Training foals can be a bit overwhelming if you stop to consider all of the things you are now responsible for teaching your new foal. Between halter training, standing, loading, introducing new objects, and general ground manners, it can feel like a full-time job. Luckily, if you have a solid plan in place and 15-20 minutes per day scheduled with your foal, you are already in a great spot for training.
As we continue working with our little lady, Renfri, we’ve started introducing new and “scary” objects. Like most things with foals, the sooner you introduce and desensitize them to new things, the better.
Desensitizing is a word most horse people are familiar with. When it comes to horses and training, desensitizing means you are training them to not be afraid and eventually not respond to an object that traditionally would be very scary to a horse (think plastic bags, loud noises, etc.). Most horses need a basic level of desensitization for everyday objects or tasks. If you are planning to take your foal to horse shows, parades, trail riding, or any type of large gathering, you’ll want to increase the number and type of objects you introduce them to.
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We start with basic objects with foals and continually add items. Here are some items you will want to introduce your foal to:
Think of other items you use or will want to use on a regular basis and add them to your list.
The process for introducing items is the same regardless of the type of object. If possible, it is a good idea to have an extra set of hands during the first introduction of an item.
First, make sure your foal is in a safe place (in case they get nervous) and near mom. Show the object to your foal and allow them to inspect it. Encourage curiosity! Praise them for looking at the item or touching it. Slowly move the object closer to their shoulder. You want to move toward their shoulder rather than their heads as that is generally less scary for your foal. Gently place it on their shoulder and use it to rub your foal. Eventually, the goal is to rub the object all over their body, including their legs and head, but be sure to start slow and build to this. Make sure to leave all of these lessons on a good note — do not stop if your foal runs away scared. Start over and remove the item and end the lesson when your foal is calm and standing still.
For clippers, you want to introduce clippers OFF first with the steps above. I highly recommend getting a set of cordless clippers for this training if you don’t have some already. It makes it much easier for you to keep the clippers easy to grab without having to worry about a cord dragging.
Once your foal is completely comfortable with the clippers OFF, start the entire process from the beginning with the clippers ON. Don’t be surprised if the vibration of the clippers startles your foal the first few times. I find placing my hand between their skin and the clipper helps to dispel some of the vibrations for a more gradual introduction.
In general, the more you introduce your foal to, the better. If you are planning to go to events or even trail riding extensively, consider adding these items to your desensitizing list:
Remember, you do not have to introduce all of these items right away. Start with one object and slowly add more. You’ll be surprised how quickly your foal progresses once they understand what you are trying to teach them.
I’ve been around horses my entire life, but my Friesian journey started just over 20 years ago. Our horses have always been a part of our family. They have traveled with us as we relocated from Vermont to New York to Iowa and finally, to Arizona. I can’t wait to share our story with you!
Apr 20, 2021
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[…] 20 minutes at a time or you will exceed their capacity. Use this time to work on halter training, desensitizing them to new objects, and moving their bodies around (feet, legs, etc.). The more consistent you are the more normal […]