RAISING a foal can be one of the most exciting and demanding things do to with horses and to the first- time foal owner it can be a daunting experience.
Here are some useful tips for raising a well- balanced young horse from natural horsemanship trainers Lisa and Mark Bruin.
The Shelley couple had their own new arrival this week, Isabella, a six-month-old Friesian filly. Lisa says: “We are in love with her; she is so beautiful and not even halter- broken, so its all for us to do. Just the way we like it, a blank canvas.”
“We often get asked “what can I do with my foal”? Our answer is usually: Everything you would with an adult.”
With the exception of a few things such as fast work and circles and anything which will strain joints, this statement is true.
Lisa and Mark treat their foals in the way they’d like them to turn out as adults, which is respectful and polite.
“While the horse is very young and impressionable make the most of it,” says Lisa. So instead of turning your foal away until it’s three or four there are some things to get your foals used to very early in life.
And Mark says: “If you set boundaries and guidelines for them early in life then they tend not to make a big issue out of scary things and become respectful when they are older.”
Lisa adds: “It is important, however, not to overdo it with foals as they tire easily, mentally and physically.”
Take baby steps; breaking each session into easy-to-answer questions for the foal will build its trust and confidence in you in no time at all. These early learning exercises are going to set the foal up for the rest of its life and so everything has to be short, fun and confidence-building.
Even though foals are usually no more than chest height as adults we like them to put their heads down so we can get halters and bridles on easily, so start asking for this as foals.
Get them used to rustling bags/jackets etc so they don’t become frightened of noises.
Lisa says, “We generally get them leading around the stable and when they can follow light pressure we’ll take this exercise outside.”
Feet and legs can sometimes be a big issue to horses, so while they are tiny, spend a lot of time rubbing legs and teaching them to pick up feet for just a few seconds without leaning, then over a period of time increase the time the foot is in the air. Spend a lot of time putting saddle blankets on.
According to Lisa: “Bathing and clipping can be really difficult for some horses to grasp. So we have been known to fully clip weanlings. If we do this on a regular basis from weanling age, these horses always turn out to where they are able to be clipped without being tied or held.”
As far as bathing is concerned, think about rain! All horses are used to rain, so Lisa and Mark teach their babies to stand for bathing by allowing the hose to “rain” on them.
Once the foal is leading well in a safe place, they spend a lot of time walking them on the roads, getting them used to traffic and other sights. They also try to get them walking over obstacles and into trailers.