The first thing I like to do is to get them to think of me as the next best thing to their mom. Getting them used to me being around, especially scratching them in all the itchy spots, anything that makes them think positive thoughts about me. I usually put a halter on first day, but for fear of tangling some how won't leave on without somebody around. I probably try feet within two weeks or so(no babies this year so it's a little foggy), once they're not so wobbly they'll tip right over, but just for a second so they understand what is asked of them. I lead with mom definitely within the first month and like to pony them with mom too, I find they're very responsive to pressure on the lead rope that way and gets them exposed to new stuff(particularly if you trail ride). I also like to try and expose them to as much stuff most horses think or will think is scary with mom around to show them it's not so bad, ie trailering, water, bridges, tarps, etc. I'd say I start doing all that stuff anywhere from 1 month old to 3 months old. Sometimes the trailering is tough as their depth perception is still fuzzy and I have a step up. I just generally like to get my babies to think everything in life is no big deal before big brave mom bids them adieu oh and to trust me so when things are a big deal they'll work with me.
We get a hold of them asap and keep touching everyday until they are weened...Makes things a lot easier. it helps when you have a baby crazy daughter that just can't stop touching them she picks up there legs , rubs then all over, at least 1 million kisses a day.....
I do know of a few breeders that just turn them out in a heard, then wrangles everybody to ween( you can here her stock 20 miles away) Then trys to halter brake them, oh that is fun......Don't go that route I say keep breeding small so you can do it right, unless you have a staff
National Champion Dan Patch sire of USEF/USHJA winning ponies!
I have tried both the work with them as much as possible from day one, halter on right away, etc. and as my time increasingly disappears have had to change my approach to a less involved one, and they've all turned out fine. I actually prefer the less hands-on approach, although I wasn't unhappy with the results from working with them alot immediately either, I just found that if I allowed them to get really, truly, super-comfortable with me as someone who scratches them and feeds them they seem to accept the haltering and leading with less fuss. So that's all I do until they're confident with me, just spend a few minutes every day scratching them, until they've got no worries about that, then I'll move on to halters, leading, feet lifting, etc.. Except for poor Arden who had to have needles twice a day for the first 2 weeks of her life, then got ulcers from that and had to have Cimetidine three times a day for 8 weeks...It's a wonder she is such a friendly horse!
As long as they're treated well, I don't think it matters that much when you start, within reason. Obviously unhandled 3 year olds are a challenge!
Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines.