Editor’s Note: Nothing is without controversy, especially in the equine world. Some equine behaviorists question certain aspects of Dr. Miller’s theories and practices, and their opinions regarding foal “imprint training” appear below.
Most owners have been through it at one point or another in their horse-raising careers. That little foal shows up with the mare one morning in the pasture. You go out and make sure that everything is fine. And isn’t it cute the way the youngster plasters itself tightly to the side of the mare, bonded as though with super glue. You know you should catch it and check it over more closely, but what the heck, it’s too late to put iodine on the naval stump, and besides, it certainly looks healthy, and obviously it has nursed.
The next step in this little scenario might come a few days, a few weeks, or a few months later. You suddenly realize that you have never caught the foal and taught it to lead. You catch the mare and lead her into a box stall, corral, or other small enclosure and seek to catch the little rascal.
To your surprise, you are dealing with a fair-sized package of dynamite. The foal doesn’t want you near it, and the mare becomes agitated as well. Before long, the foal is crashing into the fence or walls of the box stall to avoid you. Suddenly, everyone is at risk of injury — the foal, the mare, and you.
Can this be avoided? Can we have a foal which seeks our companionship instead of avoiding it?
Very definitely, answers Robert Miller, BS, DVM, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., the man who literally wrote the book on foal imprint training.
If you start at the right age and do it right, he maintains, the foal will bond to you in much the same manner as it does to its mother. And that’s not all. If properly imprinted, it will be much less likely to resist such things as sh