And then what happens when he is too big to 'play'? People get hurt because the horse thinks he's a lab. 1000 pounds is a horse, not a dog.
As a yearling, they need manners - period. Too much fussing and futzing makes it difficult to train down the road. They don't understand the work ethic, they just want to coo and cuddle.
Our yearling loads, ponies on trail - including walking in water, stands tied, stands for grooming and hoof trimming, baths and will walk over the items we have out for trail training of our saddle horses.
I have never 'played' with her and she has done all of the above mentioned tasks without questioning. She has daily turnout with an 'uncle' gelding who has been putting manners on my colts for the last 15 years.
I expect manners and respect from all of my horses. Our vets and farrier very much appreciate them. Bottom line, she's a horse and I treat her like one.
I have to agree. I never got into the whole "game" thing with my filly. Honestly, I had to teach her that she was big enough to hurt me, so I treated her like a full grown horse on the ground. I never encouraged her to play with me. I wanted her to look at me as an older horse, like her dam, not like a play mate or another foal. It worked, she had a lot of respect.
I taught this stuff my filly's yearling year:
-Tying (without pulling back or panic)
-Leading (forward, back, yielding hind quarters, etc)
-Brush everywhere calmly
-Touching ears. Honestly I used to play with my filly's ears all the time to get her used to it. I could scratch them like you would a dogs.
-Pick up all 4 feet and clean them with a hoofpick (including "tapping" the sides with the hoofpick to get them used to tapping, in case they need shoes)
-If I had a trailer, I would have taught her to load and trailer calmly.
-Basics of lunging. (mostly for respect)
-Staying out of my space.
-Going for walks.
-Desensitizing to loud noises.
-Sacking out (blankets, bags, saddle, etc)
-Yielding head on the ground and basic bending
-Clippers (all over) including ears, feet, bridle path and nose.