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Horse Behavior and Training

Cantering my three year old?


I have a three yr old paintx standardbred gelding. I have just recently started him under saddle. For the first year I was only going to walk/trot him but then I watched some of monty's videos and he has two year olds he is cantering. What do you think about cantering my three year old?

Kicki -- Sweden
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I think that would depend on how balanced your horse is with a rider onboard, rather than his age.

I understand Quarterhorses and related breeds are ridden as two year olds, while most warmblood races aren't mounted before the age of 3. For any young horse I would say that if it works well (steady shape and balanced both on straight lines and turns) in walk/trot; don't be afraid of cantering, but do not rush or force the moment!
Above all, don't start cantering for the sole reason that someone else did it with a younger horse.

That said, I'm sure you can try, even if it isn't a full 12 months. But perhaps then the first times should be outdoors on the trail with an older, quiet horse in the lead. Let the horse fall into canter of his own accord and keep a light seat so he can find his balance and confidence. This way is also great to teach the aids without pressuring or confusing him. Nor do you have the many turns of an arena to contend with - just the natural turns of the track. It will be fun for both of you, and the horse will build strength and balance in the most natural way.

Back in the arena, you will know the time is right when he works in a stable shape, feels well balanced and strong enough to succeed. Maybe he will even "tell" you he is ready by offering to canter. (Not the "run away from work"-canter!)

I'm sure you want not just the first canter on your young horse to be a success and enjoyable for the both of you, but a joy for many years to come. If you are patient and listen to where he is, you will not only help set him up to succeed, but also build up strength in joints, sinews and muscles to keep him sound for many years to come.

Best of luck and happy trails!