Saturday, June 12, 2010

Handling a Foal

From the day a foal is born you should start handling it. Brushing it, picking up its feet, and playing with its tail and rubbing its back (but never putting weight on it) and touching it all over especially around both the mouth and the feet. Talk to it a lot and use words that you would like it to know as it grows up. It is very important that this is done regularly. If you just leave the baby with mom until it has to be weaned, you will have a struggle with lots of things and get lots of kicks and bites, but if it is handled from a newborn and shown all around, it should start to follow you as it gets older and can leave mom, especially if you have been making sounds or words for it that mean different things. The foal should be introduced to different areas and objects, the type of thing that can scare a horse when it enters a new environment. Water for example, like the hose and a shower if it is warm enough, and puddles are very important because they can be fun for a foal but terrifying for a yearling. With the hose you start by letting the foal drink from it and getting its feet wet then slowly move down the body until he or she is used to getting wet all over. Most horses love the shower. They love to learn tricks and learn them very easily in exchange for a treat or a cuddle. Going in and out of a trailer is very important too as it is very frightening, but if you just leave an open trailer in the paddock with food in it they will start to go in and out by themselves. Then as they grow older they are not afraid to try new things because they have full trust in you. I lived up in the mountains when my filly was young so we had dirt roads and no traffic. That made a great place to get used to thing because there was no danger. If you live in an area where there is traffic and other dangers than the process is made more difficult. I had a sheep, Negrita, who was inseparable from Casi, my foal, for almost twenty years and she would accompany us on our outings along with my calf, Petite Suisse. They would walk with me way up in the mountains, the three of them running and playing with each other. They never had lead ropes on, they just ran free and because I just talked to them all the time, Casi learned to lunge very fast just by me asking her to change direction or pace or even to back up. That is the way I started riding her as well: I could get her to slow down or gallop full speed and of course stop just by asking her. She knew how to shake hands and just naturally followed me. It is a good idea from time to time when it is windy to just let them loose in the riding ring with things like plastic bags and balloons or flags tied to the fence and just leave them there for a while until they aren’t scared of the objects any more. The more experiences they have and the more confidence they have in you the better horse you will have. The only problem I had with this system is that everyone thought Casi was a spoiled brat, and maybe she was, because for the first five years or so she would only respond to me and no one else could ride her let alone get on her. It wasn’t until my girls started to work with her that she became the best horse I ever had. She knew high school dressage, both Spanish and English; she loved to jump and was the best of my nine horses for the disabled. All because of the trust she had in me.

No comments: