A scene in our yearling filly pasture.
I always love this time of year. These are the days when Clay starts focusing the training energy onto our 2-year-olds. The babies we foaled out in early 2008 have had almost two years to just grow and be horses. And now, it’s time to start handling them regularly. Up until now, they’ve been halter-broke and have received consistent farrier work and medical care. Other than that however, our yearlings have mainly been running and playing like little kids out in the pasture.
The fillies: aka Drama Queens.
Naturally, there is much discussion surrounding the topic of starting young horses. Every trainer or owner has an opinion on the subject and every program has valid points. I am not here to argue or validate which way is best. Clay and I just know what works best for us and the practice of starting our colts as long yearlings, has proven extremely beneficial in our experience.
All shapes and sizes.
Ideally, we like to center our breeding program around the earliest foals in the year as possible. This means, we try to aim for March babies. Of course, this goal isn’t always attainable since Mother Nature plays a large role in equine reproduction. However, we have found that earlier birth dates allow our foals more time to grow, develop and mature. And sometimes, if a mare is having difficulty getting in foal early in the year, we choose to leave her open. In today’s economy and with the instability of our market, it has become more crucial than ever to make smart breeding decisions. Since our herd consists of +/- 11 broodmares (depending on the year), we have decided that demand must exist for each and every horse we produce.
It’s all about supply equaling demand.
We don’t want to create something the world has no desire for, as often seen in the overbreeding problems and market lows the horse industry is already battling. Therefore, with careful scrutiny we make our breeding plans each year and if a mare just can’t seem to become pregnant early in the year, that’s alright with us. We don’t believe it’s absolutely necessary to bring another 11 foals into the world every year.
It’s always so amazing to me to watch dreams and goals take shape, from this tender moment forward.
That being said, each of our foals will have a better chance of thriving in today’s society if they are well-trained and have solid foundations. Broke horses have a modern purpose in today’s society and can give their owners justification of the costs of feeding and caring for them. That’s why Clay prefers to start our young horses as long yearlings, starting with approximately only ten minutes day, three times a week. Since the horse’s body continues to develop until it is about six year of age, it’s important to consider the young muscle and bone structure and never physically push the animal too far in a session.
A few minutes each day, starting earlier on in its life, allows Clay the time it takes to build a solid foundation with a colt. It is very hard on a horse to begin training later in life and have the same amount of lessons crammed into a shorter span of time. Doing so would be the equivalent of sending a child to begin school in grade six, without having the benefit of kindergarten, grade one, two, etc. The person training the horse would have to teach the horse all the same lessons, despite having only half the time.
The yearlings, just being horses.
Starting early also affords Clay the opportunity to turn our yearlings out to pasture again, if he so chooses. Sometimes a young horse comes along so nicely in the lessons that Clay might feel he needs time to go out and be a horse again. Or, perhaps his or her body just needs more time to develop. And later in January, February or March Clay might bring the colt back in and resume the training. Either way, an early starting point gives my husband a foundation to build on.