Young Horses & The First Three

raising_the_young_horseOwning a young horse can be a very rewarding and exciting adventure. It is a chance to start fresh and have a clean slate to bring up and train the way you want. However, like a young child, horses have their own minds and ideas and they are also a product of their environment. It is easy to make impressions on a young horse good or bad, and these impressions can last a lifetime.

The First Three Weeks

I do believe in the act of imprinting. There are limits to what you should do but when done appropriately imprinting establishes a positive bond with humans. Little things like lifting up feet, touching ears, bellies etc. are useful tasks for the later years to come. This way your little guy won’t know the difference and he will most likely think that it’s ok when you pull him out of the field 3 years later and start him up.

The first three months

Although it is important for a young horse to be handled they also need to be taught valuable life skills by their mothers. Any time spent handling your foal should be kept to a minimum and be direct in its nature. If you watch a mare and foal out in the field mom makes sure the baby isn’t always in her face. She will tell him no as much as she tells him yes, thus making sure that the baby respects her. This is the same approach we need to take when handling our foal.

The first three years

Well here it is in a nutshell, your horse’s upbringing: How has he been kept? In a stall? In a field? By himself? With other horses? All these environmental circumstance play a huge part in a horse’s physical and emotional development. You may hear the phrase “ranch raised,” implying that this horse has been allowed to “be a horse,” live more naturally and therefore is more sound body and mind. Typically they are handled less, yet somehow understand space and manners. Their learning curve tends to be easier as they have been taught by the other horses in their herd and now it is time for us to teach them human language. For example, I like all my 1-3 years olds to be able to do certain “tasks.” I try not to do too much of anything too often but when I do I expect them to do it, no hassles. I want all my horses to tie, load, lead and be groomed (head to toe, no kicking or biting!) That is really a fair amount of responsibly on their part. Gradually I will introduce other things as they get older but I try to keep it to a minimum. This way they learn what their job is and get rewarded for doing it. This simple concept translates into the rest of their work with humans.

Like humans horses never stop learning. Often you will also hear the word “foundation” which is a very strong word. If you can build a solid foundation with your young horse in the first 3 you will set your self up for success.

Never over-do it, always reward it and don’t forget to enjoy it!

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