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Baby handling

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    Baby handling

    I recently purchased my first foal. I have quite a few years of experience with older youngsters and adult horses, but not very much with horses under a year old, so I could use some guidance to make sure we’re on the right track!

    He’s not yet weaned, so he’s still with his dam in a pasture with a run-in, at the breeder’s farm. There aren’t any other horses with them, and his mother is pretty laissez-faire, letting him nip and play with and climb all over her.

    He’s doing pretty well with learning to lead, he responds to gentle pressure on the halter to walk forward or step back, he stands quietly, and he’ll let me pick up each foot. He seems like a pretty smart little guy. He has some “horse-kite” baby moments though, especially if I turn to lead him back toward mom, where he wants to rear up and fling his front feet around, which is probably him either just “feeling good” and wanting to play, or being a little insecure about being with a human instead of mom (not that mom is far away at all, I keep him well within the distance that he’ll willingly go from her on his own).

    Yesterday while I was handling him he had few minor “baby moments” of bouncing around, which I gently corrected and then just went back to what we were doing, but then he threw in a full-blown rear-and-strike-and-plunge when I started to turn him toward his mom, so I raised my voice, gave him a few snaps with lead line and generally made myself big and scary to move him back away from me. He then wanted to run to his mom, but I just kept hold of him and waited it out calmly the best I could until he settled. After that I left him stand and rubbed him for a few minutes, then did a few more minutes of leading just a few steps at a time, then I’d stop and give him scratches before he had the chance to get insecure or escalate, and then we called it a day.

    I know he’s just “being a baby” but I also don’t want him to grow up to be a mannerless heathen with dangerous habits. How do I best discourage that behavior at this point? Should I just mostly avoid situations for now where he could potentially be tempted to get fresh in order to have the good behavior become habit, or should I actively work on it? And also, since he’s a colt and has the attention span of 0.15 seconds, how do I get the most out of the time I spend working with him? (Not because I’m in any sort of hurry with him, I just want to have a really solid, well-mannered horse when he grows up!) He is not at home, so working with him multiple times a day isn’t an option.

    #2
    Colts do that sort of thing. He's young, playful and testing his limits. Firstly, don't pull on the halter or leadline to move him forward. You can damage their neck at this age (and after weaned). Always encourage from behind. A hand on his butt or a butt rope. If you lead him alongside his dam with someone leading her, he'll be easier to teach and handle. Once weaned, you can work more on manners. If his testicles are both descended, he could be gelded. If you try to stay at his shoulder, when he rears and strikes, you will have more control and it will be harder to strike you. Babies can be tough to handle if you don't have experience and you have to finesse alot of it so you don't do any damage. If he continues to rear and strike once weaned and with you - use a dressage whip to tap his forelegs or tap his butt and move him forward so he is unable to strike or rear. It is a natural part of the growing up and should be disciplined, but he needs to be a baby and not over-handled. Get some help from a breeder so you get it all done safely. He can learn to lead, tie, be touched all over and pick up his feet - which should be kept level and the toe points rounded out regularly by a farrier. But don't pull on the leadline!!! Keep your sessions very short! Good luck!

    Comment

      Original Poster

      #3
      Maybe I should clarify. The bouncing and rearing isn’t happening when I’m asking him to go forward, it’s when he’s walking beside me already and has a “baby moment” and gets rambunctious.

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by TKR View Post
        Colts do that sort of thing. He's young, playful and testing his limits. Firstly, don't pull on the halter or leadline to move him forward. You can damage their neck at this age (and after weaned). Always encourage from behind. A hand on his butt or a butt rope. If you lead him alongside his dam with someone leading her, he'll be easier to teach and handle. Once weaned, you can work more on manners. If his testicles are both descended, he could be gelded. If you try to stay at his shoulder, when he rears and strikes, you will have more control and it will be harder to strike you. Babies can be tough to handle if you don't have experience and you have to finesse alot of it so you don't do any damage. If he continues to rear and strike once weaned and with you - use a dressage whip to tap his forelegs or tap his butt and move him forward so he is unable to strike or rear. It is a natural part of the growing up and should be disciplined, but he needs to be a baby and not over-handled. Get some help from a breeder so you get it all done safely. He can learn to lead, tie, be touched all over and pick up his feet - which should be kept level and the toe points rounded out regularly by a farrier. But don't pull on the leadline!!! Keep your sessions very short! Good luck!
        ^^ All of this.

