Training: 3yo Workload

Having never had a horse as young as Annie I have been doing a lot of research on what I should be doing with her. In that process I have been defining some reasonable expectations.
 Given that she is so young and green I want to make sure that I keep things light and easy. WTC – straightness – and hopefully some trail rides… She will likely get most of the winter off and then come back to light work in the spring.

For those of you that have either gotten a young one off the track or raised your own what did their 3rd year look like? TIA for any insights!

You may also like


  1. Mine was started in the late winter of her 3yo year and her first 60 days were her hardest. The cowboy did a lot with her, so when I got her back we really just w/t/c a few times a week and went on as many excursions as possible. Trail rides, xc schoolings, etc. She trotted groundpoles and hopped over little fences every once in a while, more toward the end of her 3yo year. She never got much of a break, mostly because she was kind of a terror when she didn’t have a job.

    1. Thanks 🙂 Annie was a late baby so I try to keep that in mind. She isn’t worked hard though and I think trot poles and the occasional pop over a small jump would be great. Mostly planning to focus on getting her out to different places to see lot of stuff. Sounds like the same as you did with Sadie!

  2. I haven’t been in your situation, but I would think it’d be an excellent time for ground manners. The dressage trainer I worked with with Simon when he was 6 (he had a late start) wanted me to lunge in side reins 2x per week instead of riding.

    1. Interesting. I have put her in loose side reins but I don’t want to lunge her too too much. Ground manners are definitely important. If she gets time off this winter she will still be groomed and messed with just not much riding – still deciding how much time that would be or what that would look like though.

  3. Sounds like you have a great plan. Mystic gets started under saddle in 54 days (who’s counting…) and she’ll be 3 years and 6 months then. I plan to do w/t/c over the winter with maybe some pole work. I’m pretty firm on not jumping her until she’s 4. I’m curious to see what other people have in mind for their 3 year old… this is my first one 🙂

    1. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not jumping. I also don’t see issue with work over trot poles, free jumping over small fences here and there, or going over small fences/ crossrails occasionally though. That seems to be the greatest variance in my reading – when people start horses over fences.
      We’re in the same boat with first time 3yo owners!

  4. I’m curious about your responses as well. I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I have a 2 year old coming along… I’m hoping to work her 3 days a week with lots of low key outings.

    1. Seems like a good game plan to me. I don’t normally do anything too strenuous. She usually gets a couple 10-15 minute rides a week and then we had our first outing this weekend. I’d really like to get her off the farm more though. More safe low key adventures with civilized buddies that can hopefully keep her confident and happy off the farm 😊

  5. I haven’t had a young horse in a long time so my guy (who is 4 years old) is a bit of a challenge in terms of workload.

    He’s a cross between two very slow growing breeds so I’m trying to keep it light and easy until I’m sure he’s ready for more physically. But he absolutely loves to work, so I’m not as worried about him mentally as I feel like I would be with another kind of young horse. I feel like there’s almost no way to burn this horse out given how excited he is about riding on a circle.

    He was started at 3 years old (born in April 2011 started in August 2014) really lightly, he was ridden once per week, every other week he’d do WTC in the arena and on the other weeks he’d do a trail ride. Super light start. He kept that up until I started with him in December 2014. I then rode him 2x per week in the ring for no longer than 30 minutes and 1x per week trails. When he turned 4, I bumped him to 4x per week and our trail rides got a little less frequent, mostly due to needing someone else to trailer me!

    I still keep his rides light and easy. No more than 45 minutes and that’s pretty rare. Every day we do a little groundwork, and when he’s in a stall/paddock instead of pasture, I’ll probably do groundwork days. I don’t longe very much. He’s very good on the longe and I don’t like the pounding on his legs.

    I also don’t sit his trot. I heard that young horses shouldn’t be sat on until their backs are strong. Also he’s super bouncy and I don’t want to add tension to his already tense topline.

    Looking forward to seeing how your girl develops!

  6. Varied work was my focus. Lots of walking and exploring under saddle. Training sessions in the trot and canter were short and focused on one concept. If it went great we quit on a good note. If it went bad we ended on something he knew how to do well so his confidence stayed high. Realizing if he didn’t get it, it was usually my fault not his! Some lunging every week to help explain concepts without me getting in the way. Poles and the occasional tiny jumps. Loads of work in hand to teach good manners.

  7. When I was working with the young horses, 2 and 3, we did a lot of ground work. I took them everywhere, taught them tricks, lunged, manners. I think we started the 3yo early spring and then gave them the summer off from a rider and then wen back in the winter? It’s been a while and it all kind of blends together now…

    I know you’ll do great with Annie though!

  8. Lots of exposure to everything you can expose her to… Easy rides and not expecting too much… Positive experiences if possible.

    I’m going through this with Grayson right now… He’s 2.5 so I’m not doing much in the saddle. He goes as many places as possible and get ponied which is a great tool too!

  9. It all depends on the horse. Some youngsters are so mentally and physically mature that I hop on when they’re two and a half and we’re doing dressage basics by the time they’re three (to put it into perspective, I’m about 100lb). Others are so babyish that I don’t even sit on them until they’re nearly four.
    When my own gelding was three, we were doing the basics in 15-minute sessions three times a week. One session a week was always groundwork, then usually a day in the arena and a short hack.

  10. OMG…think I missed the notice that your website changed and you bought a horse!!! Congrats…she is adorable!! I got Felix when he was 4, but he had about the same number of rides. We did lots of rope halter work (giving to pressure, moving off pressure), moving off leg on the ground by tapping stirrup (Felix is lazy), and instilling one rein halts for safety. My trainer warned me that jumping wouldn’t be more than cross rails until he was almost 5 ( she is big into letting their bodies develop). I have had tons of fun and a year later I feel like I am at the point where I can focus on my riding again cuz he is pretty solid.