Friday, August 15, 2008

Zen and Colt Starting

This is going to be short. I'm going to be tied up (snark) until Sunday. It seems there's a question about when is the best time to halter break a young horse. All I can give you is my thoughts on this. I have done it both ways. My daughter's horse, Loki, was halter broke as a weanling. My daughter led her all over the place as a little tiny thing. The kids at the barn had a "dress-up-your-horse day, and Loki paraded around in a feather boa and tiara. She was a yearling. Loki and my daughter both survived, and are both industrious contributers to the planet today. So I guess I'm not going to come down hard on when this should be done.
The first Mustang I ever started came straight off the prairie. As soon as she figured out that all she could eat hay, and a roof, came with people, we started to get on. She learned quickly, and was incredibly responsive.
Up until then I had only started colts that were about broke before you ever got on them.
I didn't put it together until I worked with The Big Kahuna.
The easiest babies to train were the ones we got right out of the field. The earliest performers were always the ones that were at the very most, halter broke.
The dullest ones came from overly attentive owners.
"I've done all the ground work and saddling, now all you have to do is ride them."
That was a statement guaranteed to make us cringe. I also knew that would be the one I'd be on.
It became obvious that the babies that had been handled the most, also had time to pick up the most vices.
Simply leaning into the left, when I'm on that side, can cause all sorts of little problems. A horse that has been worked with from early on, often has lost a lot of respect for people, usually is fairly pushy, and just generally tunes out a bunch of signals I wish they didn't. They also have developed responses I wish they didn't have.
Other horses teach a young horse how to behave. If a broodmare respects me, I don't have to teach her baby much. Lil Honeybuns will respect me too.
If the babies get to run and play and be hooligans together, they'll grow strong and good winded.
If they act like little maniacs in a herd, they'll get some respect knocked into them. By their herd mates, as it should be.
If they grow up in a pen, they'll be much weaker, and way too comfortable around me.
A weanling is fragile, physically and mentally. It's so easy for them to get hurt. I'd rather watch them play.
They learn I bring food.
They learn I'll pop them if they kick.
They learn they can sniff my sleeves or jeans if they are respectful.
That's all I need.
Usually, I'm giving them a little scratch before too long. But I stop there.
As yearlings I'll halter break them, especially if they are to be sold. If the buyer wants, I'll teach them to stand tied. I teach them to behave for the shoer. They need to be good for shots and worming. That's about it.
As two-year-olds they accept the training I put on them pretty easily. They are light and responsive. Since I don't like to really get into riding them until they are three it all works for the best.
I want them to be just horses for as long as they can. It makes for a mentally and physically stronger animal.
We kid ourselves if we think our interference is for their own good. The longer they can live without us, the better I think they are.
I have a little yearling colt. I was supposed to sell him, but I can't. So now I get to start him like I want to. Right now, you can halter him if your quiet and easy. Same for his feet.
When he's gelded he will go live with a herd on 80 acres. I'll pick him up next fall and put 30 to 60 days on him. How long depends on how tough he is. When he can walk, trot, canter, whoa and back, he'll go back to the 80 acres until he's three. Then we'll get busy.
Even though I handle them a little, that's for my own convenience. The best ones to start are still the untouched ones. I think it's because then, every move you make has meaning.
I have a good friend, Michelle. She's a dressage nut. She once told me that she read somewhere, (we're thinking some Greek, or Spanish philosopher) that pure, perfect training happens when each maneuver has to be taught only once.
If you think about it, if you broke down each maneuver to it's very simplest form, and your horse was unsullied by any previous human intervention, you might be able to do it.
The closest I've ever come is with that mustang.
Oooh, how zen is that?


  1. Very Zen, but makes sense. I have more experience with canines where training is concerned, but the same seems to hold true. I have always had "rescued" older dogs (5+), and they were always difficult to train/change. Finally, almost two years ago, I decided to adopt a farm puppy. Since I could do things my way, not too fast, not too slow, and NOT too much mis-handling, I have a fantastic companion. Trained once, in a positive way, as opposed to re-training and erasing bad habits/behaviour.

