There is nothing cuter than a young foal. We all love to pet them and watch them frolic in the pasture or pen. When they’re small and curious they seem innocent enough. However, let that foal get hurt so that it needs doctoring and it’s a totally different story. You quickly find out that a foal that supposedly doesn’t weigh that much can definitely drag you all over the place. This is why it’s so important to get young horses halter trained as soon as possible.
The best place to work with a young foal is in the stall with its mother. This way you can keep the foal close and control its movement. A stall is also a place where they both feel comfortable which helps lower the stress level. The last thing you want is for the mare to feel stressed. A stressed mare quickly becomes protective.
Foals are like children in that they have very short attention span because they are young. Because of this, keep your halter training sessions short. When you set out to work with your foal each day set one goal and quit as soon as it’s accomplished. Not only will this help you to keep the sessions short but will also ensure that you end on a good note.
The ultimate goal in halter training a young horse is always to have them accept haltering willingly. The first few training sessions determine what life-long attitude a horse will have towards putting on a halter. If you try to forcefully make a foal accept a halter most likely that foal is going to fight. The result will ultimately be a horse that’s hard to catch and slings its head when haltering.
Even the most curious and docile of foals require a gradual introduction to the halter. One good way to start is simply by rubbing in any area that the foal is comfortable with you touching. Slowly work your way outwards from that area to other areas on the foal’s body. Make sure you use the flat surface of your hand and not the tips of your fingers. Rubbing with the tips of your fingers resembles the claw of a predator. This is why it’s important to always handle your foal flat handed.
Once your foal will let you rub all over its body, then it’s time to rub with the halter. You can think of the halter as a grooming tool. By using the halter to rub with, your foal will start to associate the halter with something that feels good.
After you’ve got the foal accepting grooming with the halter, it’s time to concentrate on the head and neck areas. Will your foal let you rub the halter over and around their nose? What about behind the ears and down the sides of their face? Before you actually put the halter on your foal, make sure they tolerate rubbing these two areas specifically.
If you decide to leave the halter on for any amount of time use a halter that’s made to break if caught. Horses can potentially break their neck or do permanent damage if their halter gets caught and doesn’t break loose. Choose a halter with at least a leather crown. Leather will break when nylon will not.
Young horses require short gradual steps to progress in their training. Take these proper steps to ensure your foal is comfortable with wearing a halter and you’ll be well on your way to the next step of teaching your foal to lead.