issues as a result of this kind of start.

    Heated barns are also not good for horses. Closing up a barn traps ammonia fumes and dust in it and many horses develop respiratory problems as a result. They're not humans, they don't want central heating.

    There are a LOT of unethical things that go on in the name of money. Riding yearlings is one of them.

    And don't feel sorry for your horses in their pasture -- they are HAPPY being HORSES. They will never know the boredom of being trapped in a stall. They won't develop stall vices. 90% of stalled horses have ulcers as well.

    Cruelty comes in many shapes and flavours.

  3. Oh I must say I didn't consider for a second actually taking my horses there once I visited. They also all seemed highly medicated. He says they all are on adequan and hock injections. They also all had a respitory coughing/snotty thing going on. It was weird. Like he was showing me what superiour care his horses get yet all the signs seemed like they were all unhealthy. I say I would have to agree with both of you it just seems wrong on many levels.

  4. Barns are for the comfort and convenience of humans, not horses. A horse does not need a barn and, given a choice, would rather live outside. Your horses are much happier than the ones living in that barn.

    The leg swelling and coughing probably have more to do with being stalled than the horses' age. It's common practice to break Quarter Horses at two. They mature more quickly than the Warmbloods and TBs. It's best to keep them in light work until three, but it doesn't seem to cause many soundness issues (that's just in my experience, my family breeds and trains Quarter Horses).

    I had to laugh at your assesment of Western riding. I grew up riding Western and I can tell you the horses are highly trained, as are the riders. I consider most Hunters, Jumpers and lower level Dressage horses to be merely green broke compared to a good cow horse! ;)

  5. Actually no, Quarter Horses do NOT physiologically mature any faster than other breeds. This is a common myth perpetuated through time, but not supported by science.

  6. I was not aware of that, thanks! Just goes to show, don't believe everything you hear. There are so many of these sorts of myths in horsemanship, even the vets believe some of them!

  7. Dr. Deb Bennett has a lot to say on the topic of the Quarter Horses maturing faster than other breeds, which they do not, and there is no science to back up this claim. Yes, the bigger the horse the longer it takes to mature, which is why people shouldn't be jumping three year old warmbloods or draft breeds if they want to keep them sound, but riding a two year old Quarter Horse is just as damaging.

    Barns like that don't care because they have made all their money by the time the horse is crippled and finished, about six, eight if you're lucky.

    We've got a couple in our barn, amazing in the show ring at three and four but now at six we are treating them like geriatric horses with chiro care, supplements and injections (boarder horses).

    I love Quarter Horses, being that I have one and ride two others, but they are unfortunately what is filling the kill pens and the free horses on craigslist in part due to crap like what you saw. Sure, lots of tbs go through as well and we all know the reason for that, another money driven, run them young issue.

    Why do they start them this young? Well the fricking registry could help stop that by getting rid of these damn futurities that encourage it. When money is your motivator you really don't want an animal sitting in your barn for three to four years before it's making you a dime.

    I really get tired of people defending it. Lots of people defend porn all damn day, too.

    I'm glad you ran from that barn! Steady appreciates it!

  8. I can't even think straight this makes me so angry. Every single thing about that barn is to make money and they don't give flip about the horses. In my opinion places like that should be shut down for animal cruelty. There is scientific proof that horses are not finished growing until sometimes as late and six and seven years old. The bones in the back are the last ones to finish . . . think about how much weight they are carrying. I cringe to think of it. Those poor horses are going to be broken down before they are even ten years old. :( Imagine how impossible it will be to keep them pasture sound if they are already having their hocks injected at two! Anyway I'm done. I could go on until I turn blue in the face, but it does no good. :(

  9. Gross!
    All the heat, care and training those horses have is much more cruel than one thing you think Steady has bad. He is in horse heaven with you!


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