    I wanted to ask you - regarding training to tie, what if the horse backs a few feet then just drops head to graze? Would I just reel him in at that point and do it again?

  2. I should qualify that by "trained once" I do not mean one session. I believe training is continuous and that reliable training is the result of repetition.

  3. equus-I'd say if he's calm enough to graze, it's time to just tie him.:)
    Or be quick enough to reel him back in before he eats.

  4. pure, perfect training happens when each maneuver has to be taught only once.

    Amen to that. When they learn it the first time it means you didn't make any mistakes to confuse them with.

    Come to think of it, my pony I trained from scratch. He was 4 and didn't know how to lead. Hes the most respectful horse...err pony I own. Once you teach him something he does it faithfully EVERY time. Hes a great little guy.
    I do like my babies to be leadable at any age. You never know when you will have to take that trip to the vet or an emergency like a fire or other weather pops up.
    I never do more than teach them how to lead or tie when they are under two.

  5. Thanks for more food for thought..

    Question..I can finally get my mare on the trailer - she was beaten onto trailers, and she is the kind of horse that will resist if she is forced and not allowed to go at her own - as you say, one step at at time - pace. As I said, I can get her on now, however, it's hard to get her to back off. I tried everything, and what works right now is me getting behind (and to the side) of her with a long lunge line and pulling until she moves. And yes, she knows back (I can back her without even touching her), but on the trailer all her training goes somewhere else. It's a two horse straight load, and not much room to maneuver in. Any suggestions would be great. I have to go slowly and patiently with this horse as she has been beaten. Thanks!

  6. Huh. Interesting.... I'm a big supporter of turning them out to learn manners from their mommas and play with the other young ones. If you can on a big pasture where they learn how to cover all sorts of ground, so much the better.

    Practicality demands that by the time they're yearlings they be at comfortable being handled at least minimally: they inevitably need some sort of doctoring (enough for routine shots, worming & a farrier visit, if nothing else).

    But I'd offer that the ones who haven't been handled enough to be completely complacent about where people are, are certainly more attentive and responsive. Maybe part of that's my attitude, too - if they're just that much more leery, I'm more focused, as well.

    Food for thought. (And less cause to feel guilty when/if there are minimally handled babies running around out in the pasture again!)

  7. I've worked on a breeding farm where we treated the babies more or less as you suggest, mugwump, and I agree that they're much easier to work with than over-handled colts. Here's what I did with the only baby I ever raised: we imprinted her ten hours after she was born (for those who aren't familiar with this term, we handled the filly all over, picked up her feet, lifted her off the ground, put a halter on her and led her a few steps, put our fingers in her ears, nose, mouth, sacked her out with a little rag, ran clippers around her...etc--it took about an hour), and then treated her much as mugwump describes for the next three years. We turned her out with mares and babies and caught her only to trim her feet..etc. She was always easy to handle, despite being a pretty stingy filly, and when we broke her (at 3 years) she went from first sack out to first ride in three days. On her third ride we brought the cattle up the alley at the roping arena on her (and she sucked back with the first cow that turned back like a trained cutter). She has always been an easy horse to handle, has plenty of respect, but little fear. So its my impression (for what its worth, with one example) that the imprinting was really helpful. At least, combined with letting her more or less alone after that, and letting her grow up like a horse.

  8. >> each maneuver has to be taught only once <<

    Wow -- I never thought of things that way before. I will have to chew that one over.

    I admit, it's part of the reason the idea of a homebred is appealing.

    I will have to think about your philosophy of handling young horses, Mugs. I've always felt that I'd let them do their horse thing, but also lead mare and foal in and out of pasture every day, so foal gets used to having good pasture manners.

    But I will think about it. In the meantime, I have to go watch a jumping clinic!

