Horse Training - What You Can Do With a Two or Three Year Old Horse

Man loading horse into stall in trailer
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What type of training can you do with a two or three-year-old horse? What should you train it and how much handling should it get used to? Here's an overview of what you can expect when training and handling a two and three-year-old.

Learning to Be Ridden

For many horses, this is the age at which a horse starts learning to be ridden or driven. By now, it should have good ground manners, stand for the farrier and load on a trailer. It should be able to spend some time alone and be respectful of other horses. With all this in place, it may be time to slowly train a two-year-old to learn to hold a bit and carry a saddle. While some trainers believe it is acceptable to work a two-year-old under saddle, many believe that riding is best put off until the horse is more mature. Many wait until a horse is up to four or five years old to begin training under saddle. During this time the horse is still growing although they may be approaching their full height.


A two-year-old's joints will still be maturing and susceptible to overwork. While the skeletal maturity of the bones in the knees is considered a sign of physical maturity, it's worth considering that the musculoskeletal system throughout their bodies mature at different rates. While legs may be ready, hip and back may not. The horse owner ultimately decides how old a horse is before it goes to work.

Thoroughbred racehorses run as two-year-olds whereas other breeds like the Icelandic Horse are traditionally left until they are five or more years old. There is less chance of making a mistake by waiting longer, than starting too soon.


Two is also the age at which horses are beginning to mature sexually although this varies between individuals. At two (or younger) a young stallion may be capable of breeding mares resulting in unplanned foals. If it hasn't been done before this point, young stallions may be gelded. Mares too are sexually mature somewhere between their first and third year, depending on their environment. Keep un-gelded colts and young mares apart.

Mares and stallions should have to prove their worth before they are considered as breeding stock. Breeding stock should be carefully chosen for outstanding conformation, performance, temperament, and absence of hereditary diseases in their bloodline. The future of offspring also needs to be carefully thought out. Having foals for the sake of having foals, or because no one noticed an un-gelded colt pasture breeding mares ensures a good supply of unwanted horses. At two or three-years-old, few horses have proved they are worth breeding.

A two-year-old should have excellent ground manners, including loading onto a trailer, whether the next step to riding or driving will be taken sooner or later. A two-year-old can be lunged, ground driven, round penned, driven hitched to a light vehicle, and at the owner's discretion, ridden. This is the age when they become a useful horse and learning how to carry a rider or pull a horse-drawn vehicle.