        At his age, he is much too young for you to be attempting to lead or control him with a lead rope attached to his halter.

        Pressure (gentle or not) and snaps of the lead rope put him at risk of injuring his neck. Before you make yourself "big and scary" again, think about the fact that he is a baby. Of course he wants to run to the protection of his dam. At his age, you should be encouraging him to stay safe not trying to teach him things that he's too young to process.
        www.laurienberenson.com

        Comment

          Original Poster

          #5
          I had thought it would be helpful in the long run if he learned the very basics of being handled and led before he has to go through the stress of weaning. Maybe I was wrong. I’m honestly trying to do the best I can with him. I fully expect him to want to run to his mom when he’s scared or insecure and act like a baby at times, I was just hoping to get some advice on what I should do what that happens. When would you consider him old enough to start learning to lead and get used to being handled with a halter?

          Comment


            #6
            Any and all leading at this age is done 'with' the mother. Beginning with two handlers, maybe a third behind, and a butt rope on the foal. Leading is mostly practiced with turn outs- short and sweet. We never did hand walks until after weaning.
            The cue card kid just held up an empty cue card. For a minute there I thought I had lost my sense of humor. --- Red Skelton

            Comment


              #7
              I found it really helpful when leading an unweaned foal to stand by their shoulder with your arm across their withers. Have someone else lead the mare and secure the foal that way. The foals find it a secure way to be with you, and you can have a certain amount of control with your arm without worrying about their neck.
              Mystic Owl Sporthorses
              www.mysticowlsporthorses.com

              Comment


                #8
                Find some videos of how baby TBs are handled on the good stud farms and watch them for tips. Godolphin Racing has loads of background videos about their horses that are interesting to watch and cover a lot of ground.
                "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Sticky Situation View Post
                  I had thought it would be helpful in the long run if he learned the very basics of being handled and led before he has to go through the stress of weaning. Maybe I was wrong. I’m honestly trying to do the best I can with him. I fully expect him to want to run to his mom when he’s scared or insecure and act like a baby at times, I was just hoping to get some advice on what I should do what that happens. When would you consider him old enough to start learning to lead and get used to being handled with a halter?
                  I get a halter on my babies right away. what I don't do is pull on their heads .Ever. I use the butt rope method and pull from behind to encourage forward movement, while holding the lead rope right under their chin where it attaches to the halter, my other hand at the withers, does the light pulling to get them moving forward.

                  Once they move forward I just go along with them and gently guide them to walk with me. If they stop I use the butt rope to resume leading. If they do the blow up kind of thing I just stay calm and kind of hold them in place and once it is over we resume our leading.

                  Brushing, lifting feet and touching him all over are also good things to be doing now. You will just progress as he gets older.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    When was he born? While you still need to be careful about their neck, etc, there is a decent difference between handling one that is 6 months old and one that is 2 months old.
                    Rearing can definitely be common in babies. It's important to to understand what is pushing that reaction. A baby that rears and panics out of fear has been pushed out of their comfort zone. I don't punish in those scenarios, patience and reading the horse becomes so important. Usually those ones just need a minute to chill and take a breath.
                    The ones who rear and strike at you in an attempt to play need to be discouraged. I do this by carrying a dressage whip and keeping them moving forward. Stay by their shoulder so they can't strike at you, sometimes you can give them a little nudge to knock them off balance.

                    Going forward I would probably try sticking closer to mom and just make sure baby is comfortable being touched all over, and picks up his feet. If you can enlist a helper or two so that you can work on leading. Or if he responds to a gentle tap with the dressage whip. Teach him "walk on" or use a cluck to go forward instead of pulling on his head. Teach him "whoa", use your arm to "hug" him if possible instead of pulling on his head.
                    I wouldn't worry too much about working on these things away from mom. The important part is that he's clear about what you expect from him.

                    Will he have a friend when he's weaned?