  9. Remember you guys, I too, halter break my yearlings, and they are handled enough to be vetted.
    I'm too chicken to just let them run.
    BUT the easiest ones, have been the wild ones that came to me for training.
    Laura-I'm very wary about imprinting. I haven't tried it personally, so I can't have too much of an opinion. The worst horses I've gotten in to train have all been imprinted. They also came from BYB backgrounds, or over zealous folks whose intentions were good, but didn't have the knowledge to pull it off. I've long associated it with places I won't go to. Hearing how you did it perks my ears though.
    Maybe on next year's foal crop....
    jackie- It sounds to me like you're doing fine. Loading, and unloading are two different activities in a horse's mind. So if she loads (good for you) it doesn't mean she'll automatically unload. Hang with her, she'll get it.
    Misadventures-Remember, this was idle, sitting in the sun, barn B.S. between two trainers. I would A. Love to know what book that thoughht came from
    B.Love to have a chance to try it.
    It would have to be either a horse that I caught, or, as you say, one that was born with me.
    Except the one born at my place would be by a mare that I influenced. So that would be a factor. I would have to think out each moment, study the result, and then add the next.
    This is the stuff I think about while cleaning stalls.....
    This also could lead to a fun discussion here....Let's All chew on this for a week or two, then I'll bring it up again, ya think?

  10. Agreed. I need some time to consider!

    >>I can get her on now, however, it's hard to get her to back off.<<

    Mugs is right about letting her have time, but have you tried unloading in stages? It just depends on the horse as to whether or not it works, but for my first horse it worked -- he'd walk on just fine, but coming off, he'd get really nervous.

    Walk on with one (or two) feet, and then ask them to back off. Walk on with three feet, ask them to back off. Walk on with all four, ask them to back off.

    If she'll load reliably, that can work pretty well in showing her that unloading is easy, since it's connected with loading and is done step by step. It's much easier to back off when you've only got one foot on than it is when you're all the way in, see?

    Can be risky to try if your horse is not confirmed comfortable with the trailer though, cause it's a lot of in-out. Sounds like she's fine loading, though.

  11. Thanks...she's mostly fine loading...I still have to run a lunge line around the front post (I am doing it by myself) to encourage her in, but she really understands...just has to trust me that I am not going to whip her until she gets in :(. I did try the step in, step out, two steps in, two steps out, etc...but she is so smart she'll do that a few times, then she leaps all the way in and looks at me with that "see I can do it" look...

    I had a lightbulb moment today...our barn is an 100 year old barn with huge doors, wood floors, and a long uphill concrete ramp to the we practiced going up and in, backing out and dow, the ramp. She was nervous at first, but then she "got it". I am going to do that a few more times, then try the trailer again.

  12. This is so interesting! So, are you saying that you can teach a horse that does not have previous issues a particular skill, and you are clear, and they "get it", that you won't need to repeat the lesson again?

    As I said in a previous comment, I always thought repetition was key. I also said I have more experience with dogs, so maybe that is it, but in my former horse life (I am a re-rider) I was taught that horses need repetition too, to make the skill reliable. I can see the point that if you do it "right" so that the horse understands the first time, it makes it easier, but I have a hard time imagining that you would not still re-visit that same correct lesson to build and reinforce the correct behaviour(?). The rest of what you say about letting them learn from the heard, get strong and not be over-handled (hence overly complacent) makes perfect sense to me.

    Regarding your response to my tying question – thank you. Sometimes, because I am inexperienced (I think), I focus on the problems more than anything. He IS calm when tied, as long as I am right with him or he can graze. It is when I tie him short enough that he can’t graze that he gets fussy. Not panicked, but not calm. I would be tempted to just let him graze while tied except, a) he is not respecting the rope, b) it means he could get a leg over the rope, which IMO is not good news, c) he gets fussy when saddled, and the longer line means more potential motion. So, I am thinking that reeling him in before he starts to graze might make him realize that he has to respect tying because as long as he is allowed to graze he thinks he is getting his way (and really, pays no attention to anything other than grass).

  13. It could work both ways, really. I've messed with good imprinted horses that knew their place and imprint horses that were holy terrors, that thought they were oversized dogs and tried to shove people around. (with costly results)

    I've also messed with animals that were broke improperly and too soon... one was a mule john that just had episodes where he was really uncomfortable in his own skin. I think he was broke waaaay too soon and his noggin couldn't take it. He's a good boy now but it's really interesting when a 16 h Percheron mule wants to throw in the towel and book...

    And then there's my molly. I only have an idea of the terror she experienced when someone tried to break her, in every sense of the word.

