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AlphaHorse News - January 2005

Greetings (Subscriber),

It's hard to believe a new year is already upon us. What may be even more difficult to believe is that very soon foals all across the nation will be introduced to a brave new world outside of their dams' wombs. While most of us that own horses as pets prefer Spring foals since the weather is a little warmer for both mom and baby, many professional showmen try to plan for their new arrivals' births to occur as early in the year as possible. By doing so, the foal gains as much height and bulk as possible for his year/age group.

The general theme of this issue will be babies, but even if you're not expecting a not-so-little bundle of joy of your own this year you will still likely find much of this issue's contents interesting.

So sit back, relax and enjoy this issue of AlphaHorse News.

Jeffrey Rolo

In This Issue:


bulletDoes Imprinting Really Make A Better Horse?
bulletSee How To Foal A Horse Here
bulletApplied Heeding: Understanding Stallions

AlphaHorse Updates

The following content was added to AlphaHorse between the last issue and this one:

bulletConfrontation, Not Avoidance
bulletBreed Spotlight: Mountain Horses
bulletHistory of the Mountain Horse
bulletYellowstone Outfitters Spotlight
bulletYellowstone Outfitters Interview
bulletRewarding A Horse During Training
bulletLead By Example

Does Imprinting Make A Better Horse?

"Imprinted from birth!" You are bound to hear those words often when looking over young horses at various farms. But do these words really mean much? The answer may surprise you... in most cases these words won't mean much.

(For those of you who may be new to horses and/or unfamiliar with the term imprinting, when one imprints a horse one spends an hour or so as soon as possible after the birth of a foal touching sensitive areas such as the legs and ears, thereby desensitizing him for the future.)

The University of Washington conducted a study to see if there was a sizeable advantage for an imprinted horse versus a non-imprinted foal. Six foals were imprinted while six were not during a breeding season, and after weaning the foals the result of this study was that the imprinted stock did not behave any better or different than the non-imprinted stock. An imprinting advocate was invited to see for herself the results of this study, and was asked to point out which of two horses was imprinted. The advocate chose wrong.

This supports the results I have seen at my farm in the past. I have imprinted some of my foals and I have given minimal human interaction with some of my other foals until their weaning period. I have yet to see one imprinted foal that is more people-oriented or better behaved than my non-imprinted ones. Within a couple days, the newly weaned non-imprinted foal is just as friendly and easy to work with as an imprinted one.

Imprinting does generally succeed in showing the new foal you are not a threat, but done improperly imprinting will go beyond that - it will show the new foal you are an equal. I have seen loving horse owners coddle their young weanling from day one with the very best of intentions and get some undesirable results, namely a young foal that bites and kicks. The young foal wasn't at all behaving in this manner out of mean-spiritedness - quite the contrary. The young foal saw its owner as a playmate and equal and was simply trying to play. But while the old "nip and run" routine may prove fun among horses, it can hurt when the horse plays with you in the same manner.

One must always maintain a leader/follower relationship with a horse, even when the foal is one-day old! Imprinting serves to throw away fear of humans, and it is vital you replace that fear with respect. If you don't discipline "naughty" behavior adequately when they are young, they will grow up with these habits and it will be that much harder to eliminate them. I would rather start working with a slightly nervous foal than an improperly imprinted foal, for the nervous foal will show a healthy respect from the very first minute, and become just as trusting as the imprinted foal within a few days.

This isn't to say imprinting is bad - it isn't. Who among us isn't thrilled at the prospect of being a new parent and spending time with the new foal? As long as one establishes a leader/follower relationship with the new foal once the foal starts becoming "frisky" there's no reason why one shouldn't imprint a foal.

But at the same time, if you don't have the time to imprint your foal don't kick yourself over it. Allowing baby to stay with mother until the foal is ready to be weaned is perfectly acceptable, and you will still have as nice a horse as an imprinted one in the end. While many seem to imply the first hours - the imprinting hours - are the most impressionable hours in a young horse's life, I disagree. Personal experience has shown that the weaning period is the most impressionable, for that is the point where the young horse is taken away from mother and is open to finding a "replacement" to fit his mother's shoes - and that replacement will be you.

Have you visited our section of AlphaHorse dedicated to the Trail of Painted Ponies? These unique and quirky figurines (and more) are delighting collectors around the world, and they can make wonderful gifts for others too. You can read about their history, view a gallery of painted ponies or even purchase any that interests you!

See How To Foal A Horse Here

Many people are curious about the awesome experiencing of watching a dam give birth to a new foal, but alas unless you are a horse breeder, witnessing such an event "live" can be difficult. Even those who own a pregnant dam can miss the event if they aren't particularly vigilant 24-7.

