Horse Training Tips – Foals and Weanlings

Dear Friend and Horseman,

Welcome to another Horse Training Tips Newsletter.

If you’ve been a reader of my Horse Training Tips Newsletter for a while, you’re
aware some of my newsletters have really stirred up some controversy.

Especially concerning the handling and training of foals and young horses.

In case you missed those newsletters, one of the controversies was that I basically discourage the “Imprint Training” of newborn foals.

The reason is because a lot of people turn the foal into a horse that becomes belligerent, disrespectful towards humans and difficult to train…

Actually HURTING the colt’s chances of becoming a good performance horse.

I receive a ton of emails asking me what I suggest, as an alternative, to get the foal off to a good start.

I also get a lot of email from people who own yearlings they hope will develop into good performance horses. They want to know what they can do to prepare their baby and give him a head start.

Training Foals and Weanlings

Here are a few suggestions that have worked well for me…

First off, let the foal be a horse!

I know that sounds like a smart-aleck remark but in reality, many people treat their foal like another human or their pet dog. That is a recipe for trouble. For any horse to be mentally and emotionally BALANCED, he needs to know he’s a horse.

And, he needs to be handled like a horse using “horse” psychology NOT “human” psychology.

When a mare is in the process of giving birth, don’t mess with her or the foal until they have strongly bonded as mother and baby.

Here is where the “Imprint” fanatics go crazy. They want to get their hands on the foal “immediately”, before it has had a chance to bond with its mother.

Let me warn you, intervening this way, can and sometimes does lead to problems.

I would suggest waiting a day after the birth before doing much with the baby.
After a day, then it’s perfectly fine to introduce yourself or do whatever you want with the foal.

Always keep in mind though, that this cute little baby is still a horse and should be treated like a horse.

The baby needs to learn that you are his “leader” not his “playmate”.

It’s good to teach the foal that you are there to care for him and protect him but that you also expect him to “behave” in a certain way.

All horses need to know that when a human is handling them, there are rules, boundaries and limitations. Horses NEED and EXPECT this guidance.

Their mother sets the rules when they are interacting with her. They expect you to set the rules when they are interacting with you. If you fail to do this, you’ll create a juvenile delinquent that is disrespectful and pushes you around.

Ideally, by the time the baby is a yearling, you should have taught him to lead well and stand tied to be groomed. He should know how to be lunged on a lunge-line.

He should be good about having his feet trimmed and so on.

When its time to start the colt under saddle as a 2-year-old, things will go much better if he is well mannered and respects people but is not afraid of them.

Sending a colt that is afraid of people to a professional trainer, will be more stressful for the colt and will take the trainer more time to get the colt started.

On the other side of that coin, sending a colt to the trainer that is bad mannered and disrespectful will also slow down the training process.

These are just a few of the things I recommend for your baby.

If you would like to see how to do this training, I strongly recommend getting my video, “Training the Foal and Weanling“.

Take care and good luck with your babies.

Well, this wraps it up for this newsletter. I hope you liked it.

Until next time, have fun training your horse.

Larry Trocha

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  1. Rebecca Walton says

    I disagree with imprint training as well, a mare will teach her foal how to be better than a human will. Before starting on lunging make sure it knows how to give to pressure.

  2. Becky says

    Respect is the key. I have raised many foals. I handle them enough to get them to pick up their feet and be comfortable with having ears touched, etc., but let them run in the pasture with their dam so that they learn to be a horse. Their mama wouldn’t put up with any shenanigans, and neither do I. Since I can’t lay my ears back, they might need a little smack sometime so they know they have to stay out of my personal space. Being with other horses also teaches them respect for their elders. 😉 The more free time they have outside to run & play, the less stressed they are. I don’t have any horses that I have to longe for 20 minutes before I get on them, either.

  3. says

    I agree with the imprinting theory that if done incorrectly you are messing with nature at it’s finest. I am but a humble horse owner that enjoys these majestic creatures as the next person but stepping in between mother and foal is not the best course of action so early in the foal’s life. I believe that having the mother create the first necessary bond teaches the foal that in fact they are a horse ultimately and our job as the owners are then to take the many steps into creating a healthy and respectful relation a day or two after birth. I have seen personally a few breeders step in minutes after birth and make such spoiled little brats who honestly think they are just part of the human pack instead of the horse herd and it ended with the horse being extremely dangerous and disrespectful. Now was some of it due to lack of training on the owners part? most defiantly yes but I think it also was that initial imprint that set that stage into motion. There are so many opinions on this matter but the proof is out there for all of us to observe and decide for ourselves. It is ultimately our obligation and duty to walk the path of countless hours and sweat by raising these animals and maybe to even take a financial step and seek out respected and proved trainers since some (not all) have dedicated their lives into fine tuning their techniques that best suite horses and riders alike. If there are doubts seek them, if there are opinions listen (doesn’t mean they are always right but it never hurts to listen), and in the end you will find what is best for you. After years of riding myself and training my fair share of lovely horses I have found one thing to be true.. No matter how good you may think you are you can always be better if you would just listen to the advice given. Larry has overall changed MANY methods of my riding and training that I will forever be grateful and always looking for more advice.

  4. Ritchie Schriever says

    Hey Larry,

    To keep it short/ You are right. I got a weanling from a friend and they didn’t mess with mom when she had her colt. But after they were up and moving about and back with the rest of the horses they went out and played with him. Mom is a horse that likes people and she transfered that to her baby by showing him not to be afraid of people.
    When I got him I put him in the barn and got him used to me. Played with his feet and he and did a short lead training then turned him out with my horses. Guess who is the first horse to greet me when I go into the pasture.
    Seams that a good mare is invaluable.

    Thanks Rich

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