Should Five Year Olds be Included in the Junior Horse Division?

The poll question for this week is whether or not 5 year old should be included in the Junior Horse Division? Since there have been a couple of comments already I thought I would put up the question “up front” in its own post.

The comment made are as follows:

Mine (answer) is Yes… partially, what is the harm? Other than potentially one more class to the roster if shows wanted to divide the ages (such as NY Morgan offers, 3yo, 4yo EP, WP & HP). For many of us, particularly in the cooler/snowy climates, if one does not have an indoor arena, training slows to a painful crawl over the winter :) I’d love to have one more year as an option to show in a snaffle/bosal in WP, or feel like my baby HP horse might be forgiven a few steps of trot getting into the canter, etc. I’m curious as to what folks think a down side would be?


I see your point, although it had never occurred to me before. I don’t see a downside, other than where do you draw the line? An older, more experienced horse is just that. The playing field will never be perfectly flat. If we have 2,3,4,and 5 year old performance classes, will we then need 6 year old classes because the 7 year olds are more experienced than the 6 year olds? Maybe where I’m really going with this is…. I don’t think that it’s possible to create a level playing field in a sport that is judged subjectively. Someday your and my horses will be the older, more experienced ones after a few (or maybe several) years of baby mistakes. With any luck, good things will come to those who wait. I’m still waiting (and gaining experience) and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I was a kid my father told me that every time I fell off it made me a better rider. Now I believe that every time I go through the in gate makes me more competitive.

My personal thoughts on this tend to lean toward the “where do you draw the line” train of thought. I suppose it would give people more of an option if their horse is a “late bloomer” but I think it would give an unfair advantage to the 5 year old vs. the 2 or 3 year old. If people would always play fair then it wouldn’t be a problem. However, you know there will be mature 5 year olds showing against the younger horses just for the ribbon.

What do others think?

8 Responses to Should Five Year Olds be Included in the Junior Horse Division?

  1. KarenL says:

    As a rule, I’m not usually a “well, they’re doing it…” school of thought, but I know that Arabs & Qh at least call 5yo a junior horse. While I understand the where to draw the line argument, if we’re going to go that route, we could probably make most of the regional championship shows 2 days (if we take out novice, limit, maiden, over 15h, under 15h, mare, gelding, stallion, not to mention the rider cuts :). As well, just because a class exists on the books doesn’t mean a show is required to host it.

  2. Alicia says:

    I think I am somewhere in the middle on this argument. I fully, strongly, ABSOLUTELY think western horses should be considered Junior age until 5, as they must show in a curb after they age out. I also think that rather than extend the “Junior” age for all of the divisions across the board, they could simply limit the “Novice” horse classes to horses in their first two years of showing in that division, regardless of age. Some horses seem to be “novice” forever and those classes often seem largely overrun with the same horses year after year, who, although they may not WIN that blue ribbon, consistently place in the top 4 for many seasons. They aren’t novice as much as good individuals rather than great individuals. Just a thought.

  3. Merlcann08 says:

    I think it makes sense since the skeletal system of the horse is not fully mature until 6 or even 7. And it is the vertebra that mature last. It might give trainers the opportunity to go slower with horses and create healthier mounts for the long term.

  4. ChillyOne says:

    What I’d really like to see is the option of snaffle/martingales for the jr english horses. Like Alicia posted above, wearing a curb takes a certain amount of training – it’s a bit for the advanced horse. Heck, if you look at dressage, it’s not till the upper levels that curbs are even allowed.

  5. Alicia says:

    Love that idea! Martingales and snaffles are a trainer’s friend- I would love to be able to show my three year olds in them! I also agree with Merlcanno… I know I would not be getting on late two year olds if th junior division were extended by a year. A lot of the pressure placed on young horses has to do with getting them to peak their 4 year old season. Combine that with the use of snaffles and martingales, and we won’t as many burned out 7 year old show horses.

  6. Mocha Mom says:

    I like what I’m seeing here, excellent reasons for extending the junior division to include 5 year olds, with reasons that would never have occurred to me. As an amateur owner, of course I want my horse trained and winning ASAP, however, I also want a horse with longevity. If we are doing more harm than good to my horses with the current rules, then I’m in favor of a rule change that includes 5 year olds in the junior division, if that’s what it takes. However, I wonder if it might not be better to allow which ever equipment is best suited to the horse, no matter what the age. Why must western horses aspire to a curb bit? Why are hunters shown with a martingale, but saddleseat horses are not, even though they are used extensively in training? These are not rhetorical questions. I would really like to know.

    As for the Novice Division, I’ll admit that I have not yet given it a lot of thought, but perhaps it should be changed to the Novice (or Maiden or Limit) exhibitor, rather than the horse???

    Is anyone willing to write a proposal to submit to the AMHA Rules Committee?

  7. Alicia says:

    Just to clarify something… I don’t think there are any hunter on the flat classes that allow for the use of a martingale regardless of the age of the horse. You may be thinking of a breastplate that it used aesthetically on a hunter much as it is used on a western horse, but has no bearing on the bridle whatsoever. I am fairly certain that tactual martingales are allowed in over fences classes, and that would be because you need that leverage from time to time to help your horse balance between fences. I do think that horses that are properly built through the neck and poll should finish out in a curb bit, bit I think that training generally takes years to attain, and I think it also leads to fussy five year olds. For what it’s worth, I rarely show even my finished hunter horses in much more than a snaffle, and I have had many judges greatly reward that.

  8. Mocha Mom says:

    Yep Alicia, you’re right. Thank you for pointing that out. Can you tell that I’ve never shown either hunt seat or western? There is just so much I don’t know!! With the education I’m getting here, perhaps I can make a more rational choice on the poll question.

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