If you haven't been able to witness the birth of a foal for yourself and wish to learn about and/or view the process, Majeztic Arabians has an informative pictorial rundown of the process on their website. I encourage you to visit it by clicking here.

Applied Heeding: Handling Stallions

by Ron Meredith

WAVERLY, WV - One of the biggest mistakes that I see people make in their relationships with horses is failing to pay complete attention to the horse they are handling. That's why heeding is the best program I know of for working with a stallion.

Heeding quietly establishes the handler as the alpha presence in the herd, the one everybody else in the herd has to pay attention to. You gain the respect of the horse because you consistently ask for each new thing in a fair and horse logical way. The horse learns to pay attention to you because you are always telling it what to do next. Walk, trot, forward, backward, turn, stop, stand or whatever. The horse never takes its attention off of you because you never take your attention off the horse.

There is a mythunderstanding in the horse industry that men can handle stallions more effectively than women because they're stronger. The reality of it is that horse training is a mental game played in a physical medium. It is not about strength at all. It doesn't matter if the horse is five times as strong as you or ten times as strong as you. There is nobody strong enough to match strength with a horse. Heeding is a mental game that gets the horse on your side and working with you. It is not about physical strength.

When working with stallions, you do not do anything different than you do when working with any other horse. As a trainer, you are not a man or a woman. You are a presence. As a thinking presence, you understand what actions are horse logical in a given situation. And instead of telling the horse not to do something after he's already started, you constantly keep his attention of what you want him to be doing in the first. If you have taken the time to become the same kind of a friend to a stallion as you would with any other horse, you can heed him around and do anything you want including handling him during breeding.

If you keep the horse's attention and get your heeding going so well that the horse is used to staying at your shoulder ALL the time, you can heed your stallion right up to the mare when you are breeding and have no fight about it. You can walk your stallion right past a mare and have him pay no attention if you don't want him to. And you never need to fight with him about anything. You have to mentally dominate the situation, not physically dominate the situation. You must earn the horse's respect, not overpower him with strength.

I see a lot of people moving their horses around at the end of a lead rope but the horse isn't really paying attention to them and they're not telling the horse exactly where to put each foot and when to move it next. If you're walking a stallion around without paying full attention to him, as soon as that stallion notices another horse and gets interested in that other horse, you've lost control.

Now you're in a bind. You're trying to regain control from a horse that doesn't want to give up control. And when an animal as big and strong as a horse decides to leave, you have to come up with a real stopper. Too many people wait until the horse is too far into this process and then they start yanking and shanking and yelling and starting a fight. And when you fight with a stallion, what you're fighting about in his mind is who gets the next mare.

When you take a stallion to a show, lots of times he gets all excited and thinks, "Oh Lord, this just might be a Texas bar!" So you just walk him around, heed him around, until everything is boring. But if you stop to talk to somebody and just leave him standing there, he'll probably start to drop. That stallion starts daydreaming and has taken his attention off the fact that you are in control. That's not his fault. It's yours.

You need to get his attention back, remind him that you are in control, and you do that by quietly doing some heeding to move him around. Walk, stop, back, walk, just keep asking and changing what you're asking for often enough that he has to put his attention back on you. When you get his attention back, he'll put it away. If you want to talk to someone, put your horse away first and then go talk to them. There are three times when you stop paying attention to the horse that you are handling whether that horse is a stallion, a mare, or a quiet old gelding: never, never, and never.

If you have a stallion that bites, you don't slap it or beat it. Meeting aggression with aggression never works. If you have a horse that bites and you try to slap it for biting, it will eventually learn how to duck your slap and bite you on the way down. Instead, just tie stabilize his jaw with a drop noseband to interrupt the biting before it gets started. If he's real persistent, even with the noseband on, you can pinch his lip when he tries to put his mouth on you. After a while, biting won't be part of his program anymore.

Stallions tend to react to situations the same way as human males which is to attack when they're scared and to pout when they lose. And that's exactly what they do. You can work a stallion to the point where he decides that life ain't worth living and then he'll just pout like a son of a gun. Sometimes you'll have two or three days of pouting. But I don't want to just pick on the guys. What mares do is different, but that's another subject. It really doesn't matter whether you have a stallion or a mare or a gelding. What you really want is a horse that you like doing what you like because it likes and understands you.

1997-2002 Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre. All rights reserved.

Ron Meredith has refined his "horse logical" methods for communicating with equines for over 30 years as president of Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre, an ACCET accredited equestrian educational institution.

Rt. 1 Box 66
Waverly, WV 26184
(800) 679-2603

Thanks again for making AlphaHorse one of the premiere sources for horse enthusiasts. As always, we welcome your contributions and thoughts on how to further ensure AlphaHorse exceeds your expectations.

Sincerely,
--The Team at AlphaHorse



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