Training Young Foal
I have a foal that is a week old. I have been working with him and have put a halter on him but had to catch him to do so. We have walked around some with a butt rope but he is still very scared and has started kicking at me (even when we are not training).
He is usually very scared starting out and I put one hand in front of him and hold his tail. Then walk him around, rub him all over and on his feet. Then I get him still before I release him.
We have only trained 3 times (I started on day 3) and I am wondering if I have started too early.
Should I back off for a while on continue?
What should I do about his kicking, he did get me in the thigh today (I have a good bruise). Any ideas on how to handle his kicking.
A few questions...
When you say you've "trained" 3 times, does that mean you've only gone out to see/play/handle/work with him 3 times in total? Or are you only talking about the leading part?
How often are you able to spend time with him? Is he boarded somewhere or in your backyard?
What are you doing when he kicks out at you? Touching him? Walking around him? Or is it totally random?
My personal opinion, you've started a little late. If you have a safe pen to have him and the dam in, put them in there and leave the halter on until he no longer has any fear of you, THEN work on putting it on and off him.
I've done the butt rope method to teach to lead before, and I've done the "old timer" method of putting his lead around the horn while riding the dam. Both worked, but I prefer the latter. They caught on fast and got nowhere if they fought back. I'm not a big person and a week old foal is actually pretty strong! Then I upgraded to leading by hand beside the dam, then eventually on their own. Just my personal experience, not trying to tell you how to do it. Most foals want to follow mummy around anyway so adding the physical aid of a halter and lead seemed to make things go smoother than trying to wrestle 300lbs of baby 2 steps away from mummy!
Definitely keep us updated though!
When you lead him, lead his mother and he will follow. Don't try to lead him away from momma, because that is very scary for a week old baby, especially if he is not okay with you yet. You have plenty of time. Work on getting him comfortable with you first before you start all the contraptions and pulling and pushing and all that. You have plenty of time. If he associates you with something good (like scratches), then he will want to be with you. He will like you, as you will be of use to him. If you make it so that he associates you with feeling trapped and scared, he is not going to want to be anywhere near you.
Personally, since we have no need of it, our babies are not broke to lead until they are weaned. All I work with with my foals is as much as THEY will let me, loose in the field. Lucky for me, all of their mothers are comfortable with me and trust me, which is a big help. I spend hours in the field following, talking, kneeling, trying to invoke their natural curiosity... once they are comfortable with me, I just work on basic touching. Touching the neck, back, sides, legs, tail, crest of neck, chest, in between the legs, hocks, stomach, ears, face, nose, forhead. I exploit all those itchy places they can't reach. I am the first thing they get used to, before I start throwing halters and lead ropes and trying to get them to follow and give to pressure and all that.
I have four foals this year. The first foal permitted me to scratch him around day three. The second filly was a month old before she would let me touch her. The third colt was a week old before I won him over with butt scratches. And number four was two days old when he decided he was comfortable with me.
All four catch me now, because to them, I am a good thing. I know all those pesky places they can't reach for scratches. I can go up to them anywhere. Two we are working on handling feet, the other two we are still working on just touching everywhere. They are not going anywhere until after they are weaned, so I have no need of trying to break them to lead. Two of them are still very head shy. The filly is already up to my chest. If I were to try and force a halter on them now, 1) I would fail miserably; and 2) they would then be wary of me the next time. With how far along these kids are, I will probably get around to trying to put a halter on them before they are weaned, but if not, no big deal. This is their time, IMO. When they are weaned is my time. Now they have a little bit of a choice.
I'd say, if your colt isn't going anywhere for a while, just work on getting him used to you. If you need to get him somewhere, just lead the mare and he will follow. Six month old foals will still follow momma.
The last 3 days I have put a halter on him and a butt rope and walked him around.
The kicking is random and usually when he is around his mother. He hasn't kicked when I am working with him but I usually have hold of his tail because starts out bucking and kicking.
I am going to do the same but have my husband led the mare along side and see how that goes. I will let you know how that goes.
I am going to try again and led him alongside his mother to see if this eases his anxiety. I walked her today, she is in need of exercise and he walked along side her and didn't have any problems.
My concern is that if he is this hard to handle now in 2 months there would not be any chance.
I have another 2 year old that is the brother of this foal. He was handled the same way as you describe and he will freely come up to people and we can halter him but we are having to really work with him because he really thinks things should be done when he feels like it.
So I guess I am going to see how the next day or two go. I don't want to over stress him but I do fear if I just give up now it might enforce his behavior.
