Tips on Training up your Little Chips

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countrymini

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My first little chip is almost cooked and now that foaling seems imminent I realised I need to think a bit further down the track. So opening this thread up to anyone with experience to explain their best methods of how to train our littlies to lead and other basic skills.

Some questions I have are :

What age do you start

What do you start training first

What is the best way to go about each new lesson

How long to keep up a certain step to reinforce it before progressing

How long should each session last

What do you do when they don't seem to understand

I have about a 100 questions but this should do for a while.
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AnnaC

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LOL!! Hayley - you have some good questions there and I'm sure others will give you lots of differing answers, but I'm not the one to ask because we do absolutely NOTHING with our foals! I strongly believe that foals belong to their Mommas and not to us and that they should be left to be babies/horses as long as possible before being subjected to what we humans think is the 'ideal' life for them.

That said we are of course out in the fields several times a day checking our mares and chatting to them, babies, being babies soon want to know more about us and will come to investigate. We crouch down to their level and allow them to sniff, nibble etc, and when they are happy we offer scratches and quiet words. Pretty soon the babies are following us everywhere, and, as time goes past, foot trimming is done with one person 'scratching' and one quietly trimming, worming also is done with scratches or allowing a human finger to be nibbled on (even when little teeth are there!) while wormer slipped quietly into the little mouth.

Never having been 'grabbed or manhandled' by humans, the babies grow up with no fears and as they get older we can push them away from us if they get a little too bolshi in their play or gently reprimand a nibble that is beginning to seem more like a bite without 'frightening' them. Once they are weaned (6 months) then we introduce headcollars - no problem, just another game! - and once happy with those being put on and taken off, we add the lead rope and go walkies - again no problem as they always follow us anyway! From then on they just learn other things on a daily basis as a natural progression - sharing a stall with a friend, having their own stall, standing quietly for gentle brushes and foot cleaning, playing with the hose ready for later bathing, the noise of clippers ready for future clipping, investigating and playing games in and out of our lorry, which is parked in their field with the ramp down, ready for loading and travelling, etc etc. There is so much they can learn/be taught from this stage onwards, no need to have pounced on them during their early 'baby' days!!

Several years ago I was watching a video/cam of a mare who had foaled several hours earlier and saw a man enter the stall, grab the foal and pull it over to a gate so that (presumably) his kiddies could fuss and stroke it. The frightened foal struggled and struggled to no avail and when released, shot back to it's worried Momma. The next day the man came back and had to chase the poor foal round the stall to get hold of it this time for more pats and strokes from the kiddies. Now I'm not saying that anyone here makes a point of roughly grabbing foals unnecessarily, but that foal's first lesson in life was to run as far away from humans as possible!!

Of course there will be reasons as to why it may be important to handle a foal in the first few days of its life - the need for a rug or medical attention etc, but I understood that your questions were aimed at a normal 'ideal' for babies? So I have given you our 'strange' way of doing things. LOL!!
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countrymini

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I like your 'strange' way. Sounds like you set them up in the first six months for success when you eventually start training. I'm not going to interfere unless meds etc are needed and I already know my friends are going to ask why I don't want to pass the baby over the fence for the kids to play with haha. Thanks Anna, your insight has been great
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AnnaC

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Thought I would include some pics, although I have posted some of them before. Included are - cuddles, gathering for foot trimming, and things to play with while waiting! Early leading lessons on the next post.

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AnnaC

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OK, before viewing these pics, please realise that this early yearling filly was the best friend and constant companion to my 3 year old g/son - he was not allowed to do this with any of our other babies at this stage of their lives, although I honestly believe they would have been just as 'easy' for him, just would not want to advocate this way of doing things to anyone else!! The filly had first worn a headcollar 3 days before and been walked once from the barn to the field by daughter. G/son decided to show her the rest of the farm himself!

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sparklingjewelacres

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Oh I just loved reading all this great information and advice. It has been so helpful to us as well. I also love seeing the pictures. Our two week old little filly is so fun and is really enjoying little back scratches and I keep getting her used to being handled. Today.. she actually let me lift her little hoof up and rub the dirt out and she didnt seem to mind one bit. Thanks to the advice I received earlier about handling foals.. it has helped us relax and not do any training.. just have them get used to us instead.
 

Eagle

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I do things the same as Anna, no training as per se just playing and loving. I sit for hours in their field and just "hang out" I often take things into the field with me for them to explore, I will eat a packet of crisps (potatoe chips) and then let them play with the funny, noisy bag or I will put some brushes on the floor whilst I groom the mares. Just everyday things for them to investigate. I touch them all over when they are comfortable with it and let them touch and nibble on me. Foals are like babies and will put everything in their mouths but this doesn't mean they are going to grow up and be biters. I never tell off foals, if I don't like something they do I will push them away and then leave, they soon learn.

Any real training I do starts after they are weaned but to be honest, as Anna has said, putting a halter on or leading a well balanced foal really is a piece of cake.

Just remember to do everything slowly and evaluate as you go along. Don't decide over breakfast what you are going to teach that day, just see how they are when you are together and take it from there. They have bad days too so be flexible.
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misty'smom

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Thank you Anna for posting this great info on "how to raise a foal"!! I agree on the slow gentle handling, it will pay off with a sweet gentle horse when grown! The pictures with your grandson are "priceless" especially the last one of them napping together. My grands are 2 yrs, 10 months and 3 months and my minis are 1 yr and 11 months so I have a little way to go but I am so looking forward to sharing and teaching them about the minis!!!!! Thanks again it was a really nice post!!
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CALM is the key! Here in Florida, I usually have to clip the foals -- and working slowly with them, they usually end up falling asleep while I'm clipping So cute, as they are not afraid of anything as long as you go slowly and calmly, and talk to them. I find it so amazing that the noise of the clippers that bother some of the adult horses, don't even wake the foals up! They just sleep in my lap. Sometimes, they look a bit strange as I never go beyond what they handle in a day -- so sometimes it takes a couple of days to get everything finished!

Here, most of my foals get their halters and lead rope training before 4 months -- as many leave at 4 months, and I don't want a new owner scaring them into submission. So, our "games" include putting on and off the halter and walking with momma on a lead, or being tied next to momma on the barn wall for short periods of time.

My farrier works with the foals as soon as they are born when he comes for his visits. Even if a foal is only a few days old, he sits on the floor, cuddles and talks to the baby, and does all his "farrier" movements -- sometimes even a little rasping just to follow through. He's a wonderful man with babies, and understands the need for making training a game. He trains quarterhorses for ranch work -- and has great patience with the little ones. No "towering over" them, just at their level and with a calm, softer voice.
 

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