Does it ever worry people that there’s super young horses that are competing at very high levels??? Because it kind of worries me some no matter how cool or amazing
This is something I found very interesting coming from the USA to Europe. Like, people in the US I found are generally pretty conservative with the age of horses - my trainer had a 4yo that could’ve, talent and even probably education-wise, done like Prelim by the end of his 4yo year, but she was keeping it pretty slow with him. Whereas here, in Europe, the Young Horse classes are a lot more plentiful and prestigious, so the horses will often be out and about competing at 4yo (although it’s clear to see some of them shouldn’t be!). The 4yo Young Horse jumpers do a 1.10m course, and by the 5yo they’re jumping 1.20m. I can’t remember the heights of the eventing YH, but I think it’s something like close to pre-novice (training) for the 4yo.
I think there’s a couple of reasons for this. Obviously the popularity of the YH classes here encourages people to bring out horses at a younger age. But I think also the ground here is much more forgiving, from a strictly injury-related standpoint. I was in Virginia in the USA and so much of our competition plan and fitness work was based around how hard the ground was. I know of a few horses that have been bought in Europe and shipped over to America only to not hold up to the hard ground, even with a good vetting by American standards and a flawless vetting by European standards.
Education, I guess, is another thing. Like I said, a few of the horses here in the YH classes shouldn’t be out competing, regardless of the natural talent - you can see it in the way they go, if not the results. Where I am, there’s a couple of 5yo and 6yo doing novice (prelim), a couple doing pre-novice (training), and a couple doing intro (US novice). The 4yo generally don’t do a whole lot, maybe some showjumping shows to get them used to the atmosphere. If a horse is going to be put towards the YH class, it’ll be decided fairly early on and the training will reflect that. I think being a sales barn however it’s harder to get them to the YH classes because by the time they ride decently they’re normally sold haha!
I get what you’re saying though. There’s all sorts of studies that detail the age at which horses’ bones… god I can’t think of the word, solidify I’m going to use though I think I mean fuse or something like it, and it’s definitely not before the 4yo year. I think that’s where the ground comes into play - most horses over here would be well on their way to the upper levels by 7 or 8yo (Blenheim holds a 3* for 8 and 9yo, for example), whereas I think you’d be at more risk of a long-term injury if you did that in the States. Although I guess any sort of concussive training would be damaging to underdeveloped bones!
So yeah, I’m not really presenting an opinion here - just saying what I’ve seen in two very different regions. For me, I’d be more likely than I was to do a bit more on a younger horse. But when I’ve been thinking about going home and getting a horse to sell, I’ve gone from thinking 4-5yo to 5-7yo, because ideally I’d like it further up the levels by the time I sell it in say twelve months, than would be possible if I went a little younger. :)