Imprinting: The Great Debate

When it comes to equine education (training), horse owners face as many conflicting viewpoints as new parents.
In a rundown of this early foal handling technique we explore its benefits and drawbacks

Horse ownership and parenting share a number of parallels. Everyone is happy for you, and everyone has advice. Articles, research, and anecdotes abound, and often they all seem to contradict. At no point does owning a horse feel more like parenting a child than after the birth of a foal.

Fortunately, owners of a new foal rarely have to consider nursing vs. formula, and the diaper debate is moot. However, when it comes to education (training), horse owners face as many conflicting viewpoints as new parents. Questions arise around the handling of the new foal: How much? How soon? Will handling the foal disrupt the bond with the mare or delay nursing? Will it make for a more tractable foal? What about imprint training?

The First Few Hours: Foal Brain and Needs

In The Lion King the hyenas gnaw happily on the haunch of a zebra. Zebras, antelope, cattle, and, yes, horses are prey animals. Their place in the circle of life is just above the grass. But unlike horned antelope and cattle, horses don’t have much in the way of weapons. While the impact of a well-placed hoof can be significant, those hooves are better designed for gaining traction in flight than they are for

Create a free account with to view this content. is home to thousands of free articles about horse health care. In order to access some of our exclusive free content, you must be signed into

Start your free account today!

Already have an account?
and continue reading.


Written by:

Christy Corp-Minamiji, DVM, practices large animal medicine in Northern California, with particular interests in equine wound management and geriatric equine care. She and her husband have three children, and she writes fiction and creative nonfiction in her spare time.

Related Articles

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with

FREE weekly newsletters from

Sponsored Content

Weekly Poll

sponsored by:

Do you use heated water buckets for your horses?
317 votes · 317 answers

Readers’ Most Popular

Sign In

Don’t have an account? Register for a FREE account here.

Need to update your account?

You need to be logged in to fill out this form

Create a free account with!