Halter Breaking the Foal

Pam Hunter
by Pam Hunter
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The following information for halter breaking the foal can be applied to any horse that will accept you touching it and will accept the halter. If your horse is halter broke and doesn't lead well, you can use the method below to improve its response.

Your foal has arrived, you've imprinted it (handled it gently right after it was born), spent time with it every day, picked up it's feet, gently brushed it...now it is 2 months old and time to halter break it. We usually put a halter on our foals by 2 or 3 days old, however we do not try to lead the foal. The halter is used to help the foal get used to handling and as an additional restraint when handling it. That is, not to hold the foal, but to give it the idea that this thing on it's head is there for a purpose and that purpose is restraint. In the picture below, this halter is a bit too big for Misty.

Haltering Foals

Exercise 1: Single Step

Before we attach a lead rope to the halter we begin by using the halter with gentle pressure to turn the foal's head. At the same time we exert pressure we gently push on the foal's shoulder or neck to encourage it to turn the desired direction. We are only asking for a single step in that direction, whether it is right or left. As soon as the foal takes that step we praise it and scratch it in it's favorite spot.

Have a lead rope handy for your foal to smell and taste. Foals are a lot like human infants in that they enjoy learning about their environment by mouthing objects. They also tend to paw at things, including people, and this should be discouraged by gently stopping the leg with your hand and saying "NO" in a firm tone, but not loudly.

Your foal is probably used to the lead rope from being around the mare while she is being handled by you. If you have not been around them very much then the time spent familiarizing the foal with the lead rope, halter, handling it's body and feet should be longer. Be sure to be patient and work slowly and use a gentle voice. Foals are naturally skittish because, after all, they are a favorite food of prey animals in the wild.

Now, for the lessons of leading. Start slowly. Never jerk on the foal's head, never tug it along or have someone push from behind.

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