When Horse-Breeding Evolves Into Horse Training, Part 2

In Part 2 of this series, examine five more training exercises you can do with your young foal.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Teaching a foal to accept restraint as a youngster will build trust, making future horse-training exercises and health procedures easier to perform. Journal photo

With these next five exercises, you’ll continue to provide your new foal with a solid foundation. Before attempting the exercises in Part 2, be sure you review and master the first four exercises in Part 1:

  • Haltering Your Young Foal
  • Teaching to Give to Pressure
  • Tacking to the Left and to the Right
  • Praise and Stroke the Foal During Lessons

Keep in mind, these foal-training exercises are done after a foal has already been through the imprinting process. Check out “Postpartum Impression” on AQHA Daily for more information on imprinting a newborn foal. But be sure you start these exercises while the foal is still small. Especially with the restraint exercises, you wouldn’t want to try those on an older, stronger foal who might put you in harm’s way. You’ll also want to make certain that your mare is OK with you handling her baby.

1. Restraining Using Your Leg in Front of the Foal

Restraining the young horse at this early age is invaluable. Done successfully, he will be more inclined to accept restraint as he grows older and larger. He’ll learn the meaning of “whoa” and learn to trust you. It’s also handy for administering medicine should the foal or young horse become ill, and it lays the foundation for lifting the foal’s feet.

Make sure you start your foal right the first time. With AQHA’s FREE Halter Breaking Your Foal e-book, you can do just that. Download the e-book so you know when your foal is ready for halter starting, the best way to fit a halter, how to introduce the lead rope and so much more!

Stand on one side of the foal with the slack lead in your hand closest to his rump. Widen your stance and bend your knees for balance. While blocking the foal with your thigh/knee against the foal’s chest between his front legs, place one arm around his chest. Hold the foal close to you in this position for a few seconds, softly saying, “Whoa.” If he tries to escape your hold, stay with him and praise when he relaxes. Repeat on the other side.

2.  Restraining Using Your Leg Behind the Foal

Stand on one side of the foal with the slack lead in the hand closest to his head. Widen your stance and bend your knees for balance. While blocking the foal with your thigh/knee at his rump, between his back legs, put your arm around his chest and hold the foal close to you. Keep your head up and pointed toward his rump so he doesn’t hit you if he tosses his head. Hold this position for a few seconds, speaking softly and saying “Whoa.” Release and praise only when he relaxes. Repeat on the other side.

3.  Lifting Front Legs

Stand facing the foal on his left side. Put the lead with slack in it in your left hand. Bend your knees, placing one knee in front of his right leg. The foal’s neck can rest over your thigh. Put your left arm around his back and support under the girth with your left hand. With your right hand, lift the foal’s front left leg and raise it. The foal may feel like falling down and, if so, you can use your left leg for support. The goal is to teach the foal that he can stand on three legs, so try to move off and let him discover his balance. Do not let the foal pull his leg away from you. When he relaxes, place the hoof on the floor. Praise. Repeat on the right side.

4. Lifting Back Legs

Using the same body position as you did for the front legs, reach back and pick up the foal’s back leg. The natural reaction is to kick and try to escape the hold. Hold on and do not allow him to pull his leg away. Keep talking softly and place your foal's leg down as soon as he relaxes. Praise and repeat on the other side.

5. Leading the Foal in the Stall, Then in the Pasture or Arena.

After the foal has learned to “tack” both directions, you can begin to teach him to lead first in the stall, then outside. Start on one side of the foal, open your arms and hold the lead with the hand closest to the foal’s head. Place your hand closest to his tail on his rump and give a little tickle or pinch until he begins leading. As he moves forward, place your arm over his back. Continue around a 10- or 15-foot circle, and stop and praise. Repeat on the other side.

Halter starting your foal is a rewarding and sometimes challenging process. Ensure that your young foal gets the proper start with AQHA’s FREE Halter Breaking Your Foal e-book. Download the e-book for critical information about fitting a halter on your foal, introducing the lead rope, leading techniques and more.

Horses are right- and left-handed, just as we are. It might be easier for the foal to lead from one side or the other. Regardless, it’s important to teach your foal to lead from both sides. This will lay the foundation for longe-line training and evenness in riding both directions, as well as loading into a trailer from either side.