A mare goes into labor. Powerful and swift contractions expel a foal that, for a short time, lies helpless in the straw or on the grass. A handler quietly approaches the wet creature that is drawing its first breaths. This human, foreign to the foal, as is everything else in its environment, kneels beside it and begins toweling the newborn dry and running gentle hands over its body.
Desensitization is a gradual process wherein you eliminate the response to a stimulus by repeating the same stimulus until there is no longer a response.
Can this procedure at birth convince a horse to stand quietly later on in life when it is being shod? Can one, at this early stage, teach the horse to accept being saddled and ridden with little or no resistance when it reaches two or three years of age? Can one, in that first hour after birth, teach the foal to yield to rectal palpation, being tubed, having its muzzle clipped and its ears handled, even though those procedures occur later in life?
Yes, says Robert M. Miller, DVM, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., providing that the foal has been properly imprinted immediately after birth.
Sound preposterous? The answer to that question, too, is yes, but only if you have never talked to Miller, read his books, or watched his video.
Miller is a fascinatin