Training Young Horses: The Science behind the Benefits

Young man working with a young horse.
Young man working with a young horse. Carine06

Newsdate: Monday, May 10, 2021 - 11:35 am
Location: EAST LANSING, Michigan

Brian Nielsen, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Animal Science, Michigan State University has written a guest editorial for the current My Horse University newsletter discussing the science behind the benefits of such training.

Three horses - Young to older.

Three horses - Young to older

Most horse people care deeply for their animals and only want the best for them; however, there can be much disagreement about what that constitutes.
© 2014 by Dace Kirspile New window.

Dr. Neilsen states, "If you are willing to be open-minded and are truly interested in what is best for horses, I would suggest clicking on the link below and reading the article to which it takes you."

Training Young Horses: The Science Behind the Benefits

"My Ph.D. student, Alyssa Logan, and I just published this review article about this topic in the journal Animals. Unlike a lot of scientific articles that are not available to the general public without paying to read it, we opted to make this one “Open Access” so it can be read for free. This review article cites 65 other papers on the topic.

In brief, some major points of the review:

  • Tissues can adapt to exercise greatest while immature and still growing. Once mature, many tissues lose that ability.
  • Confining animals and not allowing any sprinting to occur is detrimental to overall tissue strength.
  • Masking pain through medication (such as corticosteroids) to allow an animal to continue to exercise does not cure the problem. It often simply hides the problem and allows the animal to damage the tissue further.

Most horse people care deeply for their animals and only want the best for them. However, there can be much disagreement about what that constitutes. One item that draws deep passion and division is whether it is acceptable to start training horses while they are young and still growing – or whether one should wait until they are fully mature.

Having made a career out of trying to improve the lives of horses and having a research program that focuses on injury prevention by studying how bone and cartilage respond to growth, nutrition, and mechanical loading, the science is very clear. Researchers who work in this area from all over the world tend to agree. These tissues (and tendon would be included also) have much greater ability to adapt while young and have the capacity to adapt. Once mature, they lose that ability.

Dr. Neilson's article continues with many more details. For those not interested in reading the article published in Animals, click HERE to read his article in the My Horse University Newsletter.


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