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Your voice can soothe and influence a baby/young horses as well. As they get older, a firm, deep, growly voice can break their attention on bad behavior and you can regain a positive
                      response without much ado. I love putting my arm across their backs and tickling their ribs or slipping it around their rump to encourage moving forward. NO FORCE!! Keep it all positive and don't sweat the antics at this time.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by Sticky Situation View Post
                        I recently purchased my first foal. I have quite a few years of experience with older youngsters and adult horses, but not very much with horses under a year old, so I could use some guidance to make sure we’re on the right track!

                        He’s not yet weaned, so he’s still with his dam in a pasture with a run-in, at the breeder’s farm. There aren’t any other horses with them, and his mother is pretty laissez-faire, letting him nip and play with and climb all over her.

                        He’s doing pretty well with learning to lead, he responds to gentle pressure on the halter to walk forward or step back, he stands quietly, and he’ll let me pick up each foot. He seems like a pretty smart little guy. He has some “horse-kite” baby moments though, especially if I turn to lead him back toward mom, where he wants to rear up and fling his front feet around, which is probably him either just “feeling good” and wanting to play, or being a little insecure about being with a human instead of mom (not that mom is far away at all, I keep him well within the distance that he’ll willingly go from her on his own).

                        Yesterday while I was handling him he had few minor “baby moments” of bouncing around, which I gently corrected and then just went back to what we were doing, but then he threw in a full-blown rear-and-strike-and-plunge when I started to turn him toward his mom, so I raised my voice, gave him a few snaps with lead line and generally made myself big and scary to move him back away from me. He then wanted to run to his mom, but I just kept hold of him and waited it out calmly the best I could until he settled. After that I left him stand and rubbed him for a few minutes, then did a few more minutes of leading just a few steps at a time, then I’d stop and give him scratches before he had the chance to get insecure or escalate, and then we called it a day.

                        I know he’s just “being a baby” but I also don’t want him to grow up to be a mannerless heathen with dangerous habits. How do I best discourage that behavior at this point? Should I just mostly avoid situations for now where he could potentially be tempted to get fresh in order to have the good behavior become habit, or should I actively work on it? And also, since he’s a colt and has the attention span of 0.15 seconds, how do I get the most out of the time I spend working with him? (Not because I’m in any sort of hurry with him, I just want to have a really solid, well-mannered horse when he grows up!) He is not at home, so working with him multiple times a day isn’t an option.
                        Something I forgot to mention is that your rubbing and scratching on him encourages the colt to think of you as a playmate (and to misbehave). Rearing and flinging his front feet around is exactly the way he would play with other foals in turnout. He has no idea that you are more fragile than his mother.

                        At this point in his life it is so much safer--for both of you--if you don't try to be his friend. Treating him in a businesslike manner will set boundaries for him at this early stage when he is just beginning to learn where his place in the world will be.

                        www.laurienberenson.com

                        Comment

                          Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by LaurieB View Post

                          Something I forgot to mention is that your rubbing and scratching on him encourages the colt to think of you as a playmate (and to misbehave). Rearing and flinging his front feet around is exactly the way he would play with other foals in turnout. He has no idea that you are more fragile than his mother.

                          At this point in his life it is so much safer--for both of you--if you don't try to be his friend. Treating him in a businesslike manner will set boundaries for him at this early stage when he is just beginning to learn where his place in the world will be.
                          Should rubbing him on his back and butt also be something I don’t do? I do try to avoid rubbing/scratching his face, because I thought that might tempt him to think we’re playing, but when I rub him on his back or top of his butt he tends to stand quietly and calmly as though he enjoys it. That is what I was referring to.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by Sticky Situation View Post
                            Should rubbing him on his back and butt also be something I don’t do? I do try to avoid rubbing/scratching his face, because I thought that might tempt him to think we’re playing, but when I rub him on his back or top of his butt he tends to stand quietly and calmly as though he enjoys it. That is what I was referring to.
                            I'm sure he enjoys being rubbed, it probably feels great. But usually his next step will be to return the favor. (Picture 2 horses standing side by side, facing opposite directions, and chewing on/scratching each other's withers and backs.) So he won't realize that he's doing anything wrong when he wants to chew on/bite you. And then you'll have to correct him for something that isn't really his fault.
                            www.laurienberenson.com

