Enhanced Foal Training helps to instill desirable behavior in the horse from the very beginning. Being a precocial species, foals are ready, willing and able to learn. EFT is the best possible place to begin to raise an intelligent and willing companion horse in any discipline.
EFT includes non-stressful exercises and challenges that are fun and infuses trust while creating a lasting bond between foal and handler. The logic of the method teaches a foal to learn how to learn while it promotes skills and respect that are easily transferred to a foal's higher education requirements upon physical maturity.
With Enhanced Foal Training, foals begin to learn a life long work ethic that applies to independent work and schooling in unison with foals and other adult horses.
Lessons learned in youth are as if carved in stone,
while those learned at maturity fly like leafs on the wind.
Anonymous Arabian proverb
You have been keeping a watchful eye like many breeders and thoughtful owners, spending fitful near sleepless nights checking in on the pregnant mare in your barn and yet she has managed to slip the baby out. And so sometimes when you least expect it you find the foal standing there, with sort of a bedazzled look of wonderment which quite naturally causes you to instantly bond with the new face of God’s most perfect servant of man.
The desire to meld with the spirit of the horse abides within the breast of nearly all mankind. Now perhaps the Eskimo imagines his kinship with the polar bear while the aborigines in their ‘dream time’ live in harmony with the kangaroo, but most everywhere in between mankind (if given the chance) harbors an inborn love of horses. This rose-tinted, romantically inspired concept is NOT however part of a horse’s way of looking at things, especially a newborn foal. And so a strategy is needed that will help mold their instincts towards the mutually rewarding relationship that culturally we so desire.
Dr Robert Miller DVM, the first pioneer in the field of equine imprinting established a path to follow and most enlightened mare owners have their own versions of the process. It is an opportunity, like few others, to meaningfully experience and guide the awakening of a new life.
Horses being a precocial species are born ‘ready to learn’ and there is a logical method to begin the actual training of a horse just a few hours and/or days old.
Imprinting, when artfully applied, undeniably creates a bond of trust between the horse and man. When creatively applied there are no bounds to the results one can obtain save those imposed by a lack of knowledge and experience or an unwillingness to experiment.
Time well-spent with the new foal over the first few weeks can teach lessons that will last a lifetime.
Perhaps the most important lesson of all is to create a cooperative attitude in the foal, which leads to willingness and honesty in the adult horse.
A truly creative strategy one can employ to effect the laydown is the incorporation of a big, cushy, beanbag. You simply place the beanbag in a corner of the stall, gather the foal in your arms and back yourself onto the cushion. As you set back and lower yourself and the foal onto the cushion, you allow yourself to ‘soften’ as you exhale to help emanate relaxation. The foal can sit on your outstretched inner thigh or on the beanbag beside you depending on the size ratio and your ability to maintain order. From this position it is quite easy to comfortably slip the foal onto a well-bedded floor of the stall for a Lie Down.
An important lesson is teaching a foal to calmly accept ground schooling. This can best be accomplished in the confines of a stall. The dam should be in an adjacent stall and occupied eating her morning feed or perhaps in the aisle way of your barn because it will always prove problematic when you try to school the foal more or less at Liberty if the mare is in the stall with you.
Instinctively the foal will try to hide behind her and so you cannot hold its attention.
First, practice walking side-by-side using the walls and corners to aid in maintaining order. To handle a very wiggly foal you encircle them front and rear with the embrace of your arms as you move them, more often than not, in a sideways fashion. As the foal is learning to walk forward on their own occasionally they will falter and hangs back (they all do) and so you lightly pat them behind using your hand or ‘boink’ them ever so gently with a flexible wand modified in such a way as to be ‘foal friendly’. The foal will ‘squirt’ forward and you need to be quick to catch them in the crook of your arm and go with the flow. They are way too strong to halt quickly and so you swirl them around in a small circle as you slow them down. Only when the foal learns there is no easy escape will they become much quieter to handle.
Now comes a most innovative strategy. You teach a foal to step up onto low platform and to remain there as you step away. At first the foal will step off, so you walk them around and then back up. Within just a couple of short sessions the foal begins to learn patience and will remain in place. The best way to reward for this behavior is a gentle massage from your fingertips. You mimic the way a mother nuzzles a foal or in the fashion of two horses engaging in a mutual grooming session. The effect is remarkable and all foals respond positively. They love it and will look forward to your touch.
With a bit of practice these early training lessons become quite easy to repeat. The foal quickly adapts to the structure of your influence because the use of ‘stage props’ (the beanbag and platform) helps the foal to make sense out of your requests.
These two objects are like no other in the foal’s environment and so by the process of ‘association’ the foal learns to accept and more importantly to enjoy them along with the benevolence of your attention. Equally important the foal begins to have a way to understand your intentions. Horses are masterful ‘mind readers’. As an instinctive skill learned ages ago when the species ran wild in hunted herds the ability to know when they were ‘safe’ allowed time for eating and socialization.
Nowadays the domestic horse is still held captive and far too easily influenced by the primitive urges of this flight instinct or resistance. Our job as enlightened partners with the horse is to foster acceptance and willingness using techniques that have evolved with the times.
It has been said that,
“If you do what you always have done, you will get what you always have got.”
And so as we embark on a journey with our horses in the new era it is time to apply innovative ideas and thus create new traditions for the next generation to experience and hopefully improve upon.
Thus the development of Enhanced Foal Training for those who wish to give their foals a true head start in life.