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Young Horses and Cutting

Learn the best age to start your horse in cutting.


I have a 2 1/2 year old Hollywood Dun It colt with old cutting blood in his background - top and bottom. I compete in cutting on an older Freckles Playboy gelding and someday will retire him. My goal is to put my colt in cutting training.

However, he is a pretty tall guy, and his growth has been phenomenal. He was very leggy for quite a while, and I didn't want to start him too early; I was afraid of blowing knees and hocks.  He is also a little immature in the head but really coming around. He is saddle broke. I have been on him and am doing a lot of bending and teaching him to move off of my leg with great success.

My question is, is he too old to put into cutting training? Have I missed his time? He will officially be 3 at the end of May 2011. He has filled out nicely and thickened in the leg, and I believe that he can handle it - not to mention he really needs a job. My trainer, a great one, who has done wonders for me in the cutting arena usually starts colts at 2.

I will appreciate any input you have to offer.



Hi Kelly,

Thanks for your question concerning your young prospect.  Your colt sounds like he is a lot of fun for you.  I am pleased that you have him started under saddle.  Exercise is a very important part of a horse’s growth and development.  Riding them gives you a reason to teach manners and other behavioral habits that will positively impact them as they mature.

Your colt’s relatives have mainly been directed toward reining rather than cutting. Hollywood Gold is a foundation cutting horse, but you don’t see many direct descendents of "Dun It" in the cutting pen.

Size is a factor in cutting.  The average cutter is 14.3 hands, and it is uncommon to see them over 15 hands.

Your concern about the health and welfare of your horse’s hocks and stifles is valid.  A veterinarian should be able to evaluate whether your colt is at risk for injury.  Of course, no one has a crystal ball to positively determine if a horse will be predisposed to the numerous physical problems that may arise.

The age of starting your colt on cattle is only a factor if you are striving toward the fall futurities.  We usually try to get the colts going early so they can be developed slowly and at a steady pace.  By following the usual method of consistent long-term training, there is less chance of having to increase the pressure in the days before showing as a long 3-year-old.

Above all, trust your trainer.  Most reputable trainers are a member of the AQHA or NCHA Professional Trainers Association.

May you have success,

-Al Dunning of