Dr. E.E. Watson was a veterinarian of some repute for many years in the Midwest during the middle decades of the 20th Century. He not only treated racehorses, but he bred them, owned them, and trained them. One year in the late 1950s, he had a barn full of coughing, snotting, bucking 2-year-olds. He decided that he wouldn’t even break that year’s yearling crop; he’d wait and train them as 3-year-olds. Two years passed and you guessed it — he had a barn full of coughing, snotting, bucking 3-year-olds from the crop of yearlings he had decided to wait on. So much for patience and Mother Nature.

Jim Keefer was a favorite client for many years. He was given the job of training an 8-year-old mare which had been tied up in legal squabbles her entire life. When the litigation was completed, the happy owner fulfilled his dream of seeing his horse compete at the races. She did indeed, and the first time she raced, she bucked her shins.

This reminiscence is proffered now to present my reasoning in favor of 2-year-old training, racing, and sales. Equine research, little by little (and it has to be so because funding for our favorite quadruped is grossly neglected compared to food and companion animals), is giving us much-needed scientific information about training and developing the equine athlete. It’s telling us that exercising sooner is probably better than later; that a regular, steady regimen of exercise starting at about 16-18 months of age, following a life of at least some “roughing it,” will benefit that individual and possibly help it attain its potential as an athlete.

Easier said than done.

Obviously, we have all sorts of yearlings awaiting their preparation for racing — yearlings of all sizes, conformations, and attitudes. That’s where horsemanship comes in. The successful, life-long horseman does in fact have a sense about most horses he has in his care after a “break