I can not ride the mare. I only just got her from a friend awhile back but she was used for breeding only. She is a really good horse and well behaved but I don't think she has ever been ridden.
Personally, if the foal is already kicking out at you to tell you to go away, you need to take a step back. It isn't worth trying to force the baby to obey you - it won't work anyway. All you'll accomplish is either making it fearful of people (which isn't fun) or teaching it to kick in order to establish your respect for him (also not fun). If you think a week old's hoof hurts on your leg, try getting kicked by the same horse when he's 3 years.
So what is the step back? Become the baby's friend first, like LadyDreamer describes. You have plenty of time for the halter breaking. If you do it right the first time, it will never be an issue.
When I got my 6 mo. old, she had never been handled. She was scared, and would go away from people as fast as she could. The first few weeks, I just scratched her itchy spots and got her to the point where she would nicker when she saw me and then come up to be scratched. Then, when she was comfortable standing near me, I took a lead rope and looped it around her neck, slowly working up so I could loop it around her nose, ears, etc. It was never tied so if she panicked (which she didn't do, she already trusted me) she could be easily released. It took some time, and at first she was unsure of what I was doing, but soon she didn't care. At that point, I did the same thing with the halter - my arms on both sides of her neck and the halter in front, and then slowly moved it up until it was over her nose. Then I held it there and gave her some grain (I don't care what anyone says, treats are very effecive when used correctly). Then behind her ears and buckeled. Add some more grain, some scratching. After a few minutes, I took it off and left her alone for the next day or so. Slowly but surely, she stopped caring about me coming up to her (always greeted with a wither-scratch) and putting a halter on her face.
To lead, I just used a very long lead rope and a dressage whip. I tried the butt rope, but caused a panic, whereas she didn't care about the whip. Tap-tap-tap with the whip, she takes a step forward, we stop. Again, it took time, but now she leads. Of course, she's still a baby, and she's never perfect all the time, but I'm in no hurry. I got her to the point where she will come up to me, accept the halter, and lead (and be lead into the trailer, for that matter...). Now she's up in the mountains, enjoying the summer pastures. Moral of the story: let your baby be a baby. Take some time off. You shouldn't work (as in training) for more than 10 minutes a day 3 times a week, lest the baby become resentful and dangerous. Now, scratching and playing can happen all day, every day if you ask my little Ariel! :-) Good luck!
Sorry, I forgot to say that when I first started leading her, we were in a small pen with her mother, and we just lead around her mother. Once she responded, my father-in-law led momma and I led Ariel right next to/behind. Mom is a GREAT asset when teaching to lead.
I worked with the foal today with the halter and butt rope. He did much better today. He didn't buck or kick. We walked a little while and he I was so happy that he did better. He did swing his head at me when I was touching his leg but I bumped him (with my head) and he stopped that too.
I was able to stand with him just holding the rope (still had the rope around his butt) and rub him all over and he was much less upset than last night. I was able to touch all his legs and feet.
I didn't have anyone to help me by walking the mare so we just stayed close by.
The only problem I had was he did almost get away from me and I had to get him by the tail to get him back settled a couple of times. Once he settled and quit struggling, I released the halter. He just stood there and I walked away.
A friend told I should make sure he stays and I walk away from him so he knows that I am in control not him. Not sure if it matters but that is how it worked out.
I hope it will be even easier tomorrow. I will write to let you know.
I appreciate your input. I will let you know if our progress continues to be good.
I have to be honest, most of the foals we had were pocket ponies. They knew humans were both a source of food and scritches halfway through day 1 so they were always curious, always walked up to me and always followed me around with no halter at first.
One colt in particular was a DOLL at liberty, not a mean bone in him, but when the halter and lead came into play, he'd rear and strike out. I'm sorry, but I'm not about to be bashed around by an angry 3 month old stud colt because he feels playful. Whooey. I dallied him around the horn of the saddle and he balked at first, tipped over once...but within 15 minutes he was walking nicely at her side and respecting pressure. The following week I took riding the mare out of the picture and he never reared on me again.
Yeah, they can hurt their neck if you do it without regard for their safety, but we literally took it one step at a time and let him get slack in the lead, praised, and then another step to apply pressure.
I do agree with what others have said in that you should be gaining more trust with him before worrying about leading etiquette though. If you're out twice a day, GREAT! Alot of touching and patting, picking up feet if only for a second or two, and I like what Steph said she did with her filly, with the lead rope. Better that your little guy accept the halter and lead moreso than tolerate it...
Glad things went better today for you though, keep us posted!
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