                            Comment


                              #15
                              First of all I think you're on the right track in terms of goals - creating a solid citizen who respects humans. Second I agree with others in terms of watching video or other source of experienced people doing what you're trying to do. Everyone has to start somewhere. I also agree with the key idea of letting mom do some of the work; in other words, teach leading with baby following mom (there's a variety of ways to do it but those accepted ways prevent too much tension on the neck/head). Do not 'play' with a baby. While out with Mom or standing near Mom (make sure no other babies can help assist you) teach the baby to stand for a short period - you can put on and take off a halter, fly mask, pick up feet, touch everywhere, learn that brushes aren't scary, etc. Having a second hand can be a huge help in the beginning. How well it goes in the beginning will depend on baby's general demeanor (those more bold will like you engaging with them but will try to turn it into a game/play session). Make it black and white, keep it short and focus on the baby getting to recognize you, know you are a human and what is acceptable and that you touching, running your hands over legs, neck, back etc is okay. I don't do a lot more than that prior to weaning EXCEPT I do teach my babies to load on a trailer with mom. Fortunately all the broodmares I ever had were good loaders. I would teach their babies to load and unload without issue - all fun with mom, then we'd start driving around the farm or neighborhood. I just did it a few times which made loading after they were weaned and once taught to lead without mom much, much easier with little to no drama.
                              Ranch of Last Resort

                              Comment

                                Original Poster

                                #16
                                exvet Thank you. Are there any particular videos or resources you’d recommend? I’ve been trying to read and watch as much as I can, but it seems like there is plenty of questionable advice out there to wade through. It’s been pretty discouraging to find out that the consensus in this thread is not that I need to change a couple things I’ve been doing with him, but that everything I’ve done with him so far has been wrong.

                                I am definitely not wanting to “play” with him or turn him into a pet, I just mean that he’s a baby and if he does something other than what I’d like him to, he’s either wanting to play or he’s insecure, not naughty.
                                Last edited by Sticky Situation; Oct. 18, 2020, 08:45 AM.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  i find them a lot easier to work with in a small enclosed space (large pen) with momma hanging out. THey generally are pretty easy to lead alongside momma. they are much more amenable to my efforts once they are weaned. My aim prior to weaning is more familiarization with the halter, care and handling and leading along with momma. After weaning we work on more leading fine points.
                                  "You can look at a horse and know what he/she seems to be; you can study the pedigree and know what the horse ought to be; but only the offspring can tell you what horse really is..."
                                  Redbud Ranch

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    As my babies got a little older and interested in feed, I hung a bucket outside their dam's stall for them and while they are eating (chewing is relaxing and food is a positive), would pick up their feet, rub and touch all over, put a halter on and even put a tad of pressure to start them learn about tying. If they get upset, let go, but usually they will move forward and you can relax the pressure and they process that. I also introduce the clippers.

                                    Comment

                                      Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by TKR View Post
                                      As my babies got a little older and interested in feed, I hung a bucket outside their dam's stall for them and while they are eating (chewing is relaxing and food is a positive), would pick up their feet, rub and touch all over, put a halter on and even put a tad of pressure to start them learn about tying. If they get upset, let go, but usually they will move forward and you can relax the pressure and they process that. I also introduce the clippers.
                                      Thank you, this is really helpful. This is what I meant when I said halter pressure, I hope you all don’t think I’ve been dragging him along with constant pressure on his neck. While he was right beside him mom, I started by applying a couple fingers’ worth of pressure and released it as soon as he took half a step forward — he figured out really quickly that if he just moved forward the pressure was gone.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        I purchased a 15 foot cowboy training lead rope this summer, and it's fabulous for using to lead babies because it is long enough to wrap around their butt. It gives a lot more control even with antics,and you are not pulling on their head. My filly did quite a bit of bouncing around leading her in and out of the barn every day with mom (who did not scold her much either, and they were by themselves), but OH what a difference after weaning, when she went out with a yearling and 3 year old. They put her in her place immediately, and she's a dream to handle now. I'm sure your boy will be much better after weaning. Plus, they just mentally mature as they get older too, so it just seems to get easier to ask them questions.

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