Name: Susan Stumpf
State: Canon City, Colorado
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Well, I thought I might have to go first for all you shy ones out there. I will discuss here my experience in breaking in the new foal to foreign stimuli and to help him overcome "spookiness."
I believe, firsthand, in imprinting new born foals. You are the first thing they see, smell, hear, feel. Within the first months of a foal's life, they have what is called a "low threshhold of fear" and you have a short window in which to help the colt overcome many obstables so it doesn't grow up to spook at his own shadow.
Expose him to everything you can - tractor sounds, barking dogs, crush paper and foil wrap around him, clanging sounds, constantly reassuring him that he's okay, stroking him. Expose him to halters within the first two/three weeks of life. Get him accustomed to being handled, groomed, body clipped, bathed, cross-tied, touched, pick up his feet often. I teach my young colts at an early age to "park out" and the lesson for the day isn't over until they've stood still in that position while I walk around them without restraining them by lead rope, gently asking them to stay and repositioning them if they step aside. Don't get mad if they don't do it right the first couple of times. Most up to this point if you've fooled with them will be willing to please you - and they want to, so long as they understand what you're trying to communicate to them. So be patient, and don't loose your temper with them. Just keep repeating the steps, talking softly, but firmly, getting them to move their legs out and stand quietly. The key phrase here is "repetition." Horses, like most animals, learn by repetition. They are creatures of consistency. Parking out teaches good discipline, plus it helps to mount tall horses, and I've seen it done in most of your show arenas.
It is very important to fool with him during the first few months of life prior to weaning so that down the road, whether you keep him or sell him, he will be manageable and ready for farriers and trainers.
Don't be afraid to bring him along on trial rides. His mom will sure welcome the change of scenery and he'll just follow along beside her, stopping occasionally to nurse. He won't leave his mama's side, so don't think he'll take off in the woods never to be found again. It's good all around exposure for him of strange sounds and smells and a "sense of belonging." He will notice how his mother relates to stimuli and humans and he will duplicate and learn from her. If she's relaxed and a seasoned trail-riding broodmare, he will be relaxed also and everyone will benefit from and enjoy the "outing."
Hope this helps someone. I could have added much more, but lets here from some of you out there . . .
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