Foal handling

I firmly believe that the more I can train and handle the foal from the time of birth the better the horse will be for all its later husbandry, management and even riding. For this reason I incorporate the practice of foal imprinting at the time of birth where I desensitise the foal to the presence of humans, as well as to being touched and handled.

This initial session is followed up routinely whenever I am in the paddock with them. Particularly on the first few days following birth, I will interact with them to minimize any perception that humans are predators. To do this, I stroke and handle all parts of their body so that they become fully accustomed to human presence and touch. I also weigh them on day one and introduce them to a halter at this time. Loading them on the scales on this day is often just that. They might be picked up and placed on the scales, but just the act of getting them from the paddock to the scales starts the initial training in leading. Early halter training teaches them to come off pressure, and gradually develops into full halter leading and loading onto the scales. They are routinely weighed at regular intervals until they are two or three years of age.

I have the farrier tend their feet by at least three weeks of age, and even earlier if there is any sign of angular limb deformity that need to be corrected. The farrier work is continued at regular six week intervals to ensure the best possible growth and development of their feet and legs. Drenching of the mare and foal is also carried out at six week intervals to keep the foal clean of all internal parasites during this early stage of life when they have no parasite immunity.

The foal’s interaction with humans becomes such a welcome part of their life that they will actively approach humans entering their paddock and can be a bit overwhelming in their enthusiasm to seek attention. A vet once said to me that any time he was feeling lonely he only had to come visit my foals.