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Backing horses before age six
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Khorseofcourse
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 Posted: Mon Oct 6th, 2014 05:19 pm
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I have read the Ranger piece and am familiar with the growth rate of bones in our young horses. I have followed a light training schedule with my two three years olds as a result of reading this information.
Recently, I was on a Facebook page called "Paddock Paradise" where they emphatically suggested NOT to EVER back a horse before the age of six. Can someone share some actual case studies or examples of horses who have suffered injury to their backs, specifically due to them being backed before the age of six? I can't find any information supporting this theory and the folks at Paddock Paradise were unable to provide any additional information either.
Thank you!

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Oct 7th, 2014 12:39 pm
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Dear K: If you've read the Ranger piece, then you have a choice: you can either believe what it says -- or not.

One of the most important aspects of the Ranger piece is where it calls into question what it means to "start" a horse. When does a horse begin to be started -- in the real world, vs. in the fantasy world that many horse owners seem to inhabit? When is a horse REALLY started, from its own point of view?

Once that's been realized, then the next step is to ask: what exactly does it mean, in functional terms that is, to "start"? What, in other words, would be the most intelligent and most humane way to teach the prospective riding horse its single most important job, to wit, HOW to carry weight on its back. This is the one task or skill that most "trainers" skip right over. 99% of all the horses you will ever meet have no idea HOW to carry weight on their backs; they were never shown that crucial first part, so they make it up on their own, doing their best to satisfy their riders while also protecting themselves from serious damage.

So K, what I'm telling you here is that you have to use your own noggin. Do you believe what it says in the Ranger Piece, or do you believe any and every random ranting that you may find on the Internet? The Internet is like a huge sea of garbage. There are little pools and eddies of good information -- this Forum is one of them, Wikipedia is for the most part another; otherwise, you have to be very careful. Of course this would have been true also in the days before the Internet -- the skill of sifting bogus vs. good information used to be called "critical reading."

Unfortunately that is no longer taught in schools that I can detect. Maybe you were lucky and went to a school that forced you to develop the ability to discern the telltale signs of the "bogus", one of which is rigid categorization, otherwise known as "blanket statements" that have no exceptions. This type of teaching has always been around, and will always be around, because most people would much rather simply be told what to do than go to the effort of figuring it out themselves. Which type are you? Cheers -- Dr. Deb

Khorseofcourse
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 Posted: Tue Oct 7th, 2014 10:41 pm
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Dear Dr. Deb,

Thank you for the detailed response! I get your point, and of course I am well aware of the dangers of believing any random, blanket statement found on the Internet. In fact, that was a point I made to this "source" when requesting additional, supporting information. Horse people are full of opinions. I am a realist seeking concrete evidence for the sole purpose of developing a safe training program for my two young horses. The "source" suggested I contact you as they were unable to provide the proof I was looking for. The future, long term soundness of my horses is of the utmost importance to me, having recently dealt with a heartbreaking lameness issue that has put my best riding horse into premature retirement. (Not related to an early start)
Do I believe the content in the Ranger Piece to be true? Absolutely! I found the article a few years ago and it is what first opened my eyes to the need for careful thought as I began training my then weanling filly.
As for my original question: Is it true that we should NEVER back our horses before the age of six? I re-read the Ranger Piece and found my answer. You actually RECOMMEND that our young horses "back easily, quietly and straight in hand, one step at a time" as part of your list of things to accomplish BEFORE we begin lightly riding at the age of four. So, I will continue my light backing, with peace of mind, as I prepare my horses to be ridden next year.

K

Dr Deb from a different computer
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 Posted: Wed Oct 8th, 2014 09:09 am
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K, "back" in this context does not mean "backing up". Rather, it is the British expression for riding the young horse. Traditionally in British English, the first few rides that a horse receives are termed "backing".

A tendency to take terminology literally falls into the same category as blanket statements. You do have to be careful.

What the Ranger Piece is asking you to do is THINK what the application of the well-known facts of the horse's process of maturation might be. How MIGHT asking the horse to weightbear at age two affect him? What bodyparts are likely to be most affected?

I would ask you also not to quit here in your thinking, because you still have not addressed the crucial question of what EXACTLY it means to "start" a horse or to "back" him in the sense given above for the first time. You can find material relating to this by using the directions in one of the threads to be found near the top of the Forum homepage, which explains how to use the Google Advanced Search function to pick out threads where this has already been discussed here. Use keywords "starting a young horse" or "starting colts".

