Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Draft Animal Power › Training Working Animals › Training Horses and/or Mules › Work Level for a Young Horse?
- October 25, 2015 at 5:31 pm #86313
I am helping a friend start a 2.5 year old filly in harness. She is ground-driving nicely pulling fence posts and tires seamlessly. She will soon be ready for some real work like skidding light logs and snow grooming.
What is a reasonable amount of work/weight for a horse this age without compromising her growing body?
GeorgeOctober 26, 2015 at 5:07 am #86314
Just driving work really. I would continue to find real work that requires only a modicum of effort until she is fully grown, almost four.
I started a young fast growing horse in harness by two. Hitched him beside the mare who was in single shafts and drove them on team lines. He was big and ready by 3, so I hitched him low on the evener, or hooked her back to the load, but drove him spreading manure, and skidding logs.
He was an amazing work horse. Full of heart and cooperative beyond imagination. The early work was significant in the application later in life.
However, by 15 he had a rotated pelvis and developed lameness that I could attribute to some explosive power in slippery conditions, but I was never certain that my early use in semi heavy work had not contributed to a predisposition.
Undoubtedly, the early work is important for application, but be very patient and thoughtful about the progression into weight and exertion. I didn’t disregard the adage about waiting until 3-4, but I was also a little enthusiastic about the growing capability of the horse. Light skidding, cart work, cultivating in the garden, all good projects, but the truth of any work with animals is that at some point you are faced with some mounting effort and exertion….. Just be thoughtful, or prepared to accept the results.
I personally don’t regret the activities that I undertook. I cannot be certain either way. I got 10 good solid years of work from the best horse I’ve had. His lameness was just too soon for the potential he had, and was most likely unrelated to the early-ish start. I’ve moved on….. Just an honest review.
CarlOctober 26, 2015 at 8:19 am #86315
i agree carl. it seems to be a sliding scale with the ten years being the “working life”. the amish have them in big hitches by two and they are gone by twelve. men are the same way. most of the working men i grew up with came out of the depression and were in the woods or on the job by twelve. they were old men by the time they were in their forties. you’ve seen them. as a rule, we don’t do that kind of work anymore, but a man has about 40 years of work in him, you can do it all in the first forty years of your life or stretch it out till you’re sixty, but it still catches up with you one of these days.October 26, 2015 at 10:05 am #86316
I have been thinking about this a lot of course! I am just starting to drive a two year old mule that is pushing 17 HH! I will work him lightly this winter with logs and snow plowing and such, but not sure about next summer, I suspect he will make a full pull, but I will decide as I go. This summer Lee was three (fall foaling though) and she did raking and tedding but no mowing or baling. In my set up those are the harder jobs. I believe next year she will be ready for anything. Many folks wait to start their training until they feel they are ready for work. I can see why from a time management point of view, but for me it is nice to have six months of work like logging fire wood or something where you can afford the time to let them learn a little and work into bigger jobs. Two and half sort of allows for this.October 26, 2015 at 10:44 am #86317
Funny how you’re sure it won’t happen to you till you start to feel it happen.
MarkOctober 28, 2015 at 3:47 pm #86328
I am 32 and it is catching up to me. Both my grandfather and father died in their 40’s, I guess i better enjoy it while I can huh?November 30, 2018 at 7:31 am #99859
I’m coming to this way of life late, I guess. I’m 46, healthy and have a 6 month old Belgian Draft horse from a breeder in Belgium.
We have other horses and ride and drive them. But, my new Belgian is a big project for me. The only training I am doing with him at the moment is groundwork, getting him used to the commands.
Out other horses were trainer to drive from the age of two and ridden from three. For us, any earlier than this would have caused us problems, I belive.
Each horse is different and each teasmster works differently. Knowing your horse is probably the best guide when you can begin adding weight and/or responsibility.
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