Training Your Foal: Prerequisites and Problems


Keeping the weanling in a horse-friendly environment is, of course, the prerequisite for training a physically and mentally fit horse. Neither should correct feeding, medical care (worming, inoculations), or regular hoof-care be neglected. They form the basis for the foal’s health and also for successful schooling and training. Naturally, the correct environment also includes the companionship of other foals of the same age as well as older horses. When the weanling returns to its home stable after a sufficiently long period of separation, it must be re-integrated into its old herd. If there are no companions of the same age available, a difficult time will begin for the young horse. Although weaned from the mother, yearlings are still children. As children, they continue to learn from older horses and have the need to play, test their strength, and frolic about. The need for companions of the same age group will continue for some time. Never forget that horses are not mature until the age of six or seven.

If you have decided to buy a weanling or a yearling, the conditions of its schooling at its breeder must be examined. Was the suckling foal able to live with others of a similar age? Did it have sufficient space? Did it receive the appropriate inoculations and worming doses? Were the hooves checked frequently? What was the feeding like? These and many other questions are decisive for the horse’s future, as many things omitted during the suckling period can never be regained! If you purchase a badly raised foal that was neither cared for sufficiently nor taught the basics of training, you will not have an easy time of it with your weanling. If the foal is already suffering health problems, this will cause untold difficulties. As a rule, a horse will be accompanied by the sins of its early childhood for its entire life.

A horse will suffer for life from the consequences of bad schooling.

If schooling is neglected in the first six months when the foal is with its mother,

the trainer will have much catching up to do. It will be difficult, although not impossible, to school and train to a satisfactory level a horse which is more or lessundomesticated. In any case, this is not a task for an uncertain and fearful human but instead requires specific experience. Mistakes made during the training of a young horse always emerge sooner or later, but an experienced trainer will be capable of getting even a two- or three-year-old into shape. If you want to enjoy greater pleasure with your horse, however, it is better to deal with the right things at the appropriate stage. The childhood and youth of the horse, between the age of six months to two years, should not be wasted.

If it has been taught adequately in its first six months the demands placed on the yearling will not be excessive although lessons for the youngster may have to be repeated over and over, to consolidate them and try them out in new situations (in the absence of the dam). At the age of one, it is not very important what you do with the youngster as long as he is being taught something.

The primary aim of the schooling period in the first and second year is to strengthen the relationship with and trust of the young horse. Much needs to be done to achieve this goal. The weanling will have learned many things and these now serve to strengthen the bond and mutual trust between horse and trainer. Once you are aware of how important the horse’s trust and your life long relationship with it is, you will realize how useful the period after weaning is.

Be aware, however, of becoming over-enthusiastic. In principle, it is a good thing to do a lot of things with young horses. All tasks that are mentally demanding for the horse should be practiced for no more than 15 minutes at a time. The young horse is unable to concentrate for a longer period. If it is pushed too hard, the exercise will no longer be executed successfully and the horse will become fidgety. This means ending the session with bad results, which is counterproductive for the overall training. Less is more, therefore. However, that does not mean spending any more than 15 minutes with the horse in all. As a rule, you can work a youngster intensively for 10 to 15 minutes. A further 15 minutes can then be spent on exercises which are already part of the routine, and then don’t forget to spend some time stroking, scratching and just talking – simply being together!

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