Professionals Share Tips on How to Prepare Yearlings for Sale and Show.
by Barbara Aiken Jenkins
Photos by Debbi Trubee of North Farm
If you consider yourself a part of the horse industry at any level, most likely your social
media feeds were flooded this spring with new “baby” pictures of foals underneath captions
like, “So excited for this little one’s future!” and“Can’t wait to see what the future has in store
for this fancy colt!” What you might not be seeing flood your Facebook pages are the
foals of last spring; the yearlings. For them, the “future” has arrived.
Most competitive disciplines encourage young horses gearing for the show pen to be
started in training as late yearlings and early two-year-olds. However, owners who believe
their horses are show bound in their younger years generally have two choices. One, sell
their yearlings to buyers who are interested in placing the colts in training, or two, getting a
head start and showing the yearlings in longe line competition.
Top professionals in the industry who specialize in young horses, Debbi Trubee and Jon Barry, share their insights on how to successfully prepare yearlings for either sale or
Debbi Trubee, who owns and operates North Farm in North Lawrence, Ohio featuring top Western Pleasure stallions such as Lopin Lazy, Winnies Willy, and The Best Martini is considered one of the best in the industry when promoting top stallions’ offspring. Trubee believes that managing successful yearlings either for sale or for the show pen “starts when [the foal] hits the ground.” “Our babies start getting halter broke at two weeks old. I take pretty pictures of them too, showing them in a pretty light.”
North Farm’s Facebook page is brimming with classy, attractive photos of each foal, which
grants opportunities for easy marketing. If the foal is not bought as a weanling (North Farm
weans when the foal is six months old) the foal is turned out with other foals to learn natural
“horse manners.” In May of these foals’ yearling year, they are not considered “babies” any longer. They are in training to be professionals.
A day in the life of an average yearling at North Farm consists of eating in the morning with a diet fit for good growth, turn out from the stall, “a lot of brushing,” a workout, shower, and standing tied to learn the art of patience (an art every horse show person and horse knows is important!) followed by eating an evening meal.
“They really are mini professionals”, laughs Trubee. The yearlings’ workouts involve the show horse basics including ground manners and round pen lunging. “They are required to learn how to walk, trot, and lope to the left and the right,” states Trubee.
It is impossible for a yearling to have an extensive show record, so it is vital for buyers to
be able to see a well-behaved yearling that is healthy, pleasant, athletic, and have the skills to
be moved to the next stage in their career. Trubee does not believe that she is the reason
why her yearlings are sold to quality owners. “The [colts] sell themselves because they are
quality,” declares Trubee.
“We sell them as individuals at a fair price so buyers are able to take a chance that [the
yearling] is going to be a show horse.”
Like Trubee, trainer Jon Barry, who specializes in longe line yearlings in Advance, Missouri, has a philosophy geared toward the individual horse when preparing young horses for sale or the show pen. “We work on what is most natural and easy for the [horse],” states Barry. “We don’t tell them they have to be ready. When they’re ready, they will be competitive.”
Barry believes in working yearlings according to their physical and mental abilities when preparing them for the show pen. “Yearlings are still growing,” he stresses. “It’s important to understand the way they grow.”
Barry also emphases the importance of learning the optimum nutritional needs for each yearling. “Supplements, good hay, and good feed” will go a long way in preparing the yearling before it even enters the show pen.
As for training techniques, Barry stresses the biggest skill he teaches his horses, and practices himself, is patience. He believes that it is vital for a horse of any age, especially a young one, to build confidence instead of fear.
“Our horses learn to ‘take’ things and are taught to handle situations that they are placed in,”
Barry explains. “Before they ever leave the farm, they have blankets, and buckets rubbed on
them, long poles with plastic sacks waved at them and over their bodies.”
Barry admits that some young horses handle the de-spooking process better than others,
and vice versa, but only one goal remains during the entire training process—building
As for training a yearling to be competitive in the show pen as a lunge line horse, Barry
concludes success is based on three aspects— mental ability, physical ability, and consistency
“I want my yearlings to move in a natural gait at the walk, trot and lope both left and right that isn’t too fast or too slow,” allowing the horse to push forward in the desired cadence and rhythm in a riding class. While they are learning to consistently move correctly, Barry teaches the yearlings to read body language and, “listen to [his] voice” with the emphasis on stopping square when he commands “whoa.”
Whether you are already planning your 2017 foal’s future as they run circles in the pasture, or have a 2016 foal who is ready to become that “mini professional,” it is never too early to start mapping out what you believe is the best fit for your horse. If selling is the top choice, make sure that your colt has manners, is agreeable, and ready for a new owner. If you are
considering or already pursuing your yearling for the show pen this year, remember to build
The ultimate goal for any show horse regardless of age is to become a successful,
valued horse for the people who love the sport.