Showing

Futurity Foresight, Part 1

Is your 2-year-old performance prospect really ready for the big time?

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Your 2-year-old futurity prospect has been under saddle for a few months now, and he’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Already, visions of him winning that big check are flitting through your mind.

But, is he really mature enough to compete in the fall futurities?

Maybe not, says AQHA Professional Horseman Dave Dellin, who trains western pleasure prospects in Purcell, Oklahoma.

Horses mature at different rates – some are fast-track and mature quickly, while others don’t come into themselves until they are 3-or-4-years old, which is why it’s prudent for owners to be realistic about their youngsters.

Starting Prospects
Dave starts his futurity prospects as long yearlings shortly after the AQHA World Championship Show.

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“A lot of people panic and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, you’re riding them even before the first of the year,’” says Dave. “But what we do with a lot of those horses is a lot of ground work. We teach them how to move their front end and their hips, and we teach them how to back up on the ground. We also get them to where they longe really, really good. All of this is done before we ever get on them.”

When it comes to getting on board, Dave does not do so until after the first of the year. But once started under saddle, even the youngest 2-year-olds are worked five to six days a week.

“I used to ride these horses only three to four times a week because I felt like that would be better on preventing lameness and other problems,” Dave says. “But what I have personally found is I have a lot better success on lameness and keeping these horses sound and healthy if they are actively being worked every day.”

Dave compares it to training a sports competitor.

“Horses are athletes, and training them is similar to a football or basketball player in training,” he says. “If they become acclimated to using their muscle groups the same way day in and day out, then they have a better response to training and will not get as sore.

“It’s just like a football player going on two-a-days, twice a week. The next day after he does a really hard workout, he’s going to be very, very sore. But if he does that five or six days a week, then that athlete will get acclimated to his muscles doing those kind of things; his ligaments and tendons will strengthen and will remain strong and sound throughout.”

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Show Preparation
As the futurity gets closer, Dave might ride his horses as much as two or three times a day. He says this helps with a youngster’s short attention span.

“I like to do two to three sessions a day of 15 to 30 minutes as the horse gets closer to the show pen,” he says. “Not only does that help me teach them more in shorter time, but it also really helps those horses get used to being shown.

“When a horse is shown, we’ll ride him early in the morning to get him used to the show environment. Then if he shows early in the afternoon, we’ll ride him again about midmorning or at least longe him to make sure he’s not too fresh. And then he’ll be ridden again in the show. That’s three times in one day. We want the horse accustomed to that.”

Check back next week for more of Dave Dellin's advice on showing 2-year-old prospects!