How to Handle a New Foal

Published: 07th December 2009
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Gently handling your new foal early in its life builds trust, respect, and companionship between you and your horse-to-be. Touching your new foal sets a foundation where well-mannered, even-tempered and responsive characteristics will develop.



Knowing when you can touch your new foal for the first time is a matter of judgment .If this is your first horse, have an experienced handler or a veterinarian on site. Although there is value to handling your foal as soon after the birth as possible, some caution should be exercised .The mare's handler should be present during these times to keep her calm. Minimize any stressful distractions. You don't want your interference to result in the mare's rejection of her foal .If there has been some trauma during the birthing process, you may want to wait until both creatures are resting peacefully and in good health.



Although each horse is different, there are a few general guidelines to keep in mind as you begin to touch your new foal:



* give the foal and mare time to bond with each other

* allow the mare her time to clean the amniotic sac off the foal and nuzzle the newborn

* acknowledge that horses are sensitive creatures whenever you are handling a new foal

* handle the foal gently, with confidence and speak softly

* continue to touch the foal gently even if it seems a little stressed; if you stop, it could teach the foal that bad manners are acceptable



Imprinting

Imprinting is the term used to describe the early introduction of the handler to the foal. Using discretion, this can be done right after the mare finishes cleaning her foal. Gently rub the entire body of the foal with a soft towel, pick up its feet and tap the bottoms, rest a halter against its skin and insert a gloved finger into its rectum. The purpose of these actions is to set ground rules for tasks the foal will need to accept.



A good horse must learn to:

* be lead with a halter

* tolerate having their feet lifted

* walk and wait quietly while tied

* behave during grooming

* get on and off a trailer

* become accustomed to health inspections from handlers, vets, or buyers



Handling your Foal with a Firm Attitude

Once you have established a bond of trust, the foal's natural curiosity will draw him to you. The foal's instincts may lead him to treat you like another horse. They may nip or nudge you too hard. Be ready to correct him if he starts to exert dominance. What was a playful nip as a foal can escalate into a pushy, ill-mannered horse as an adult. Firmly push his head or neck away from you. Establish your personal space. Show him respect and ask him to return the gesture.



Working with a Lead

Foals can learn basic pressure cues. Begin training a foal to lead without a halter or rope. Start on the foal's left side with one arm around his neck and your other arm over his back. Move with the foal so he can feel the pressure of your body. Use the pressure of your arm and body to direct him right or left. Switch to the right side of the foal and repeat the moves.



When you feel the foal has learned to follow your pressure cues, add the halter and a lead rope. Keep the same basic position, but use the halter and lead to cue the direction.



Handling your Foal's Hooves

Foals must get used to having their hooves shod and checked. Start by rubbing his legs all the way down. Hold the hoof .Tap it on the bottom and set it back down, gently. Do not let him pull the hoof away from you. Teach him to accept that you control the lifting and lowering of his hoof.



The key to handling your foal is to speak in a gentle, firm, voice and be consistent with your actions. Gradually introduce the training and stick to a regular schedule. The best horses are the result of handlers who invested generously of their time.Kerrie Tischer is the owner of Livery Stable. If you're in the market to sell or buy a horse, this is the place to start. They offer horse classifieds as well as detailed information on riding, selecting a good horse and much more. Visit online for more information.

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