Halter Training the Draft or Warmblood Foal

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Making Not Breaking by Cherry Hill
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill
Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry Hill
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Halter Training the Draft or Warmblood Foal

  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

Ground manners for the farm foal should begin the day the foal is born.  Because many farm foals will be mid-size (1100-1400#) or heavyweight (over 1400#) when they mature, the best time to teach good manners is when the foal is very young and well under 200 pounds.  Since size at birth can range from 100 to 175 pounds and 44 inches at the withers or taller, the strength of the newborn farm foal should not be underestimated.  Some of the specific early training goals for a foal include: whole body restraint, body handling, head handling, haltering, leading, and tying.


Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry Hill     There are non-specific goals you should keep in mind also.  These include preserving the curious and friendly attitude with which all foals are born while at the same time establishing your dominance in a fair way.  If you create for the foal a pleasant association with humans, it will give the foal incentive to want to learn what you want him to do.  In this way you set the stage for a good working partnership.

     Lessons which are clear and effectively planned and which contain appropriate reward tend to encourage a good attitude in horses.  Random, rushed, or ill-planned interactions usually result in confusion, fear, and the basis for a negative attitude towards work.  Especially when working with a foal, try to alternate formal lessons (like learning this {yech!} leading stuff!) with pleasurable activities with humans (like the fun of getting a good grooming!).  This will encourage a horse to look forward to his handling.


     Since many farm foals have an infusion of cold-blood from draft horses, it is important to consider the nature and characteristics of these animals in developing a training program.  Draft horses are often described as gentle, good-natured, intelligent, courageous, noble, and sensible but are sometimes cursed with such descriptions as thick-skinned, insensitive, lazy, and too strong in the bridle.

Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanac     I think in most ways, the typical cross-bred or pure-bred farm horse is really no different than any other horse; there are lazy and energetic individuals in any breed.  One thing I have observed is that cold-blooded horses tend to require more "scientific" cueing due to their larger mass (thicker skin, more dense bone, etc.).  You don't have to press harder, you just have to be accurate as to where you press and you must certainly reward such a horse with a release from pressure when he is doing what you want.  Otherwise you run the risk of making him insensitive to cues: "hard-mouthed" or "cold-sided".

     Another difference I've observed between hot and cold blooded horses is that while a cue might be felt by both at the same time, it takes the cold blooded horse longer to get his mass "in gear" and react to the cue.  I often joke that with a large horse there is a much longer distance for the message to travel from the site of the cue to the horse's brain and back to the limbs or body where the action takes place.  There is probably something to my "distance" theory and there most definitely is a correlation between the "slower" blood chemistry and metabolism of cold blooded horses and their slower reaction time.  All of this is to convince you to be patient.  Especially if you have worked with warm or hot blooded horses, you will have to adjust your expectations and timing to fit a cold blooded horse.



Making Not Breaking by Cherry Hill    When a foal is 1 to 2 days old, you should show it that there is nothing to fear from body restraint.   Stand on the near side and put your left hand in front of his chest.  The foal should feel lots of reassuring body-to-body contact but you should not exert pressure as long as the foal stands still.  Keep the foal from backing up by putting your right arm behind his rump.  When he is standing still, use one of your hands to gently touch the foal all over.  This takes time and patience but there's no better way to spend your time.

Remember the keys:

  • Lots of light, body-to-body contact
  • Restriction only when needed and always followed by a release when the foal quits struggling
  • Patient repetition

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  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

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