Bringing on a Foal – The Six Magic Steps
Starting the Young Horse with Beverley Brightman – Everything Horse Magazine
Here HorseHage-sponsored dressage rider and trainer, Beverley Brightman, talks about bringing on a foal.
The upbringing of young horses to training them to be ridden is a complicated and ongoing challenge. However this challenge is well worth it when the end result is achieved and you are able to see the result of all the hard work you have put in.
From the day your foal arrives and during the first few weeks of his life, he will learn more things in this short space of time than they will for the rest of their lives. Therefore it is crucial to get the start right and have a positive and exciting experience for both you and your animal in order to achieve a more rounded and happy horse.
“It is crucial to get the start right and have a positive and exciting experience for both you and your animal in order to achieve a more rounded and happy horse”
There are six magic steps when it comes to the early handling of a new foal and they are simply there to teach manners and skills for when the foal grows up.
Stroking and talking to the foal and mare are great, non-stressful introductions which also help to make the mare feel comfortable with you being around her and her new foal. Putting on and removing the head collar is a good way to introduce the foal to being led and having his head touched. This can then progress to leading the foal within a few days, to and from the field and in and out of stables, etc. The foal should be led from each side in order to get used to being handled from both sides.
2) Tying up
Begin by putting a lead rope through the string on the tie ring, but NOT tying it. You can then progress to the foal being tied up for short periods. Talk to him soothingly whilst tied up in order to keep the experience calm and positive.
3) Handling feet
Introduce your foal to having his feet picked up and picked out, moving around them much like the farrier would. If the foal pulls the foot away, you must hold onto it until they stop and then place the foot gently down. This is to avoid them making a habit of pulling their feet away which can also lead to kicking.
Get the foal used to being touched and seeing his mother being groomed, and then groom him with a soft brush for short periods each day. This should be enjoyable and help to increase the bond between handler and foal.
Begin by rubbing down with a damp sponge and then eventually running the hose over the foal’s legs in warm weather, to let them get used to the sound and feel of water on their skin. Some foals will play in the water and may find it all rather exciting.
The first step towards successful loading is simply to teach the foal to lead sensibly. Then show the foal around the trailer with the ramp down so they can see inside and have a nosey around. It shouldn’t be stressful – just a normal walk and stopping to look at the interesting trailer. This can gradually build up to walking up the ramp and back down and it may help for the foal to follow the mare, if she is a good loader. Leave the jockey door open to make the trailer feel less enclosed. Then simply walking up the ramp and standing still for a few seconds before walking out again until eventually the foal is able to load correctly and stand.
Assessing future potential.
Foals, even at this early stage, can show their potential for the future. You can look for evenness and correction of pace, elasticity, forwardness and looking for correct footfall. You can also see if they have uphill potential and carry themselves well!
Hopefully this early training will provide the basics for a well-mannered and good-to-handle individual before he progresses further as a yearling and is finally broken in as a three-year-old.
For more information on feeding your horse or pony, please contact the HorseHage Helpline on 01803 527257 or visit www.horsehage.co.uk