OK So I need to know if a "Classical" (as opposed to "show") dressage trainer would ever in any way think it is acceptable to work a 4 year old for 2 hours?? Whether it be in hand or under saddle or lunging or some combination.
I thought their attention spans were just too short to learn anything after around 45 minutes max???
I am not a dressage rider so I do not know.
The only way I would ever consider working a 4 year old for 2 hours is if I had been GRADUALLY increasing the horse's workload over 6 months or so. With the younger ones you have to build bone, tendons and get the muscles fit and the lungs "fit" before hard work can start in earnest. It is best if a lot of this work is outside the riding ring, and if you are fortunate to have hilly riding trails it is very good to do work (slow at first!) up and down the hills. Gradually lengthen the time of the rides as your horse gets fitter, little by little. You cannot get a horse truly fit for a 2 hour training session just by working on the lunge line. You have to get some miles on the horse!
It is not fair to the horse to work it for two hours straight unless these months of preparatory work preceed the trining session. The horse should be reasonably fit (not blowing from a trot up a long hill). It isn't just the attention span, an exhausted horse is much more likely to hurt himself and when the horse gets too tired it cannot learn lessons at all, all its brain power is devoted to staying vertical instead of collapsing.
MANY horsemen I've read on training emphasize that frequent short lessons teach a horse a lot more than a long lesson. They often recommend that you work a green horse twice a day for a shorter time period than once a day for a longer period.
But then many of these horsemen did not consider any horse fully trained unless it had been trained by a competent horseman for two years. They took their time. It did not matter if these riders were dressage, cavalry, or balanced seat. Only the Forward Seat trainers use less time, mainly because most of the horses they train are not headed toward the collection or international competition. But even they did not consider a horse truly fit until it had been ridden a full two years.
I follow classic dressage and have done modern dressage.
Everyone in every discipline and every form of horsemanship has a different opinion on how much work a young horse can handle. Classic dressage roots have most dressage horses entering saddle training at 6. In modern dressage, some higher level shows showcase 4 and 5 year olds. Everyone has a different opinion. From your question, I feel that you think this is wrong - if that's the case and this is your horse, either have a talk with your coach or get out of there!
I'm of the belief that young horses are still developing - mentally and physically. During this time I agree with light physical work in short sessions while their brain grows. Otherwise the risk is huge for ending up with burned out horses who hate work, or horses who break down before they reach their peak. This is a generalization; I'm sure many trainers have had success otherwise, that's just where I come from.
Two hours can be acceptable with breaks, but I can't see why it would be necessary for a 4 year old. There's no set time of how long they can pay attention, but think of them as kids in school - do they learn better with a lesson followed by recess, or hours of staring at the board? Every horse is different and will usually let you know when they've had enough through "bad" or resistant behavior. What's he/she saying to you?
As a general rule of thumb, green broke 3 year olds should be worked for about 15-20 mintes for 3x/week. As a 4 year old , 30minutes for 4x/week and as a 5 year old 45 to 60 minutes 5x /week. Working a 4 year old for 2 hours is ridiculous and a good way to make them sour and sore and they quickly learn to hate work.
I absolutely agree with Queenrider. 2 hours is FAR too long to work a 4yo. To over work them at such a young age is a good way to shorten their working life by years and to create a sour horse. A classical trainer would definitely work for short periods - if they try and do otherwise they cannot call themselves classical! No horse can absorb a 2 hour lesson. Short and sweet is the way forward, always ending on a positive note. As a young horse matures and gets stronger then lessons can be increased in duration incrementally. Even Grand Prix horses do not work for 2 hours at a stretch!
There is no reason to work a horse for that period of time. Hacking out at a walk, yes perhaps. But the horse needs breaks, work, walk, work, walk. I am a proponent of traditional training, about 30 minutes twice a day. Horse learns faster, gets actually more fit.
No- and completely not discipline related.
Just common sense as you already knew, Just needed validation.
As most people are commenting, 2 hours is a long time for a 4 year old to be worked, the only exception being a trail ride with other horses. Now, if the total of the 2 hours "working" is broken up, then maybe. By that, I mean 20-25 minutes lungeing. Coming back later and working them in hand, leading them to and from the barn, to the cross ties, learning to stand for another 30 minutes or so. That kind of thing. Then "maybe" later still in the day, taking them for a nice trail ride with friends. Other than that, the young mind and body just can't focus long enough without getting or finding trouble. lol
That would be like my asking my 19 month old son to focus on my reading to him, teaching the alphabet, numbers, colors, etc for an hour or more. He just can't mentally handle it, even though he's developmentally at the 2yr + stage. Kindergarten children can't handle focusing an hour. Asking a young horse, that doesn't even have all of his joints closed and the lack of physical capability of working that hard, is just not fair and is asking for trouble now and down the line.
Poor thing, goodness no. No more than maybe 10-20 minutes is what I would suggest, nevermind 2hrs or 45mins, that's just simply too much for a horse that young to handle!