    I think too many people are getting into raising their own babies, and drank the imprint Kool-aid and got lulled into thinking they knew what they were doing, and then they wind up with a 1200 lb horse that doesn't know he's a horse.
    There's 8 zillion ways to screw up a baby and only a few ways to do it right.

    Personally, if I were to raise a baby now I'd want them halter broke as soon as possible for their own health and safety. Someone I know had a colt with some medical issues when he was 2 months old that required a vet visit. He was such an incredible little foal through the whole thing. He's now 4 (I think) and is showing, never gives anyone much trouble but knows his boundaries too.

  14. Mugwump I entirely agree with this post. I've got 2 young horses I'm training right now. One I bought when he was 3 months old and I did everything with him. The other one I bought earlier this year who hadn't been handled for a long time but was catchable and tied. The one I raised broke out really easy, we practically skipped groundwork and I can ride him about bareback like a broke horse. My project (the untouched one) got started bareback too, but we just started riding with a saddle. Today was his 4rth ride. The difference between the two is that the one I handled like crazy is pretty dull sided at times, though very smart, and is a bit disrespectful. My project horse however moves off leg pressure, knows all his verbals, and is constantly waiting for signals. My only problem is that while I love the constant attention, so to speak, I'd really like to get him to relax a bit. It seems like he's constantly waiting for signals and it makes him a bit tense. Is there some way to have it both ways?

  15. OK-The idea of only having to do things once is theory only....I sure can't do it. But look at it this way. How many of you have had a horse have one thing go getting caught in a rope, and you suddenly have a panic stricken problem. Or you let your horse nip you one time without getting after him, and then next day he bites you.
    Obviously, they can learn negative behavior in one lesson, so why not positive?
    I'm thinking on this one, it will all be wind blown theory mind you, but if each lesson was broken down to it's simplest form, and you could build on it, wouldn't that be the highest, and purest form of communication?
    Like I said, this is just stall cleaning musing, but I'd love to knock it around a little.
    equus-I have to be honest. If I had that little stinker, I would tie him up short, and go on with my day. He would stand all day, no mercy. And that would continue until he behaved. I think he's playing you.

  16. equus-I also just saddle fussy horses. I just get it done. Then I walk away, and don't come back until they are quiet.
    Remember, my horses aren't allowed to bump me or cross in front of me.

  17. esquared-the jumpy soft one will quiet as time goes by, and be waaaay ahead of the other one.
    I like my horses to be on the alert, it just means they're trying to stay tuned.
    The slightly pushy one thinks he has an opinion. The other one wants to know yours.

  18. Mugs, what you describe is how I've always been exposed to foal raising. Well, with the exception of which ever foal was going to be shown a bit that season and the next. We didn't mess with them too much. Just imprinted at birth, trailered a couple times with mama and yes, they were halter broke. They stayed in stalls at night but all were turned out to play all day, every day.

    Al-Marah Arabians trains much like you do. Their philosophy is to not start a horse under saddle really until they're 4. The reasoning is growth and making sure knees are closed. They live in herds with food on one end of the pasture, and water on another. There are supposed to be hills so that they have to go up for food or water and back down for the other. I remember reading this when I was a kid and it's something I've always respected.

    Now, I know a local trainer that backs yearlings. I have no respect for him at all.

  19. Hi folks, I'm new to this blog and find it very interesting. MugWump you are right on with many counts in my book. I've also been a professional horse trainer most of my life. 38 years so far. I specialized in BLM wild horses for over 10 years. Trained for show in my early years - confomration, breed reining and other faturities. Specialized in gaited horses for a few years as well. Have been involved with breeding horses since I was 9 years old I'm 54 now. So raising foals and halter breaking is very familiar to me. Have tried many methods over the years from the once accepted barrel rope to weeks if not months of gentling techniques bringing a wild abused horse to the point of following and working on patterns without attachements and contact.

    I agree the best horse to work with is the one never touched before. They do learn whatever you teach them the first time and they will let you know that it's gospel. I agree hand raised foals can be and in most cases are spoiled with attitudes. I have a mare I raise who is exaclty that (no shows for her - it would be just to much work and) Her son is even worse.

