What can you do with a horse that is four or five years old? Although there is a lot of debate about how old a horse should be to train to carry a rider, most trainers agree that four or five is the time when a horse can really start working. What can a four- or five-year-old horse do? Below is an overview of what you can expect from a 4 or 5 year old.
By the age of four or five, a horse is almost fully mature, although some geldings may not reach full size until the age of seven. Horses of this age are also sexually mature. This may be the age at which a stallion can begin a breeding career. Mares are now mature enough to carry foals without undue stress on their growth and health.
Some breeds are barely affected until the age of five, for whom training is just beginning. Breeds like the Icelandic horse may not start until fully mature. Many trainers see little benefit in starting too early and find that the horses start late, catching up with their peers whose training started earlier. Of course, if the goal is to remove any possible stress on the growing body, then wait until age five to achieve that. This is when many horses start their careers and can handle advanced training in demanding sports such as jumping, dressage, long distance riding, polo and other high-speed, high-impact or physically demanding jobs. Training a very young horse too hard can cause damage to the joints and ligaments in the legs and upper body.
Many show races require a horse to be four or five years old to compete. This requirement acknowledges that a horse must have fully mature bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints to withstand the loads of a rider throughout its life. The American Enduro Riding Conference requires a horse to be at least 5 years old to compete. For riders and mounts, the Canadian Pony Club requires a pony or horse to be at least four years old. Any exercise that puts extra stress on a horse’s joints, such as jumping, joint driving, tame, dressage, or long-distance riding, should not be started before age four or five (or more, depending on the individual). It is also felt at this age that a horse is more mentally mature and therefore wiser and easier to train.
So once your horse is four or five years old, you can ride it regularly to start racing under the saddle. Since he is still a young horse, you have to adjust his fitness slowly. However, at this age, overworking an immature horse should not be too much of a concern.