‘The ugly duckling phase is real’ — 6 realities of owning a young horse

  • Some riders opt to purchase a young horse instead of something more established with a form book already in place. From reaping the rewards of doing the work yourself, to potentially being able to afford a more quality horse or pony on a lesser budget, there are a host of reasons why you might buy a youngster to bring on. But with triumph comes the challenge.

    Here are a few realities you might experience if you choose to take this route…

    1. The ugly duckling phase is real

    All foals are super-cute but when some turn into yearlings, they lose that adorable ‘fluff’ and undoubtedly go through their awkward, gawky stage which leaves you wondering why you’ve parted with your hard-earned cash. Endless legs, a coffin-like head and bum-high quarters are all common features of a youngster going through a growth spurt. But, it’s important to have faith. Just as teenagers grow into their features, young horses develop at their own pace, some slower than others.

    2. The big wide world is scary

    Just like a child can be captivated by new sights and sounds, young horses can similarly be excited, overwhelmed and bamboozled by things they’ve never experienced before. Just be extra-vigilant if you’re on the end of the lead rope!

    3. Time will fly by

    When you buy a young horse it can feel like you’re going to be waiting a lifetime until you can pop a saddle on him. But be warned, one minute you’re admiring your weaned foal in the paddock, and in the blink of an eye he’s transformed into a leggy two-year-old. Turn your back again and poof, he’s a four-year-old looking like he needs a job. They grow up fast.

    4. You’ll make a plan, and then deviate from it

    When you buy your young horse you’ll probably spend hours mapping out his future in your head. But life has a funny way of changing direction. You might have intended him for the dressage arena, but when he jumps out of the field as a three-year-old, you realise the showjumping ring is where his talent lies. Perhaps you’ve already marked him out for a certain class, but he suddenly shoots up and measures out of height. The uncertainty is all part of the fun.

    5. You’ll compare… a lot (but try not to)

    His sire jumped round multiple grand prix tracks and his dam was a five-time Horse of the Year Show finalist under-saddle, but he struggles to put one gangly leg in front of the other at times…

    6. The rewards will come thick and fast

    There’s little more rewarding than painting on a blank canvas. Watching a young horse grow and develop, learn new things and ultimately become the horse you make them. Each milestone, however small, will be a series of wins you can celebrate and enjoy. Plus, you’ve got no one to blame, apart from yourself, for the mistakes.

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