    I breed and promote "Spanish" Mustangs and they tend to be opinionated as a breed to start with. The colts mother was injured and he had to be weaned early which meant in my situation he had to have a lot of handling. He is a real snotnose now with some solid attitude developing. So what this has set up for anyone interested is a retraining situation down the road for the poor boy. He experiences way more diciplinary actions than he would have normally.

    Folks just dont realize what they set up when they imprint foals. I am solidly against it. Like Mug Wump suggests in my book anyway, horses need to be horses first! Then they can concentrate on being a good partner.

    ;) S

  20. Great entry. Two things I want to address: I think it is extremely mentally unhealthy for babies not to live with other babies but we have encountered an interesting situation this year...if you don't have your own property and other babies, how do you find boarding where your baby can run with others and it's still safe and they'll still feed separately? Bullwinkle needs a home base and I'd prefer him to be with other babies, but so far the search has proven frustrating.

    If anybody knows of boarding like that around Boise, please let me know asap. Private farm that doesn't normally board would be just fine. We just want this colt to (a) get his food/supplements and (b) have other colts to play with!

    Second point: I have a yearling who was an orphan raised by a snarly old broodie (the Crabby Old Bat, for those of you who read my blogs). DAMN did she teach him manners. She bit him a LOT as a baby and shoved him around. He is great. I have no problems with him. Not the least bit pushy. Now, we have VLC's filly, who is being raised by Permissive Petunia. This mare does NOT discipline the foal AT ALL. Filly bites her, shoves her off of food, etc. Filly gets smacked for being pushy with humans but it's still getting on my nerves - I wish the dam would discipline her but it's just not happening. The plan is to wean the filly and throw her out with two ponies for company but I am wondering if that is going to be enough to teach her manners, or if she will simply bully the ponies and become Alpha Bitch Filly of the World. Thoughts on foals raised by extremely permissive non-disciplinarian dams? It's not that the dam is pushy with humans, either. The dam is super submissive, all the way around - the filly is not.

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  22. Fugs-oooh, ooh oooh, I know, I know!!! (Hand waving wildly in the air....)
    Only because my yearling colt was raised by his way over adoring mom and granny annie....
    This was my mare's first baby. He was the last one born ,(late spring) so he was little. Loki, the mare, was low on the totem pole, so she decided to keep him away from everybody, except my 34 year old Annie. They became a herd of three, that trailed behind the main group.
    Little bratty boy could kick and stomp, and demand, and both mares would just look at him like, "Isn't he precious? Just look at that tiny hoof print in my butt."
    If the main group would be moving off, and Loki would start to follow, he would stop her, and nurse. She'd let him, crying away at the herd to wait.
    It was pathetic.
    When we first weaned, he was a beast, BUT he was with a colt that was two months older, and a three year old gelding.
    They taught him his place big time.
    That in turn made him behave towards us, without having to get after him.
    I think the ponies are a great idea, as long as they don't fall in love with her.

  23. I hope they are Evil Ponies from Hell. That's what I hope!

    On the plus side, I always read that alpha bitch fearlessness in a baby as a sign of one hell of a performance horse in the making.

  24. Its interesting that everyone who has spoken negatively of imprinting seems to be referring to foals who were first "imprinted" and then handled a lot. In my own case, having imprinted the filly and then turned her out with the herd for the next three years and handled her only as needed for trims..etc, I had very good results. She was not pushy at all. But everything was easy for her, partly, I think, because she didn't struggle with fear issues. Also, I would add in, as I know Mugwump knows, some of those unhandled colts are rank bastards. To talk as if they're all sweet, attentive and easy to train is silly. I've started quite a few of this sort and though some are easy (and certainly all of the over handled colts I've started have been annoyingly pushy), some of the unhandled ones were real broncos, fought everything, and were very set on their own opinions (so to speak). Just a little reality check here. Horses, like people, "come in" with their own stuff, and some are going to be easier than others--how you raise them makes a lot of difference but its not the whole ball game.

  25. We try to turn the weanlings out with an older gelding to boss them. That sort of evens the playing field for the ones with permissive mommies (there are a couple of those). Those "evil" ponies should work a treat!

