Starting at an early age
I've noticed on many of the foaling threads that it is quite common place for breeders/foal owners to start training their foals very early on. Be it grooming or halter training.
As I left England when I was 15 I can't comment on practice there, however here in New Zealand it is more common to start training at a minimum of 3 months old. We don't tend to wean until 6 months old however on most threads breeders are weaning and selling at 4 months and the babies know EVERYTHING! It is brilliant! :D
I would just like to ask people's opions as I am expecting a foal out of my mare come November (it will be nice a summery here at the bottom of the world :-P). I see some amazing breeders on here doing wonderful jobs with their foals. This enclueds chucking a halter and lead on them, teaching them to tie up, rugging them etc etc and the foals seem no worse of for it at all! I would love to do this but at the same time is it not too much for their baby minds?
Thanks for reading this novel! Any input is appreciated! :-)
If this is in the wrong place I am sorry!
Everywhere that I have worked with breeding horses we leave them on their dam until they are 6-8 months depending on the mare. I personally like to leave them with the dam until she starts to kick them off unless they get to big to comfortably feed. This gives them the nutrition they need for as long as possible and, at least imo, gives them what they need to grow both physically and mentally.
I start working with the foals along side their mother...first going out once they have hit the ground and rubbing down the mother making sure the foal is stay back a bit watching and then rubbing the foal a bit. This is where it really helps that the mare is manageable. So often where I am at now they throw a stud out with mostly wild mares and then leave the foals out until they are a year, cut up, and half wild themselves.
When it is time to start halter braking them, usually shortly before weaning, I bring in the mare and ignore the foal at first. This allows the foal to see that the dam is relaxed about what is going on and that it is 'safe'. Once the mare has been completely groomed and the foal forgets that you are something new I approach the foal, give them a little rube down then rub them down with the rope before putting it around their neck. After getting the rope around the neck and twisted once between the loop and my hand I rub the face with the end of it to get them use to something touching their face. Just take it slow and easy. Then try a small halter that slips on quickly and off just as quick.
Some foals it is to much if done to fast but taking the time to slowly calmly show them a gentle hand usually results in easier training once they are old enough to saddle break.
Just work at the pace you feel most comfortable with that particular foal. I personally dont leave the halter on all day and night I let them out with their dam in a round pen for a short while and then remove it to turn them back out. So this is something you can do slowly over a period of time. I know one breeder around here who halters as soon as they hit the ground and leaves the halter on until it is to small, which I personally feel is more dangerous then trying to halter break a 2 year old.
Foals are just as intelligent and more curious then they will be when they are older...only difference is when they are older they know more so seem smarter...lol you can even just start with games and watch how they work there before seeing how far you want to take the training. Put a small exercise ball in the pen with them and see if they play or just ignore it kind of game things.
Good luck and hope to see foal pictures!!!
Thank you so much. I personally don't leave halters on my horses at all when they are turned out. Too much can go wrong. I don't think there would be any harm in popping a halter on bubs and walking it around with mum. But I will see how willing it is. My mare is the most manageable horse I've ever had but who knows? Once she pops out bubs she might become a nut-job :-P I will def start a foaling thread nearer the time. I've got 12 weeks left to go!
Also, could you show me how to pop photos on here?
I know a lot of folks who imprint train the foals. This means that the foal is born and they start rubbing it all over, put a halter on it within the first 24 hours, start to lead it with a butt rope and what not. They work on handing every part of that foal from the time its born. This in general makes less stress later on in the horses life. They become used to having things all over them and having people touch them. So, asking them to pick up a leg is not a big deal. You have also taught them that novel experiences are non-threatening because all your handling has been very positive/gentle.
Its based on the ideas forwarded by Dr. Robert Miller and equine veterinarian. The idea is that young foals learn really fast because they are precocious species. That they learn a lot ie what is and is not normal within the first 24 hours of life. If the foal is born and 20 minutes later is able to stand and in the wild is then able to evade a predator with the herd at 3 hours old (basic survival skills) then why can't it learn that people can touch you all over and to wear a halter (basic survival skills in the human jungle). At that young age, they are still learning within the first few hours what to be afraid of and what not to. You are just teaching them that whatever you do is not something to be afraid of. You do this with the mare present.
