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The method of imprint training animals has been used for hundreds of years and has become the most popular way to train young horses. The main idea behind imprint training is for the animal, in this case, a foal, to become accustomed to certain things that can normally be intimidating early in its life. Just like a foal becomes imprinted on its mother and recognizes that she means comfort and security, it can also become imprinted on humans and the everyday care it will receive throughout its life. The following is a guide to imprint training a foal in the first days of its life.

After the foal has bonded with its mother and gotten up for its first nursing, it will lie down to sleep. This is the perfect time to introduce the foal to humans. Sit down next to the foal and rub your hands all over its body. This will accustom the foal to being handled. Make sure to spend a majority of the time handling the foal’s head, since head-shyness is a very common problem with most horses. Repeat this process using everyday horse care items such as brushes, spray bottles (use water to spray), towels, etc. The foal will most likely fall asleep while this is being done, but it is still just as effective. This routine will need to be repeated three or four times a day for the first week.

Sometime during the first day of the foal’s life, it will need to become accustomed to wearing a halter and having its legs and feet handled. Since foals often fight while a halter is being put on for the first time, it is easier to slide it on when the foal is asleep. Leave the halter on for a few hours at a time so the young horse will become very comfortable wearing it. While the foal is in a standing position, practice running your hands up and down the foals legs. With each leg, lift gently on the lower leg (as if you were going to clean out the hoof) until the foal shifts its weight to the other leg. It is not necessary to actually pick up the hoof since the foal will still have trouble with balance during the first few days of its life. This will need to be repeated a few times a day as well.

On the second day, some simple lead training can be introduced. Begin teaching the foal to lead by placing one hand on the halter and one hand around the hind end of the foal. Pull gently on the halter and follow by pushing the foal forward with the other. Practice going forward, turning, and going backwards. As the foal becomes comfortable with this, start using a lead rope attached to the halter and another one looped around the foal’s hind end to take the place of your hand.

All these things should be repeated daily in order for the foal to be successfully imprint trained. Make sure to also let the foal get used to loud noises and other common everyday objects and activities. It is also very important to let the foal be handled by as many different people as possible so that it won’t get attached to one specific person. This routine of imprint training will allow the foal to be comfortable with the everyday life of a domestic horse and make for a well-behaved, trainable horse.