    It's also a bonus when it comes to handling the little dears for the first few times without mom handy - they have a monkey-see (see the gelding get haltered, scritched, ridden, trimmed) to imitate. Picking a good, cooperative "monkey" can go a long way toward resolving any fear issues they may have.

  26. Go Laura!
    Rank bastards come in every crop of horses, no matter how they are bred, or how they are raised.
    I reiterate, I have not imprinted a foal before, and haven't gotten to train one that came from a responsible, knowledgable breeder.
    So I am wary. BUT I would be willing to try it if I knew I could toss them out to be horses afterward.
    One of the most annoying phrases I have ever come across is, "There are no bad horses only stupid people."
    What I keep wanting to get you guys thinking about is the good and bad of everything you teach a horse to do.
    If you desensitize a dull horse into oblivion, you will have a boring, unwilling, blob. Then you'll have to wake him up....and he's been trained to ignore most outside stimulus.
    See what I mean?
    I think Laura is right where I am, you have to consider the ying and yang of everything you decide to do to your horse.
    This is fun.

  27. This is why you are so much fun as a blogger, mugwump. You can see that things aren't always (or even usually) black and white. I loved it that you opened your post with the photo of your little girl and her very well-handled (shall we say) weanling, and pointed out that that horse turned out fine, then went on to extol the "unhandled" approach. Now that's the ying and the yang, all right. How zen of you. you think we're mixing up our religions here? It is fun, though. Cheers.

  28. >>If you desensitize a dull horse into oblivion, you will have a boring, unwilling, blob. Then you'll have to wake him up....and he's been trained to ignore most outside stimulus.<<

    OK here's a blog topic for you...

    Starting/re-starting old broodmares. I rode another one yesterday that probably hasn't been sat on since her last race 8 years ago and boy, leg meant nothing to her. Nothing. I was kind of happy about it, because I can sell a trail horse that won't move out of a walk a lot faster than the typical OTTB, but I do seem to be encountering a lot of these old mares lately where they just don't see any need to work very hard and you get more exercise trying to make them trot than they do. I think a blog on your best tips for firing them up without getting airs above the ground would be great!

  29. Ying Yang, Zen....I'm a recovering Catholic, what do I know?
    Fugs- you're on!

  30. Mugwump I have to say, whenever I get the chance (which is rare!) I love reading your blog. This is my first time responding to one of your entries. I thoroughly agree. The horses we raise to be family type safe trail riding dead heads are horses we handle the most. The young performance horses are only handled minimally (cept for Rose but her performance future is uncertain anyway).

  31. I have this theory that part of the problem with communicating about horses is that to some extent people and horses and training methods all have to fit together. Like the people on the fugly message board clicker training their little arab rescue. For a while some people were talking about how maybe they were moving too slowly. I will say, they are moving very very slowly. I would do it differently, many people would do it differently and wouldn't be wrong. But, these people have essentially no training experience, and this horse is massively freaked out by everything. They now have it leading and tying and they are starting to sit on it now and walk around a little. They dont have the experience to do most of the things that mugs here would do, or the time do follow up on it. So for them, and their horse (if they dont want to take it to a trainer or cant find a good one), I say clicker training! For mugs, the carrot would be a serious serious detriment to her training program.

    I think people here do a uniquely good job analyzing training rather than just labeling it "good" or "bad".

  32. I've seen some research recently on imprinting (maybe in The Horse? Damn, why can I never remember my source when I need it...??) that suggests that not much of anything is retained by the foals who are handled shortly after birth. I.e., if you run clippers over them then, that does not mean that they will be all chill with the clippers later in life.

    This particular research seemed to point to the conclusion that what people believe is the result of one-time imprinting is actually the result of daily handling (or what ends up being traditional training).

    Does anyone have any vague memory of running into an article that sounds anything like this? It's driving me slightly nuts.

    I tend to fall on the side of no imprinting, but on the other hand, I've not been around a breeding operation that really has a solid plan for imprinting their foals. It would seem like something that, if done with a minimum of fuss and interruption, would at the least cause no harm and at the most desensitize the babies a bit.

