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When can I start to work with a Young Horse?

You can actually introduce yourself when the foal is born which is called foal imprinting.  There is a lot of bad press about foal imprinting but my experience has been if the foal imprinting has been done correctly it works well; if done wrong, it is terrible.

I am rarely around when foals are born, so I generally start playing with my young ones when they are one year old or older.  There is a lot that can be done before they are old enough to ride that can make them easy to handle; less likely to hurt themselves; and much can be done to prepare them for riding.  They seem to accept things much easier the younger they are.

I have a client’s horse here at the ranch that is a year and a half old.  The young filly will get 10 sessions then can go back and get turned out with the herd.  During the 10 sessions, the overall plan will be to build her confidence with people, places and things, and to understand that when we are involved, we will be asking and wanting control of their feet.  Just building a horse’s confidence can turn into a problem.  You must also teach them to yield to pressure whether it’s a halter, moving the front quarters, hind quarters, backing up or moving sideways.  You want to teach them to think, not react, to lead well, trot along side you on a loose lead stop when you stop, just to mention a few things.

All horses regardless of age should be taught the 7 patterns and a year old horse has no problem learning them. Building their confidence, earning their respect, and using techniques that a horse understands are the ways to develop a horse and can always be expanded upon.  Using the 7 patterns you would start by building their confidence using sticks and strings.  Allow them to feel the string all over their body, see and hear it swinging around, over and behind them.  I will also get them used to a flag and all the sounds it makes and the way it feels.  If you can handle a rope, I like to swing it and throw a loop over their hip and throw a loop around their front and back legs.  Another tool I like to play with is getting them used to the sound of a Australian stock whip as well as having a tarp draped over them and are able to walk calmly across it on the ground. 

They can learn to be haltered by having their heads down and bent towards you.  The next thing is to teach them to yield their forequarters, hindquarters and back up using steady and rhythmic pressure.  Even at a young age you can have them understand which foot you want them to turn on and where to put their weight for the yield.  The next step is to teach them to circle at a walk, trot and canter.  Not a lot of this is required, just enough to start the process of them understanding all the intricacies of a proper circle.  Things like not braking gait, staying in the halter, to be round on the circle, giving hind quarter yields and drawing in.  Following this, they learn to go sideways down the fence and go between, through and over places and things by sending them rather than leading them.  Each day starts with having them ground tie while I groom, brush and trim or pick their feet.

As they understand all the new requests they can get very playful and very calm, trusting and respectful.  They can learn to think rather than react in situations they are not sure about which always makes for a better horse.

Enjoy some early preparation with your young horse.  They seem to enjoy the interaction.

Glenn Stewart

What is your dream with horse? Whatever your dream may be, if you have the horsemanship, you can live the dream. It’s just that simple.  Join us at The Horse Ranch this summer and live the dream!
Now accepting bookings for the summer of 2017.  Glenn is offering year round educational horsemanship programs at his facility near Fort Saint John, BC and is available to travel and conduct clinics.  Long-term study and professional programs are now available.  For more information visit