Of course this is also discussed very plainly in the Ranger Piece itself. So if you would, stop looking for literal similarity and instead substitute for that the same reasoning and thought that would characterize critical reading. Then please feel free to come back here with whatever specific questions you may have as to things you could be doing with your young horse, which would, or could, be part-and-parcel of that process of "starting". -- Dr. Deb

Khorseofcourse
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 Posted: Wed Oct 8th, 2014 04:47 pm
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So then, the following quote from the Ranger Piece does NOT refer to "backing" a horse up?:

"things to accomplish" together with your young horse before he's four years old, when you DO start him under saddle:
Number 14. Backs easily, quietly and straight in hand, "one step at a time".

I fail to see how anyone would comprehend this meaning as the British English term for the first few rides a young horse receives...

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Oct 8th, 2014 10:13 pm
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K, perhaps I misunderstood your first post. I thought YOU had misunderstood the term. What we are talking about in this thread is "backing" in the sense of starting the horse, not "backing" in the sense of backing him up. The concern is with colt-starting, and what it means to "start". -- Dr. Deb

Khorseofcourse
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 Posted: Wed Oct 8th, 2014 10:56 pm
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I was specifically asking about the safety of "backing up" our young horses, before the age of six. Not riding them. I understand and agree with your suggestions on when to safely "start" young horses. It was whether or not it is safe to back them up, in hand or under saddle between the ages of four and six, that I was asking.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Oct 9th, 2014 12:58 am
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OK, K, then it was I who misunderstood you -- understandable, because I initially took  your question to be about "backing" in the sense of first starting, which is what the Ranger piece is primarily about.

As to backing horses up: There is no difficulty in backing horses up, so long as  you don't try to be doing it like you see dressage wonks doing, i.e. by pulling on their face, or else either by pushing against their head or their chest while the handler stands on the ground. If you do like you see the dressage people do, you will teach the horse to stiffen, pry, and lean rather than raise his back and take care of his own balance and his own steps, just as he would if you weren't there asking him to back up.

It is crucial that you learn what backing up "one step at a time" actually means, and what that actually requires you to do. Go use the Google Advanced Search function as previously directed in order to find this out, please, and then you can report back with results or further queries. -- Dr. Deb

Khorseofcourse
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 Posted: Thu Oct 9th, 2014 03:12 am
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Thank you! I can't tell you what a relief it is to finally have an answer on this topic. It has been a mystery to me for some time...and I tend to sometimes go a bit crazy trying to find solid answers when it comes to my horses. I am a worrier who only wants to do the very best by them.
I will follow your advice and research the topic further on this forum. Thank you again! It is a wonderful resource you are providing here.

Kuhaylan heify
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 Posted: Thu Oct 9th, 2014 04:48 am
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I've been chipping away at getting sidekick to back a step,then step up then back two up three, back one more, step to the side with little incremental steps and then come back to me- much like Buck demonstrates on his colt starting tape with his older finished horse.. All with a view to getting sidekick better in the trailer so he knows he can adjust himself so theres no need to get stuck and panic.. I'm draping the lead line over my index finger to send a feel to him. Is that too much of a push? He needs less and less of a feel if we repeat the move a couple of times.
thanks
Bruce Peek

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Oct 9th, 2014 08:39 am
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Just be sure you don't in any manner hustle him to go faster, Bruce. Otherwise sounds fine. -- Dr. Deb

Kuhaylan Heify
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 Posted: Thu Oct 9th, 2014 10:42 am
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Ok thanks
Bruce Peek

Ride A Grey Horse
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 Posted: Sat Oct 25th, 2014 05:41 am
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K., I know you were asking about age, but just in case this may be useful - for more about the how of asking for your horse to back up, at whatever age, I strongly recommend you get Dr.Deb's cd "Mannering" through the ESI bookstore. It's amazing. There's so much in it that will become part of everything you do.
And meantime check out a thread (if you haven't already found it) called "Horse confidence issue.. or?"
Best,
Cynthia

Khorseofcourse
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 Posted: Sat Oct 25th, 2014 02:48 pm
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Thank you, Cynthia!


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