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POLL: We Ask The Industry – Should There Be 2-Year-Old Classes?

Should we be showing two-year-olds? That question has always been a hot-button issue in our industry. NRHA, NCHA, and NRCHA don’t offer classes until the horse’s three-year-old year and the hunter circuit often waits even longer.

From a breeder’s perspective, having to wait until a horse is three, adding another year of expenses until seeing a return on your investment, can be very cost prohibitive. However, others will argue that the longevity of the animal is negatively impacted by starting them too young.

The late Cecilia Hylton, as an example, was a pioneering advocate and sponsor of several maiden three-year-old classes because she believed it was better to wait until the horses matured. But, many believe the two-year-old classes are an instrumental part of our industry and that the truly great ones were always ready to show their two-year-old year. They were simply stronger and better minded and that is an important part of why they became legends.

We asked top individuals in our industry their thoughts on this topic and, like all controversial issues, the opinions vary greatly. Let us know where you stand by voting in our poll at the end of the article and giving us your thoughts in the comments.

Kristen Galyean – Absolutely. The 2-year-old class, to me, is the foundation of everything we do. The great ones are physically mature enough and mentally mature enough. In my opinion, the best horses make great two-year-olds. It separates the great ones. The greatest pleasure horses all made great two-year-olds, simply because they were physically and mentally elite. Taking the two-year-old classes away is just trying to level the playing field again. I’m firmly against it.

Meghan Tierney – I do think two-year-old offering classes is a beneficial option. However, adding just as much incentive to the three and now 4-year-old classes is of the utmost importance. Some horses are genuinely ready and strong enough to show in the latter part of their 2-year-old year, so to offer the option is great. But, that isn’t the case for many horses, and I think normalizing holding a horse back until they are ready has become a priority in recent years.

As someone who offers a three and over maiden futurity class, I want to be clear that my intention is not to erase 2-year-old classes, but to offer other options. It would be hypocritical of me to say all horses are not ready to show that early, given my passion for the longe line. However, it’s on us, as horsemen, to recognize when one is prepared and able to perform and always put the horse’s best interest above all else – even if that means letting one go back out to pasture because it’s not going to be ready that particular year. Like I say, it’s about what you can do for the horse, not what the horse can do for you.

Brenda Gower – I’m not a huge fan of two-year-old classes, personally. I think three is young enough to start showing them. I think this helps with their soundness as they grow older. Again, just my opinion. I’m certainly not an expert on this subject.


Debbi Trubee
– Yes, but I think they should all be in the fall.






Joe O’Gorman – I think with the move to the all-around horse being more in demand,  emphasis should move from 2-year-old to 3 and 4-year-old futurities. It would give the late bloomers time to grow up and not get passed over. It would allow the horses more time to mature physically and mentally. It is leading to longer show careers in other events.



Stacy Lane – That’s a tricky question. I think the 2’s are fine for certain horses but not all make 2’s. Unfortunately, we rely on people within our industry to make the decisions themselves.

I think most knowledgeable trainers take each horse as an individual and base their decision on that horse’s talent and if they’re strong enough to be a 2. We can also feel pressure from an owner to make a horse at 2.

I know that if it works and it’s easy for them, I’m in. If not, there are enough maiden and novice events that the horse doesn’t get behind and has options. I had six 2-year-old hunt seaters last year, and only one got shown. The others weren’t quite ready, and we are aiming for the maiden and novice events.

Tali Terlizzi – Well, I think it takes a special horse to be ready to show as a 2-year-old, truly. It doesn’t bother me, like some people, that we offer those 2-year-old classes. Some of my favorite rides and memories are from showing 2-year-olds. But, since there is so much more money offered in the 3s now, we’ve unfortunately seen a decrease in numbers in the 2-year-old events. If they do away with the 2-year-old events, we should be offering more 4-year-old events, and many shows are starting to do that.

Katy Jo Zuidema – I have said for years that we should put the emphasis on the 3-year-old stuff and add 4-year-old classes. At the same time, I acknowledge that I have done the majority of my winning in the 2-year-old stuff. But, now that there is so much more money in the novice/maiden 3-year-old stuff, it’s easier to do what my gut has always told me. I think the first 2-year-old classes should be in October, between WEC and The Congress and the World Show, that should be plenty. 

Adrienne Dickerson – I think it should be offered, but I do think it’s a dying trend and for a good reason. If one’s strong enough to make a 2, that’s wonderful, but most don’t. So, it’s nice to see the industry recognizing this and offering more maiden or 3 & over classes for large prize money.


Joe Mizzi – Yes, we should have two-year-old classes. The density of bones, especially cannon bones, in young horses increases by working them. However, we should not have separate payouts for limited riders in two-year-old classes. A less experienced trainer might not recognize when they should back off the training of a two-year-old. And the temptation of trying to make a name for themselves by winning a lot of money in a two-year-old futurity event for limited riders is a conflict of interest.

Austin Gooding – I think we should have 2-year-old classes, but the first time they should show is at The Championship Show in Ocala, the Congress, then the Quarter World. Some 2-year-olds are big and strong enough to get ready reasonably easily by fall, and we should still give those horses an avenue to show. All 2-year-old classes before those shows should turn into 3-year-old classes, and all 3-year-old classes should move to a 4-year-old division, then making the maturity classes 5-year-old and older.


Ceralena Gray – That’s a very hot topic! Yes, I think the two-year-old classes should be offered. I also believe there should not be a stigma on “well, there was only so many or they weren’t that broke.” We are fortunate enough to have many two-year-olds in our program yearly. Many of them do not make 2s, but they make excellent 3s. Once in a while, we have one mature and built well enough to make an excellent 2. I’d love to have a place to show it.

I would love to see the two-year-old classes pushed towards the end of the year, though. It would give them time to mature and take the pressure off these young horses so early. Just because one is great-legged and minded, doesn’t mean we should have to push them to show over the summer.  Not saying there aren’t horses that couldn’t do it earlier, but how much better would that same horse be if they had 3-6 months more to mature and get strong without the pressure to be a show horse?

Tami Thurston – Yes. I think we need to give trainers and owners enough credit to know when a 2-year-old can handle being shown early.  I’d say most of us learn early on, “if it doesn’t fit, you can’t force it.”  Young horses tell you in a pretty straightforward way if they are 2-year-old material or not.

However, I would say that it’d be nice if the shows gave them a break. I do think some of the demands put on the 2s can be excessive. At some of the bigger shows, a 2 can have to go as many as four trips around the pen. That’s a lot for even the strongest and smartest horses. And it would be lovely to not have to walk a young horse past bounce houses and rowdy bars in the dark when preparing to show. I know “it is what it is” but a girl can dream right?


Let us know where you stand on this hot topic by voting in our poll and giving us your thoughts in the comments.

Should the show horse industry have two-year-old classes?

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