I cringe when I am asked to go and halter break a foal, weanling, yearling, 2 yr old or upwards. Two years ago, 20 year old, 25 year old Brood Mares, never halter broken and you know what means to Horse and Handler alike 🙁
Not only is this highly unfair on the poor horses but also the Horse Trainer. High risk for both but it is the horses that I feel for. I have seen them receive everything from broken legs to broken vertebrae whilst fighting against the simple first ask on a lead rope. Blind panic and the natural fight erupts with almost every un-halter broken horse that is older than 7 days.
To be quite honest with you, I think that people who breed horses and do not handle the young ones early are irresponsible to say the least.
When you halter break a foal on about Day 7 of it’s Life, danger is eliminated. Stress is lessened and you have a horse that can be treated, controlled, floated, tied up, hoof trimmed, wormed, teeth and God knows what else.
How do they transport a Foal to safety when it isn’t even Halter broken and is totally feral?????
You can imagine what those horses that are not halter broken get! I often wonder how many years come off their life span due to missing out on the important things that require control in the young ones. Are they the horses that get more colic later? More worm damage? Crooked legs through a complete lack of corrective trimming?…..and the list goes on and on!
So, if you breed a horse, please do the right thing by it. Be a responsible breeder, not like around 60% of all that I have met.
Here are a few photos of wonderful, healthy, happy, relaxed babies The photo taken today is the result of all of that responsible Breeder behavior, not one of the young horses attempting to jump over the chest rail as happens all around Australia every year.
Halter breaking foals with the bum rope system or with a whip does not produce ‘truly light’ or properly halter broken horses. Yes they lead….only until they say ‘No’. Believe me, I feel them every day. They drive me ‘Bananas’ Take a look at the weanling on the left in the photo. It has it’s head stuck beneath the chest bar. What sort of blind panic would confront 99% of horses under that situation? These ones think, stay cool and just work it out. No drama! Later, when they get hooked in a fence on a new owners property…..no injury. What security for their safe future?
THE TIME TABLE
Almost weekly, I get letters asking for help when people can’t catch or have many other problems, with their older Foals or weanlings. I have been asked to write a time table as to when and what would I do if I had a Foal. Here it is, but first, a little about the Mare.
It is the responsibility of the Mare, as set by nature, to quickly train the Foal to flee from danger and she starts imprinting that on the night of birth. By the second day, she has the Foal running on command and she is teaching it that pretty much everything in the World is a ‘predator’ and that they are ‘prey animals.
This ‘flight from fear’ was and still is the mechanism by which the Horse protects itself from all things dangerous but the only trouble these days is that there are few ‘predators’ in our Society and that propensity to run, can be the very thing that causes them the most danger throughout their lives and in an ironic way, the most injuries.
The deeper the Mare instills this distrust in the Foal, the more difficult the Foal is to domesticate and train for us Humans. This distrust also causes the young Horse more grief during the breaking in process and above all, the most potential danger of injury. Such injuries include ripping their legs to the bone in fences or whatever they may get caught up in because their natural imprinted instinct is to rip and pull away to run, no matter what part of their Body is left behind and that is exactly what many of them do.
Different Mares have differing levels of imprinting of the Foal. Some are over the top and have the Foals absolutely feral in no time and impossible to catch going forward. If I see a Mare behaving like that after day one, I do something about it. I pen the Mare and Foal for a while until I get a complete handle on the Foal and over ride the Mares training to where the Foal won’t run away any more and will disregard Mother 🙂 They really love that hehehe.
For in this day and age, in the domesticated Horse World, the more Human friendly the Foal is, the easier it’s life is going to be. The ‘flight from fear’ can be their biggest danger and I have seen many a case of serious injury and death caused by it. I reflect upon some as I write. Broken legs, cracked vertebrae, fractured skulls and so on.
Day two is the day that I start training them and on that day, I get hold of Mum and take her into a shed or stable where I can easily get a hand on the Foal without either of them running off. I then grab the Foal with my left hand around the chest and my right arm around the rump above the hocks and simply stop the Foal from moving away. It may struggle to it’s heart is content and then, when it ceases, I begin the ‘friendly game’ and the ‘pleasurable game’. Talking to the Foal softly and stroking it. Then I start dragging it about the place, pushing it where I want it to go, stopping it, changing direction and so on. I want it to learn to ‘give to pressure. Training starts now.
