It is a bit comical to see this horse and the doctor as they are both really tall, gangly and awkward!
His visit was scheduled today in order to obtain health papers and take x-rays of all joints to ensure that he is physically able to start a full work load.
Good news first...all joints are clean and correct! Bad news...he still has some action going on in his growth plates in his knees and his doctor recommended not starting a riding program for at least 90 more days, adding that light longing and turnout is best. At the end of 90 days we will once again x-ray the knees to make sure we are good to go before he leaves for boot camp. Myles is a 17h 2 yo and already has a big load to carry on those immature joints, I don't want to push too soon and risk injury.
So, this brings me to the topic for the day...when to start your prospects?
The quick and easy answer to this question is "when they are ready"! This begs
an answer to the follow up question, "how do we know when they are ready"?
The answers to these questions will be somewhat subjective. Over the years my
views have been altered based on personal experiences and growth of knowledge/understanding where this subject is concerned.
I once heard a person announce that they would be starting their prospect on "May 3rd". Why such a specific date you might ask? Well because that was the horses 2 yo birthday of course! This very generalized thinking is left over from ages ago but a practice still adopted today by some uninformed individuals.
The following points should be considered when making your decision to start your prospect;
Mind - Young horses can really be compared to adolescent children. Do you own one with ADD or do you have a teachers pet? The mind is very rarely considered when choosing to start prospects. Some are born broke and happy to do dishes when asked and some just crawl out the bathroom window when they hear mom calling (yes Morgan, I am referring to you;)) If you are constantly battling a sullen resentful prospect then you are far better off to turn that one back out for awhile to bake a little longer rather then fight them and possibly do irreversable damage. If I have learned one thing about horses is it is extremely easy to teach something negative and extremely hard to get them to unlearn it.
Balance - when I step back and really view my prospect, what type of overall growth balance am I seeing? Is his hind quarters 4 inches higher than his front end? If so, how much force is being placed on those immature joints when naturally horses already carry 60-65% of their weight on their front ends...add to this the weight of equipment and rider. Do not confuse the growth balance I am referring to as the 'sum of the parts' balance. The first type of balance should change with maturity while the latter is the makeup of the horse and therefore unchanging. I should also add that my favorite breed and the one I refer to in this blog is the Quarter Horse which is known for its somewhat downhill build, so sometimes judging an individual from balance alone can be misleading.
Muscular Development - while this is also purly subjective, a mature horse will usually look different then an imature one not fully developed. Also I should add that a horse in any type of forced excercise regimen will develop muscle no matter what the age.
Skeletal Maturity - The most telling and important proceedure is where we x-ray the growth plates (epiphyseal closures) to determine the stage of skeletal maturity in young horses. This science has not been encouraged sufficiently in my opinion. I believe every youngster that begins a serious under saddle program should undergo observations in this area. I also believe in taking baseline shots in some of my faster growing yearlings in order to keep ahead of any possible issues and determine if the nutrition plane is adequate for that individual.
The most important thing to remember is to treat each and every prospect as an
The above information are some things to consider when deciding to start your prospect, other factors tailored around the the individual may also be considered but your final decision to start your prospect should not contravene the advice of your licensed veterinary.