Training a foal 1: The first contact
You can start riding a horse if it is between 3 and 4 years old. Earlier is not recommended, because the horse is then still too much in growth and stress on the animal could cause damage. But it does not mean that you can do much with a foal under three years old to train it. Training seems like a big word here, because it is more about a first acquaintance. But this first contact is essential for the further training of the foal.
Physical contact with a foal can be started early on. Some foals are very curious and like to explore and seek contact themselves. Others are very reserved and prefer to stay away. In every phase of the training of the horse, one will have to learn to deal with the characteristics of the horse and the way of training that best suits them. When making contact, try to see if the foal wants to come to you on its own. It is always better if it is the horse’s own choice to come to you. For example, stand with him in the stable and wait. Patience is an important keyword. Usually the foal is so curious that after a while he will come and sniff you carefully. Do not demand excessive attention from the foal, but rather focus your attention on something else as if you were not interested in the foal at all. This will stimulate the foal’s curiosity and urge to come and explore you even more. Then let this happen and don’t reach out to pet him right away, no matter how tempting it may be. Let the foal investigate. Am happy with any kind of contact and build it up little by little. Repeat this for a few days, for example, so that the foal gets used to your presence. If the foal stays scared and doesn’t come towards you, try blowing gently in the direction of its nose. When horses seek mutual contact with each other, they also do this as an introduction. In this way, the frightened foal will find recognition and may still become curious.
When the first contact is made, one can touch the foal. Remember to always move slowly so that the horse is not startled. Move slowly, but convincingly. Always use your voice. Speak softly and in a low voice. If the foal feels that you are too nervous or too careful, it will become suspicious and withdraw. If the foal allows itself to be touched, gently pat it on the neck, shoulder and back. Avoid head and legs in the beginning. Am always satisfied with small steps. As the foal is more used to the touch, keep rubbing your hand over the foal’s body for longer and in different places. Don’t forget to always use your voice.
Once the foal is used to the touch, you can start putting on a halter. As with initial contact, always work slowly and convincingly, and remember to use the voice. Always let the foal sniff the halter before putting it on. In the beginning, always loosen the buckle of the belt that goes behind the ears to put on the halter, so that it does not have to be slid over the ears. This could cause the foal to panic. It is also useful to leave a rolled up lead rope at the bottom of the halter so that it is easier to catch the foal afterwards. If you have succeeded in putting on the halter, it is best to leave it for a while to allow the foal to get used to it. For example, don’t take the halter off until the next day. And in the days that follow you can try to put on and take off the halter a few times in a row.
When the foal starts to get used to being touched and to putting the halter on and off, one can start brushing the foal loose in the stable. Be very careful at first and use the brush very gently. It is more of an exercise to extend contact and touch with the foal than the goal is to actually brush the foal. Especially use soft brushes. Think slow movements and the use of the voice. It is good to talk a lot to the animal.
With these small exercises and through repetition and regularity, the foal will gain confidence and contact will be easier and more fearless. The most important tips; do not want too much right away, give the foal the time it needs to overcome his fear, with some this may go very quickly and with the other one will have to be very patient, always be calm, confident and talk a lot against the animal. That way the animal will get used to your presence, touch and sound.