Massachusetts 4 year old American Saddlebred with professional training ridden in 3" loose ring twisted wire snaffle- just starting in full bridle and 22" Cutback saddle in Indoor, Outdoor, Driving Ring by Intermediate rider.

Question: My mare is 4, will be 5 in June.  I bought this horse 2 years ago for $50.00 because her previous owner's trainer "Couldn't do a thing with her".  I kept her at home
for 1 year and worked with her on things like- picking up feet, grooming, not running through fences.  Got her started under saddle at the walk and trot.  In November I brought
her to a professional trainer to see if she wanted to be a 3-G Show Pleasure Horse.  We are doing very well at this time.  She is just beginning to be introduced to a full bridle (so far have only long-lined with it).  Looks like we'll do our first show in June if things continue on the current course and she'll come home after we get a few shows under our belt. 
My question is- I'm wondering when a horse becomes too old to learn new things.  The trainer I'm currently with is primarily a Morgan trainer and does not train the slow gait
or rack (other than this I am extremely pleased with results thus far).  I want to see if my horse is or can be 5G and want to begin interviewing trainers in hopes of finding one
by the fall.  She will be 5 in the fall.  Is she too old to be learning these gaits?  I don't want to make a fool of myself or have trainers laugh at me and take my money because they think I'm stupid.


From Panelist Liz
Hi Nancy,

5 is the perfect age to be starting this and even 6 might be better till you get all the 3 gaited work done. 5 is her first adult year as a horse so physically she is just now becoming developed enough to start this kind of work that can be stressful on a younger immature
body. I have never found any horse in all my years of this work that was to old to train for something new. Not being sound  seems to be the limiting factor I experience most often because they are started to young.

Sounds like you have been doing a wonderful job and keep up the good work and  using that good common sense.


From Panelist Erica

With the right training - a horse can learn throughout it's entire life.
Good luck with your mare!

Erica Frei

From Panelist Bob

A 5 year old horse is definitely NOT too old to learn! I don't start serious training on my horses until they are four years old. I lightly start them under saddle at three years and don't feel that they are finished until they are six or seven! In the last month I have taught a 16 year old to open and close our mailbox with his mouth. We have a 13 year old that is constantly learning new ways to open gates and doors! I don't feel horses are ever too 
old to learn!

Bob Blackwell

From Panelist Stella

Generally, there are more or less conformational differences that may be subtle to you between good three and five gaited horses...the gaited ones are generally stockier, proportionally not as long in the neck or legs, to name a few more obvious details. Often there are some "signs" for the propensity of such movement as well. Five is not necessarily too old, I believe both physical and mental maturity can be very helpful in gaitwork of 
any kind.

I suspect that the previous owner's trainer may have had problems from either: asking for too much too soon, lack of physical or mental maturity, etc., and it certainly sounds like you have done a very good job to bring this horse around with patience, as has your current trainer. In keeping, its a good idea to continue on your current plans of showing 3 gaited this year, and see how you both do, before making any further plans. See how she 
handles and adapts to the excitement of a show, competition,crowds, etc. Especially in view of the history, it may be a good idea to attend SB shows to watch classes carefully, visit a barn or 2 to watch such training,talk with trainers, get familiar with the methodology, so you can not only feel more knowledgeable in your decisions, but also determine if you feel your mare can handle such work stressfree, without jeopardizing all the wonderful 
work you've been able to accomplish with her so far. Best of luck this show season!


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