Massachusetts 3 yr. 4 mos. Rocky Mt. Horse with Professional Training ridden in short shank snaffle and trooper saddle in pasture by intermediate rider.

 Question: We have no problem - my horse is fantastic. One  question concerns me - I have heard within RM breed association discussions that the young horse should not be trained until the knees are closed.  My horse has been broke for about 10 months - since he was about 2 1/2 - and his knees still haven't fully closed.  He hasb't been used very much at all until I got him, now we try and go out trail riding 4-5 times a wwek for 1 1/2 -
2 hours.  I'm trying to build up his fitness level but we don't do hard riding - just enjoyable pleasure rides...should I be worried about his knees and might he experience trouble later on in life?  

Thanks for taking the time to answer this question.

From Panelist Darla

I have been training horses since I was very young (many years) I have been raising and training gaited horses for over 11 years.  I was quite suprised when I first started getting aquainted to the Mountain horses that MOST of  the breeders start riding these horses at 16 to 17 months.  While my  experience has shown no ill effect in training horses when they are young.  I CAN NOT bring myself to believe that riding them hard with heavy
weight on open knees will cause no harm.  Starting them young is fine. I pony mine 
under tack when they are very young.  BUT only for short periods and short  distance.  I gradually work them up to short trail rides over a period of  time and I always cold water hose their legs and knees after exersize.

I have  raised and trained hundreds of Mountain horses two of them are winning show 
stallions and they make me proud.  This is my opinion but it comes from experience.  I wish you the very best with your friend.  I am sure you will do what is right for him.  

Lots of TLC.  
Your friend,  Darla

From Panelist Erica

Actually, it is not the knees that are so much of a concern as is the back. A horse's back is the last thing to finish growing and if a horse is started before the back is finished growing you put your horse at a greater risk of developing a sway back, discomfort in the back and dislocating a vertebrae. The longer the horse's back (from poll to dock of tail) the slower they grow and the longer it takes for them to finish growing. Too often I hear people
worried about the knees "closing" before starting them, but it is the back that takes longer and is more important to wait for in my opinion. All horses mature close to the same time (this is every breed of horse, grade and registered, gaited and not), about 4-6years old. I refuse to start any horse under the age of 4 - and it just crushes me to hear about 2year old already under saddle and being show in futurities.

There are tons of things you can do with your horses before they are ready to ride, me personally like to teach some tricks, I've just taught my 8 month old colt to ground drive, lunge, etc. I feel it is extremely important to have a solid in hand education in the horse and
there is no better time to do this than in their first 4years of life. :-)    From your description, riding 4-5 times a week for 1 1/2 to 2 hour rides, is a LOT for a young horse! A horse's first year of riding should only be light riding - at most 45 minute rides, and this is at 4years.. not 2 1/2. Not only is it stressful on their body, but a horse as young as yours is no where near mental maturity. I do commend you for seeking information on this
topic and hopefully you will think twice about how you wish to pursue his riding for the next two years. 

Erica Frei



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