I have an 8-month old Warmblood foal who is almost 15 hands
and weighs about 750 pounds. Steve is VERY smart and shows very dominant behavior
(gelding is scheduled 2 months from now). Often, things are a struggle, not because
he doesn't know what to do, but because he doesn't want to.
his spirit and am trying to cultivate obedience without taking short cuts that
will shatter his trust. I have taught him tricks like fetching his jolly ball,
so I know there's no lack of intelligence and he's eager to learn new things.
I am and have been, however, struggling with his feet since he was
born (would you believe he was imprinted?).
I've read your other
suggestions, but nothing seems to address my particular problem. I get all the
shaping concepts, but I still don't know what to do. I am working only on his
left front leg for now. I suspect if I can get the behavior confirmed there, it
will be easy generalize it to the other legs. I stand by his leg facing to the
rear and softly ask for him to lift his leg by touching him just behind his knee.
Rather than go for the whole pick-up-foot, my goal is to get him to raise his
foreleg and just let me hold it while his lower leg dangles. (When I tried to
pick up his foot from the ankle, it prompted him to rear up above me and the potential
for injury prompted me to think about smaller stages) I thought from holding it
up from the elbow and relaxing below the knee, I would be able to slide my hand
down and begin to reposition the ankle and foot into the proper position for the
farrier. I can generally get him to give me the leg, but it is immediately followed
by enthusiastic pawing (I'm writing this to you with ice on my nose -- this evening,
he caught me in the face with his knee, and I realized I desperately need advice
before I get seriously hurt or strangle him).
Because of the pawing
and his size and his ability to rear with no problem (short, powerful back), I
simply do not have the strength to hold his leg up when he wants to slam it down
or to keep him from pawing. So, while I get your "Be sure to only let the
leg down when the foal is standing quietly and not struggling. Give a scratch
on the withers as added show of approval," and it makes perfect sense on
paper, it's simply proved to be impossible for me and Steve, and I'm rather desperate.
I am hoping you can help. Steve means the world to me and we live in a remote
portion of Montana where I don't know any good trainers, and I'm unwilling to
entrust him to just anyone who professes to be a "trainer." I do think
this is something we can get past together, but my toolbox is temporarily empty
and my nose really hurts. Help?
Is he tied when you are doing this? To a post or rail or crosstied?
he stand tied without pawing, pulling, swerving, or whinnying?
Does he get
What happened to him between imprinting and 8 months of
Was he born at your place?
If you did the imprinting, did he
willing give his legs/feet at that time?
I've never imprinted a foal nor
known one that was imprinted correctly or incorrectly but have heard about quite
a few that were incorrectly imprinted. From what I understand, if you do imprinting
correctly, you get complete submission right at birth of all of those things........legs,
head, clippers, etc. etc. If not done correctly/completely, it teaches them to
pull away and resist for the rest of their lives.
I'll answer after I
hear back from you.
I've tried both tied and untied. When he's tied, he's tied
to a hitching post (two uprights and one cross rail). He will stand without pawing,
pulling or whinnying for a bit, then he gets fussy and has a tantrum, then he
chills out. Needless to say, I always let him have his tantrums and never let
him go until he chills out. I have him tied to a large innertube wrapped around
the post so he can't really get a good point to resist. About 50% of the time,
he behaves himself when tied. Otherwise he fusses. I'm not sure what to do to
get him to relax and behave on a more consistent basis while tied.
is entirely possible (and I'll go so far as to say likely) I didn't imprint him
correctly. I was there when he was born, but he is my first foal and I did what
the books said, but I probably did it incorrectly. He lives with me, so I feed
him daily, but I have not always been able to work with him on a consistent basis
(Montana winters are not conducive to spending a lot of time outside). I'm the
only horse person I know here, and I can't ask a non-horse person to help 'cause
they just don't get it and I'm afraid someone will get hurt. I've certainly seen
a lot of resistance from him, and that tends to point to doing the imprinting
wrong. No, he has never willingly given his feet. When he was little, I could
get them up for a while, but he still fought until I was exhausted. Just about
everything with him has been a struggle. At the same time, there are rare moments
of submission and simple obedience. I'd say he's very mood driven. He can be totally
naughty (biting, not respecting personal space, not going to his assigned eating
location) at breakfast and lunch and completely well-behaved (none of the aforementioned)
As for exercise, I think we're okay there. He's out all the
time on about an acre -- not a lot, but his high-strung thoroughbred mama tends
to keep him moving. I have given some thought to teaching him to longe. I'm not
wild about longing babies, but I thought I might have some greater success if
he's had a workout and is feeling relaxed. What do you think about longing a 15
hand 8-month old? He's got big feet and large joints, so it's not like heavy impact
on a quarter-type horse with tons of weight on ittty bitty legs and feet.
Thank you for the quick response!
you for providing the great detail. I will address what you say in the first letter
and this most current one in more detail very soon. In the meantime, I have a
couple more questions:
Are you planning to have him gelded and if so when?
You mentioned you used "the books" to imprint - I assume you mean
something by Dr. Miller? What other books and videos do you have for reference?
Funny you should ask about the gelding - in light of our
issues, I've scheduled it for next Tuesday ?
I've also made arrangements
to wean him on Wednesday. He'll be an only-horse after that. I have 3 days worth
of sedatives for he and mama afterwards and I thought I'd shamefully take advantage
of the situation to forward my cause. He's also getting his feet trimmed while
he's under the anesthetic on Tuesday. That will buy me some more time to work
out the issues.
Not sure what books I have - they're packed away
now. Miller sounds familiar, but not enough for me to say that was one of my sources.
I definitely didn't have any videos.
You may use whatever correspondence
you wish in your newsletter. If it'll help you or others, I'd be delighted to
Get back to me when you can - there is certainly no reason
for you to do it until you have a rainy day.
I looked the photos of your colt Steve. I must say he is handsome
and worth your efforts. But please proceed with care. I am answering this quickly
because you have his gelding scheduled for this coming week and I want to be sure
you have my reply and can think about it before next week.
First of all,
it does sound like he likely was imprinted improperly and taught to resist rather
than submit. As I mentioned, I have never imprinted a foal nor have I known one
that has been properly imprinted. I have read Dr. Miller's book and watched his
video and talked with him and the following is what I understand. When the person
doing the imprinting quits too early it has a negative effect, in other words,
is worse than having done nothing at all. For example, if you were at the stage
where you trying to desensitize the ticklish flank area and your rubbed and the
foal struggled and perhaps kicked, you rubbed, he struggled, you rubbed, he struggled
and got away and you thought, well, I'll move on to his head now. Well, what occurred
is that you just made his flank more sensitive than before and taught him to resist
because he got the reward of getting away and having the rubbing stopped. The
same principle holds true with restraint, of the legs, for example. Yes, it does
sound good on paper, but better yet, it works in reality. You must not let go
- you must be the one to put the foal's foot down, not the foal. I mention all
of this about the imprinting, not to chastise you or make you feel like you made
an error, but to say this. The very same principles apply if you do them the day
of birth, the day after, the week after, the month after. You must be consistent,
quit on a good note where your horse has learned something. Each time a horse
learns to get away with something in his interaction with humans, his bad behavior
is being reinforced, so it is worse than if you had turned him out and not handled
him at all until weaning, if you see what I mean. Then, at least, you would be
starting with a fresh slate.
Let's look at the present situation: