Watching foals grow is an amazing process. Throughout their first year, horses go through a lot of development and change. However, you may wonder, when do horses stop growing?
Understanding when a horse will stop growing will help you get a better idea of its dietary needs and physical capabilities. This will help you provide your horse with proper nutrition and know when they are ready to start working.
When Do Horses Stop Growing?
When horses are born, their legs can be up to 90% the length they will be as an adult. A foal will typically weigh around 10% of their mother’s weight. Within the first year of life, they will do the majority of their growing.
However, even though horses will have done a large portion of their growing by the time they are a yearling, they aren’t done yet. By the time a horse is four to five years old, they will have likely reached their final height and weight. However, larger breeds, like draft horses, may grow till the age of eight.
While horses are growing, it is vital to meet their dietary needs. A proper diet is important for growing horses in order for them to meet all their nutritional needs. As a weanling, a horse will typically eat 2.5% of its weight in forage and grain everyday in order to healthily grow.
Even though a horse may have reached their full height and weight by the age of four or five, their skeleton is still developing. For most horses, their skeleton structure won’t be complete till around age six. For larger horses, it will likely take longer than that.
There are growth plates throughout a horse’s body that eventually fuse and become bones as a horse ages. For example, vertebrae won’t experience fusion until a horse is around five or older.
Even if a horse is fully grown in size, it doesn’t mean they are done growing emotionally. Some horses may not reach emotional maturity till they are around seven. It may take them longer to process things and they may need more time to learn new skills.
What Age Is It Safe To Start Riding a Horse?
For most horses, it is safe to start them under saddle at the age of three or four. Some horses are ridden as young as two, but that can be risky for their development. Not only are some horses not physically ready at two, but they may not be mentally ready.
Before you start breaking your horse to be ridden, you should spend plenty of time prior doing the groundwork. Horses can begin groundwork at a younger age and it can be very beneficial. It teaches them respect, patience, confidence, as well as helping them develop muscles and stay fit.
All Grown Up
It is important to keep in mind that every horse is different. Some will stop growing sooner than others. Measurements should be taken on a monthly basis to help determine when they are fully grown.
It is always a good idea to consult your veterinarian to make sure your horse is receiving proper nutrition while growing. Most horses stop growing at four or five, but it varies by every individual. Time and patience are key with a growing horse, as they need time to physically and mentally mature.
Guest Post by Michael Dehaan.
Michael Dehaan is founder and editor in chief at Best Horse Rider. When he is not in his stable grooming his gentle mares and fierce stallions, he is riding across the fields and meadows near his home in Oklahoma. Michael has been working with horses all his life, acquiring rich experience and professional insights which he happily shares with other fellow equestrians.
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