    We handle our babies in the normal course of feeding the herd and handling the moms, but we don't usually do too much with them (barring vet-type issues) before they're coming up on training age.

    Great topic!

  33. This is really, really interesting and I am thankful for the chance to "listen" to this discussion. It's like having a lot of horse people, some experienced, some not, sitting around in your living room analyzing horse problems.

    My friend who raises Morgans has an orphan foal who was bottle fed, and she said the same thing, that it makes the horses jerks if they are too used to people and not running with the herd as babies. And the foal is kind of a jerk, very pushy, mouthy. I think I understand, though I'm not a horse trainer. Not all the human's signals are meaningful, not all of them are associated with the same reward or consequence, so the message is lost and the horse tunes the signals out.

    Okay, now I have to thank FHOTD for bringing up the boarding situation. I am anxiously looking for a place where the VLC's VLC can be with at least one other baby, near Boise/Eagle/Meridian/Star. Boarding places want to put him in a solitary pen with one hour a day exercise, like a felon or a show horse. Okay enough space taken up on my situation, but it's for the colt, not really for me.

  34. No offense meant about show horses. I just meant that a baby can't stand in a stall, he needs to blast around and act ridiculous.

  35. A thought on handling and imprinting:

    I do imprint. I have for as long as my family has had horses. You never know when you are going to have an emergency. When it comes time to clip a horse for their first show or just to tidy them up they stand and accept the "brain rattlers" as I call em, the big industrial cattle clippers that just about vibrate out of your hands. They don't fuss about me grabbing their ears. They could care less about plastic bags, rolling random garbage etc. I only do this once and then they are good to go until training starts a few years later.

    We had a filly hurt herself pretty bad at 5 weeks of age. We don't know how she did it but she sliced the tendon sheathing on her back right leg. The vet advised to change the bandage daily and hose her leg.

    Some horses at this young daily handling for 30 minutes to an hour of hosing can seriously sour. They become resentful about humans haltering them and taking them away from the herd each day. I guess it has to be the right horse.
    Shes 3 now. Shes been driving for a year and I just backed her this spring. Because of her daily handling to doctor her horrible looking leg shes not afraid of anything. She is very, very trusting yet careful about what buttons she pushes (or what ones she pushes into!).

    I think it totally depends on two things: a) the horses overall personality and b) the handler and how he/she goes about the handling at a young age.

  36. Imprinting research:

    mlks, not sure if this is the one you saw (only the abstract is available), but it does summarize the results thusly, "By 3 months of age, there were no significant differences between trained and control foals for any measures. Early training was not efficacious in this study." (This one suggests the same.)

    Of course, there's also this one which doesn't discuss imprinting, but does suggest that some handling plays a positive role in yearlings' ability to learn.

  37. >.My friend who raises Morgans has an orphan foal who was bottle fed, and she said the same thing, that it makes the horses jerks if they are too used to people and not running with the herd as babies. And the foal is kind of a jerk, very pushy, mouthy.<

    Yup! Classic "orphan syndrome." That is why I am SO happy we put mine on the Crabby Old Bat and she bullied him into submission. She did a GREAT job. In fact, if anybody has an orphan next spring and doesn't have a nurse mare, I would totally board your orphan so she could do that job again - she loves babies and is the best at teaching them manners. We just set up a creep feeder so he could get to his milk replacer, but other than that, she raised him as her own.

  38. I will refer to this post often when I get my weanling fillies home sometime in the next few months. Thanks for posting it!

    Any tips for fencing or others requirements for dealing with younger horses? These will be my first foray into dealing with “babies.” Buena was 3ish when I got her. And Ariel was a very rank/green 6 years old. I am hoping these youngsters will be a piece of cake. The older horses (yearlings and 2 year olds) I worked with from the same place were all over the board as far as handling and human influence and sensitivity.

  39. fssunnysd: Thanks so much for the links! I haven't had a chance to read through all of the stuff yet, but it sounds about right. Glad I wasn't entirely hallucinating the whole thing. :-)

  40. The way in which their own temperament accepts this kind of training also plays a role in how they develop to become reliable performance horses.


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