Backing a Horse


Hi!! I have a Friesian that is really a sweetie. He is 1year 4 months and already 16 hh. He is going to be really big when he is older and i don't know if I should let him be backed by a profesional or not since he has such a temper. Does a horse need to be backed or can he just be ridden if he is old enough? (and safe enough! :) )


Fresians can be big, strong boys as youngsters and the challenge of getting them started can seem a bit daunting.
I don't like to get onto any horse's back until I am happy that they are strong enough to handle it. Neither do I like to work young horses on the lunge too much. Fresians, like Warmbloods, take time to mature and become physically ready to carry a rider, however there are a multitude of groundwork exercises that you can do with your horse to prepare him for his adult working life that will not tax his body beyond what it can handle. At such a young age, mental training takes priority, and if that is done well, the physical training becomes much easier.
I start all my horses on the lead - they need to be able to lead properly, including walking, trots, halt and rein back. They need to understand the concept of working shoulder to shoulder (theirs to mine) which is also the foundation of lunging that will come later in their training. I also like to teach them to move away from pressure. Teaching a youngster to stand quietly, be handled and accept what a human is doing is something that is often overlooked but vital! Getting them used to bright colours, dogs, people, traffic and so on is something that can be done from the ground too. Practise getting in and out of a horsebox if you have access to one (you don't have to go anywhere, just get him used to the idea of getting in and out).
I would also investigate Parelli horsemanship - this involves a number of 'games', each of which targets a specific training principle. (Go to You could try clicker training or natural horsemanship which also has a number of skills to master without actually sitting on his back.
Now is the time that you should be working on obedience, partnership and trust - all of that means that his physical size should in no way be a problem when it finally comes time to start him under saddle, as the trust and respect will be there already!
Personally, I do not like to even get on a horse's back until he is at least 4 years old, although some people will back a horse at 3. He has 20 years of ridden work ahead of him (at least) so waiting for his body to be ready is a small price to pay if it means he is going to be pain free, sound and a pleasure to ride in years to come. Fresians tend to have long backs, especially the big boys, and I have often seen Fresians that were ridden hard too early - once they hit 12 or 15, their backs become hollow, or they have become unsound.
Whether or not you should have your horse backed by a professional is a personal choice, but a very important one. The rest of your horse's riding future is quite literally in your hands, so if you are going to do it yourself, I would be very sure that you know exactly what you are doing, what your plans are for him and how you aim to achieve your riding goals once he is backed. I would still enlist the help of a qualified person, like an instructor, because there is always the chance that things could start badly, and if you are not prepared for the problems that arise, it could spoil him or you could get hurt. If you decide to send him to a professional, do your homework carefully - visit the trainer, watch them work with horses, chat to as many people as you can and make sure that you are sending him to somebody that knows what they are doing.
Good luck, and enjoy your horse!

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