It is important to remember to only work on a young Foal no more than 3 minutes or so. (depending on temperament of Foal and Mother) but roughly that time frame. You can repeat it more than once a day if you like of course but watch for mental fatigue and stress in the Babies.
From day 2 until Halter Breaking, I repeat the same daily and from about day 3, I start handling the legs. All 4 of them. Lifting them up and holding them against the will of the Foal, just for 30 seconds each and playing with their hooves. Gently tapping them with the hand. Here the Foal learns some valuable lessons. That there is no point attempting escape, that it is easier to give in, that handling can be nice and that there is no point about thinking of kicking.
Repeat all of the above daily, until it becomes ‘old hat’. Remember, Foals grow up fast and get basically too strong for a Female by day 10 so be quick. The other thing is that the best lessons for them are the one’s where they fight and lose. They are like ‘gold dust’ but the worst lessons are those where the Foal fights and starts to win. A win is identified as any moving of the handler off their feet, any snatch of a leg from the hand and so on. Right there commences the road to resistance so take full advantage of the first week. They turn out the best Horses.
Somewhere between day 7 and 10, it is time to ‘Halter Break the Foal’ and here you have two options. Do it with my system or do it with a ‘Bum Rope’ You choose but I can tell you that Halter Breaking Foals with a rope around their rump pales into insignificance when it comes to putting the foundations stones onto a Horse and the huge benefits of using the alternative method will pay you handsomely throughout the life of the young Horse. Use a webbing Halter
HANDLING OUR FOALS WITH RESPONSIBILITY
Let’s say Halter Breaking started on day 8, then by day 12, the Foal should be tied up solidly alongside it’s Mother. During this time, the style with which you handle the Foal should be such that you basically treat it as it’s Mother would. If I want it to move over, I will hip and shoulder it as a footballer would, teaching it to respect means us, the boss of the Herd and that I am number one in the pecking order. Therefore, the Foal or young Horse, will rarely ever think of kicking you or another Human being, Just the same as they would never kick a Horse that stood above them in the pecking order in the paddock. Not only for this reason will they not kick but they are then well used to being touched on the rump, legs, hipped over or whatever and will never kick out of surprise again. The natural reaction of the young Horse to kick will be gone. The benefits of this handling are too extensive to write here.
At this first tying up and then subsequently, (using my system of Halter Breaking a Foal only) it is a complete non issue and if they pull back a little, good. The more the merrier but I can tell you it will basically not happen. Until front leg lifting farrier style.
No matter how well a young one ties up, the day you go to lift the front legs, whether that be up between the legs of the farrier or out the front even more so, the foal WILL PULL BACK and this day is called ‘end game day’ Just persevere, don’t drop the leg, let them hang back on three legs and regain their balance or if you did drop the front leg, pick it up immediately and ignore them. They will get over it and this is the ‘icing on the cake’ that cements the true tie up horse forever.
When it comes to the back legs, they rarely pull back but if they do, just hang onto them farrier style, even lift them off the ground if you want but just ‘Man Handle’ them like you own them. This is where they learn never to fight with a farrier and that the farrier is all powerful. Game over if you do. Act exactly like the farrier and go through all the moves and positions that the farrier does. Out the back, beneath their belly and on your leg, tapping, slapping, everything designed to upset them. Finish them off here and now. WHILE THEY HAVE NO STRENGTH. They will never kick later, they will always give.!!!!
On about day 14, or if you feel resistance rising where you may not be able to keep them light, change to the rope Halter and stay with it for the rest of their career.
By day 14, the Foal should be rasped up balanced and square as THEY ARE ALL BORN CROOKED and grow crooked from day one. Crooked legs on Horses is caused by Owners who do not have attention to detail where trimming is concerned. You can send the legs of a Foal in any direction you like, just like that.
From day 14 onwards, I hobble train my Foals (all of them) and this protects them from Thousands of Dollars Vet Bills throughout their life and from often horrendous injuries going forward or death in a lot of cases. I get this every week.
Just thought I’d tell you that the hobble training you recommended has saved my young horses life or at the very least some nasty wounds.
She is a bit of a pawer, and very nosey! Anyway she got her front foot caught in the ring lock (sheep fence) of the fence. When I came up to feed, no Tess! Strange I thought, I called her a she whinnied back but did not come! I investigated and there she was standing in the fence, perfectly still, not a scratch! She had been there for awhile, and I was relieved that the hobble training she had as a foal had worked!
So thank you for some really good advice on training that works!
I am listening….are You??