Training Young Foals - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 03-05-2009, 12:36 PM Thread Starter
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Training Young Foals

I'm probably going to be working at a stables with some of the foals and do the general ground work with them. These ones have not been imprinted however and most are very nervous of people. Could you give me some tips please on getting them to let me handle them. The smallest place I would have to work with them is an arena probably.

Foals I have imprinted were no problem and I have them haltering, leading, picking up their feet, grooming and so forth, so thats no problem but I haven't had too much experience with flighty foals. Since they are tiny I don't want them to hurt themselves either so any advice would be very much appreciated! - Thanks!
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post #2 of 8 Old 03-05-2009, 12:45 PM
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Don't worry about them hurting themselves, as much as being alpha horse.(As with any animal)

Just like a beast of any other type they can tell when you're nervous around them, it will make them more nervous and more flighty.

If you have spare time, I would go sit in the same area of them and read or sing, or even play the guitar (horses love it), they will warm up to you. Once they warm up to you, do as you would with any other foal.

Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.
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post #3 of 8 Old 03-05-2009, 01:07 PM
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My filly was born on the welsh hills and had no contact with humans before she was shut in a stable without her mum to wean her, and then herded in a trailer to come to me.

I turned her out in the field and wasn't entirely sure she'd let me near her again! First of all, as shmurmer4 said, as long as they haven't actually had any bad human experience, they'll be curious, so with my girl I just spent time in the field - shovelling manure, talking to the sheep next door, talking to the other horses, talking to her from a distance - moving slowly and thinking low energy the whole time, just so she got to know that I wasn't going to hurt her.

I then used advance and retreat - approach slowly, not directly towards her but in semi-circles, getting near her almost accidentally. Eyes down, shoulders slouched, not looking at her at all. If she moved away, I'd bring my shoulders up, look at her, walk with her, keeping the same distance between us. As soon as she stopped, I'd drop my shoulders, look away, take a step away. Reward her for standing still by taking the pressure off her. I'd then start the semi-circle approach again. Little by little I got closer until I could stand right next to her.

When it came to touching, I did the same thing - when I reached out a hand, if she moved away I moved with her, and when she stopped I stepped away.

I've had her two months now, and from a scared little thing I couldn't get anywhere near, she comes running to me in the field, I can put a headcollar on and off, lead her, groom her all over, pick her feet up, and take her for walks.
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post #4 of 8 Old 03-05-2009, 01:12 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks so much! I will do that with the foals I will be working with. None of them have had bad experiences, they just haven't been handled so I'm sure once they get to trust me it will work great.
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post #5 of 8 Old 03-05-2009, 01:34 PM
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Are they still with the dam or are they yearlings?

One thing I can tell you is to go easy. When they freak out, do not freak out yourself. Do your best to remain contant. If they spook don't you spook. Even in the middle of a panic attack, keep your voice level and calm like nothing is happening.
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post #6 of 8 Old 03-05-2009, 01:43 PM Thread Starter
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Some are yearlings, others are with their mothers. There is one foal that is totally flighty. If you even look at him he darts behind his mother. I think he would be the hardest. Others are wary but very curious at the same time. I do agree on keeping calm at all times.

I've worked with older horses that have had some trust issues and using a calm approach it has worked wonders but foals make me a bit nervous, just because the might panic if they get scared and I don't want them doing anything to injure themselves. But I would have their mothers there with most of them so that should help a lot I'm sure when they see their mothers aren't afraid.
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post #7 of 8 Old 03-05-2009, 02:28 PM
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Since they lack confidence a really good thing to do is to just go sit with them. Have them in the stall, arena, etc. and sit in a chair or on the ground and hang out. Don't try to get them to come over and if they do resist the urge to touch them. Let them be curious about you. Do this for 7 days in a row and you should see a big difference.

When you do work with them do a lot of confidence building exercises. Go slow and be very clear.
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post #8 of 8 Old 03-05-2009, 02:52 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the advice! Most of them really need to gain confidence in people so I'll definatly just let them get used to me before I try any training with them.
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