January 11, 2023

When to Start Disco

As we come up on Disco's second birthday and I learn more about his personality and learning style, a plan for the next 18 months is starting to coalesce in my head.

Yes, I do know what they say about plans and horses


He's an interesting one. He's bold, smart, confident and self-possessed. He's not afraid of ANYTHING. His most accessible emotion when asked to do something he doesn't want to do is is indignation, and it has been that way since the moment he hit the ground.


Literally came out of his mom asking what the world could do for Disco, not what Disco could do for the world

That indignation makes me nervous because it feels like it could easily translate into anger, but Kate nailed it last summer when she said if I can find a way to channel that fire for good and not for evil, to convince him to work with me instead of against me, that emotion will also drive a lot of sparkle and passion in the show ring.

Who could forget him going to every human in the field begging them to take that stupid thing off his face the first time he was haltered?

In feeling this out, I've taken a fairly conservative approach to training him so far, and he's been pretty bored as a result. Compliant, but bored, and I haven't found anything that he finds particularly fun or exciting yet. That is, until I started to push the envelope a bit.


The day of the photo above, I put him in the crossties, groomed him, put a saddle pad on him (new), put a surcingle on him (new), and tightened it as hard as I would a saddle (new). I also "lunged" him around me on his long lead rope (new-ish) and asked him not to turn into me on the circle (new). 

He LOVED it. Ears up and fully engaged the whole time. It was the happiest and most content and relaxed I'd ever seen him with any kind of work. Since then, I've started to raise my standards for him and he has met me there at every step of the way, eagerly embracing each new thing I throw at him.

Man his mane has grown so much since July

So with all of that in mind, my tentative plan is to back him in late autumn of this year, when he's two-and-a-half. Put maybe 5 rides on him in something bitless, probably just at a walk, then not ride him again over the winter, until he's three.

Everyone has a different opinion on when to start them, but here's my points for:

  1. He thrives on being challenged
  2. I want him to know that riding is A Thing while he's still young and impressionable, but I don't need to put a lot of rides or miles on him right out of the gate.
  3. I'm the size of a large child and will only put about 130lbs on his back with my weight and the saddle combined. 

So that's the tentative plan that I'll be working toward, although I'll be constantly re-evaluating as the summer goes along. The most difficult part of this plan?

Finding a saddle that comes in XXXXXW potato shape 😳


  1. Sounds like a great plan! Those frank baines balance saddles are pretty affordable especially if you can find a used one (and mine is a 8XW... so quite wide, fits a belgian X).

  2. Excellent plan! I'd be tempted to just borrow something in potato pony size - an old western saddle or treeless or something would even work for the first rides. He's going to change shape again next spring anyway. Also every time I think I should just get a grown up pony rather than a foal I look at how fast Disco grew up and realize imaginary foal will be grown up in no time!

  3. I think you've got great reasoning behind your plan. And if he loves the new so much, you're really going to have to work to find that new and keep his brain on. He's becoming such a lovely boy as he grows.

  4. I love your plan. I see no issue with working a horse- it's about quality and not overloading them.

  5. Okay you're going to hate this suggestion a lot but what about a total contact saddle?

    1. Have you met me, I love that suggestion. It's actually already on my list, and the "cons" list is "will I die if he gets silly and my saddle is a literal strip of leather?"

    2. Lol I was like "man I think I know of a kinda shapeless saddle that might work for this" and LO, Kate beat me to it.

  6. Speedy is also very familiar with Indignation. I'm not sure I've fully tapped into his fire, but one thing that I've noticed is really important with him is to acknowledge when he *tries* something (especially if it's something weird for him) and to let him find his own way through things. Sometimes this works (he is a pretty unique way of lining himself up at the mounting block, but does it very, very reliably!) and sometimes it's not quite the ticket (TOH a year-long work in progress at this point). But I have learned that insisting he is wrongwrongwrong when he's trying things out is a quick path to him being completely disengaged and ignoring me. I'm excited to see how Disco progresses with his learning since you are already thinking about his learning style and needs!

  7. That sounds like a great plan! I agree with that it sounds like you will have your hands full keeping it interesting for him.

  8. Solid plan! So exciting!!!
    I was able to find a used Custom Saddlery saddle for Shiny who is a similar build and it's been working great. Maybe for the early days you'd be okay with the Brockamp pad? It has a handle!