Working with a foal
If you get a foal, how often do you have to work with it? If it is on 24/7 turnout and you can only work with him 2-3 days over a weekend, is that enough? When does the heavier training begin? At what age would you send a horse to be with a trainer, if that was the path that was decided upon.
How old of a baby are we talking about?
I would warn against over-handling a horse as it can create a horse that is unresponsive and kind of dull, it's good to let them be horses and just grow up. A baby that learns the basics will usually remember them and there usually isn't a need to reinforce basics that often if they're taught well in the first place.
Also, what kind of training? To start it or to put it in finishing training?
onetoomany....good questions. And I honestly don't have any answers because it was a hypothetical question. I know nothing about foals or training, and I am not about to go do it any time soon. I was just wondering more about the progression of a foals growing and learning, and how much attention they needed, once weaned.
There is no 'have to' as far as time you put in. You can put in a day a month, if that's all you have & you'll get there... eventually. The more time you have to put in, the quicker you can get things established. The more regularly you can do it the easier it is to get things solid & reliable.
As a hoof care practitioner, the more I study, the more convinced I am of the utter importance of lots of regular exercise for horses, starting as early as possible tho. 24/7 turn out is a great start, but in conventional horse properties, horses have ample food & water available in close proximity, so tend to be rather sedentary. Ensuring they at least have company to play with & taking them out to exercise as much as possible is great for helping them develop strong, sound bodies & hooves.
For horses of any age, especially those learning lots of new stuff, short, positive sessions are best - anything from 30 seconds to perhaps 10 minutes, depending on what you're wanting to teach & how the horse responds. This doesn't mean that's it for the day or the hour even tho. There's no reason you can't have 1 minute 'on', with 1 minute breaks in between. So in 2-3 days, you could potentially have hundreds of sessions.
Assuming the foal knew nothing, I would concentrate first & foremost with getting him accustomed to me & my 'toys'. Get him used to feeling ropes around him, in a non-confrontational way. Get him used to wearing a halter & yielding to pressure on the lead, pressure from me. Desensitise him to other toys, tools, etc.
After you've taught the foal to yield well to pressure & he's reliable, then you can teach him to tie if you wish. **If you're going to teach a foal to tie up, do not just tie him by the head, but use a rope around his butt or belly as well, so if he fights & pulls back, the pressure isn't just concentrated on his delicate neck. I don't think it's safe to tie a horse solid until he's reliably 'tying' on a yielding rope - see Parelli's method, or equipment like 'The Clip' or 'Blocker Tie Ring' for safe eg.
Once you've taught the horse to respond to your control & be comfortable with it's surrounds, teaching it to pick up it's hooves, allow touching everywhere, allow you to play with it's mouth, nose & ears, syringe apple sauce or some such in it's mouth.... all those things that are necessary for stress free management, hoofcare, vet care should be done ASAP. As foals can develop hoof pathologies in conventional domestic settings by only a few months old, it's imperative to be able to provide good regualr hoofcare ASAP. If you have a float/trailer handy, I'd be teaching the horse early to be comfortable in there too, in case you want to(or have to in emergency) take him somewhere.
Basically everything else that the foal will need to know in life can be started early. The more you do when they're young, the easier & more reliable & confident they'll be when it comes time to 'start' them. Because effectively, you have already started them, aside from weight bearing & the likes. I like to take young horses anywhere & everywhere, as well as teaching them at home, so they get accustomed with different environments, different experiences, sights, sounds, etc.
As I work with young horses in the above manner, there's no real big event of 'breaking' the horse, nothing big for it to have to have intensive training for at age x. While I will often lie accross the back of a 2yo, and often take short walks, sometimes trots on him, depending on the horse & his development, I do not agree with aiming for prizes in futurities or the likes, but rather wait until the horse is 3, 4 or 5yo(depending on type/physical maturity) to do much at all under saddle, because I want the horse to be pain free & not put unhealthy stress on his still growing body.
Anyway, that's my ...$2 worth! Hope it's of some help!
thanks so much for that informative post. I wasn't really sure what the responsibilities would be for training. Obviously it is not an easy course, but it seems pretty much to follow common sense.
I recognize that horses are smart animals and will not be as easy to train as my cats. (Though I had potty trained one of my cats. He goes in the toilet, but can't flush. I thought it would be funny.)
I disagree totally that lots of handling creates unresponsive, dull horses. If it's done right, it will create a confident, highly responsive, sensitive and respectful horse, but done badly, even if there's been little handling, you will get bad results.
I do agree that *if something is well taught* in the first place, no matter the age, that it will remember those lessons years later, so further training then may not need to start from scratch, but it does need to be reinforced again, how much depending on how solidly it was taught to begin with.
I have seen a lot of babies that haven't been allowed to be horses and those horses usually turn out a little dull. I happen to think that there is such a thing as over handling as it can just get plain boring for the baby; there is only so much you can do with a baby training wise and once a baby learns those lessons it can get frustrating for them to just to be taught the same thing over and over again. Usually this frustration results in the horse just begins tuning people out, and while this can happen at any age it is especially easy for it to happen in babies.
I agree with OneTooMany in a sense. If you keep teaching something over and over to a horse that always knows it it's goign to get boring. If you just handle the foal and be around it that is a very very good idea. Even hanging out with the foal (hand grazing her, walking her, petting, grooming) is a good idea.
It's just like you dont want to ride a horse in circles for an hour every lesson or always work on the same thing.
Only so much you can do with a baby?? Only restricted by imagination, I think. If teaching manners & responsiveness, desensitising to handling & scaries, float training, going out & about with them gets too repetitive(wish I had enough spare time to make that the case!), there's always trick training, ponying on trail rides, driving, going to shows, more things to desensitise to, more refined responses... And I still emphasis it's much to do with how you do stuff, rather than how much you do as to whether repetition is boring.
There ya go, Loosie said it better than me.
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