Working with Young Horses
Tannic Mountain Farm prides itself in our youngstock, striving to give them a good foundation for whatever future awaits them. We put many hours into our foals and treat them respectfully. Using pool noodles, large jolly balls, small jolly balls, tarps, blankets, fly masks, halters, lead ropes, and many other human resources around young foals has proven to improve their confidence at home and abroad. Finding that balance between spoiling and souring a foal is important, and Tannic Mountain is well adept at keeping their horses both well disciplined and very loved.
Working foals is actually quite manageable, even for a busy owner. As a matter of fact, Tannic Mountain Farm has trained most of our foals in very short, but regular, increments of time. Pressure followed by the release of that pressure at the moment of even the slightest improvement is a powerful training tool, especially with strength on your side at the beginning. Please note, the key isn't to force the foal, but to let them make the decision on their own, then reward the horse for making a good decision under pressure.
Sometimes the most effective reward is to leave the foal alone. With a well socialized foal, the best reward would be praise, scratches, or some type of satisfying companionship. With a food-oriented foal, be careful feeding regularly by the hand, but having grain or treats you can feed out of a bucket may progress their training the best. Be conscious of how the foal reacts to you socially. A spoiled foal will likely become pushy and enter your personal space without hesitation, whereas a sour foal may try to avoid you, act anxious, or start to become aggressive. It is a give and take, and often times sour horses just need more reward, while spoiled horses just need more discipline.
Tannic Mountain Farm supports people using creative training tactics within reason, and exercising this Pressure - Release - Reward method has shown us no fail. We believe there are an unlimited number of ways to "train" a horse, but in the end, the most important part about Horsemanship to us is building a powerful bond between horses and their owners by shaping people into good leaders worthy of respect. The most successful leaders I have found provide for their followers and make them feel safe, even at their own detriment.
If you're personally supplying your horse's necessities, you're already halfway there.