I have worked with a number of foals that were imprint trained and they retain their good manners. Its not that you can't leave them to run about for 2 years but the process of halter breaking a 2 year old can be really stressful and dangerous. Imprint training tries to avoid that stress and danger.
We usually wean at 5 months (and try to go by the farmer's almanac, old habit picked up from my grandfather that picked it up from his grandfather) but they have all of the necessary skills and handling long before that point. It's much easier to handle them right from the start but there is also a fine line between just right and too much. Foals here are halter broke, learn to tie, be touched all over (including sheath & udders), stand for the farrier, bathe and general manners prior to weaning. If they are to be shown as weanlings they also learn to trailer load, desensitized to clippers & sprays (fly spray & aerosol pepi type sprays).
I am all for imprinting and basic skills but they also need to learn to be a horse. Anything done needs to be in small amounts with consideration taken that at that age they have the attention span of a gnat and anything in length will just overwhelm & frustrate. Too much will create a spoiled, pushy brat down the road. I've dealt with plenty of them too, I'd much rather get one in that has no handling than over handled.
I have raised foals w/o early imprinting (first 24 hours) and with doing it. All I can say is if you have the time, that imprinting is about the sweetest gift you can give a horse.
I picked up feet, put a halter on, lead them, rubbed them all over, put a blanket on their back.. everything and anything (including taking a belt and putting it on them where the girth would go) and so forth. The imprint trained foals were great with the blacksmith and all the rest as they grew up.. removed most of the reasons that some of the business of training can become a live rodeo.
That first 24 hours is really critical. There was a book on it.. that I bought. It was awhile back.
I bought a foal in utero, and I really like my breeder's way of going about it. The mares foals out in the field, and are then brought into the foaling stall where they stay until after foaling heat. During this time the foal gets used to humans, the sounds, and being in a stall. Then after foaling heat, they get their butts kicked out to field where they stay for the next 4 months(if the mare caught on foaling heat, that is). Then the mare and foal are brought in, and only the mare is kicked out. For the next two weeks, my breeder handles the babies, gets them on complete solid feed, halter breaks them and teaches them to lead. She also gives them a bath, and trailer trains them. My baby was hauled to go get his coggins at 4 months old, which made loading him to go home just a tad bit easier.
My baby is like a sponge, he learns so quickly. I can walk up to him in the field, grab him and tie him up to the tree. I brush him down, feel him all over, and get him used to everything. He stands there perfectly without any fuss. I've bathed him again, which he absolutely loved. I can toss a lead rope all over him and he doesn't bat an eye. Right now, we're working on picking up his feet. This, he isn't so much a fan of. He calms down quickly, though. At a little over 4 months, he's having his first farrier visit today! Pictures to definitely remember the, ahem, special occasion. :lol:
Imprit Training the Foal by Robert Miller DVM, I think is what it's called.
I agree with MHF, baby training is a great idea in small doses, but don't overdo it. A few small (5 minute) sessions a day are much better than a15-20 minute session. After you've worked with a baby for a while, its attention span will start to get longer, and your sessions can get longer.
When we raised babies, they were born on a rough pasture. We did very little handling until weaning. When they came ro the house, I would start out by sitting in their pen while they ate. Then I'd get them halter broke and get them used to foot handling, bathing, clipping, blanketing, loading, and ponying. I would also set out some trail courses to lead them through. And just because I once owned a horse thatis HATED yellow slickers, I got them all used to those, as well.
I guess the point of all that rambling is to get your baby used to as many things that it will encounter later as you can. Example -I ride through town a lot, so when they gained confidence with new things I would pony them through town. When it was time to start eiding through town, it was no big deal.
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I do not like imprinting foals per say but I do handle them in the first couple of days. This includes actually picking them up - if they are not to big or certainly containing them in my arms so they are unable to move.
The reason for this is that it imprints on their brain that I am stronger than they are!
I will teach them to lead (with a butt rope) and have their feet handled.
I do not worry if they do not get handled every day, but just that they accept it. Then they can be left alone for several months and will not have forgotten early lessons.
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