Early handling of the foal is essential to produce a well mannered horse. Time spent getting the foal used to being stroked all over and having its head and legs touched will pay off in the long run. Teach to foal to pick up its feet, holding them up for short periods of time at first in preparation for farrier’s attention. The foal has no reason to be afraid of you, but it is essential for later handling, to keep it that way. Always be calm, firm and gentle.
Teaching the Foal to Lead
It is good practice for the foal to learn to lead, rather than to run loose behind the mare. It is easy to teach a foal to lead by using a soft rope around his neck and by putting a hand on his quarters to help to encourage the foal to move forwards. When the foal is about a month old it is a good idea to fit a foal slip and to teach it to lead properly. Never leave the foal slip on while the foal is in the field as foals are extremely curious and could get caught somewhere no matter how cautious you are about safety. When leading always loop the lead rope through the foal slip rather than attach it, foals will often play up and could pull away from the leader. At least if the lead rope is free it will fall off and not frighten the foal by dangling around its legs, or become caught up somewhere. The foal should be taught to lead, striding freely beside you, not rushing off in front or pulling back. If it is necessary to catch the foal never try to make a grab for its head, as this will only lead to head shyness later on, rather start by scratching the foal’s rump and gradually work your way towards his head.
Teaching Good Habits
Foals, especially colts can be quite obnoxious and if left unchecked can become quite dangerous. Any naughty habits must be sharply discouraged, especially nipping and kicking. Whilst everyone in the family will be delighted by the new arrival it is important to remember that the foal is not a cuddly toy and should never be treated that way. Over petting the foal and feeding it titbits will cause problems in later life. A young horse that has no respect can be difficult to train when the time comes to break him in. However, it is equally important that the youngster is not afraid of you, as this causes a different set of problems. With commonsense, it should be easy for anyone to produce a well mannered and safe young horse or pony that will be a pleasure to own.
Written By Jacqui Broderick from Lavender and White Publishing
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