The last colt I started from the ground up was when I was sixteen. I knew virtually nothing; just a handful of basics. My Arabian colt tuned out well, but thinking back, I wish I knew then what I have learned in the past 15 years. He could have stood quiet at a mail box!
After working with our own or my dad’s horses that were either green broke or had lots of bad habits, I was anxious to work with a newborn. A clean slate with no blemishes. No sour attitudes. No fears learned from previous owners. You can imagine how thrilled I was, from my last post, Birth of a Beauty, and all I went through to produce a live foal and be able to start this foal from birth to finished extreme cowboy race prospect.
Once a sufficient amount of photos were taken, in the hundreds, I was ready to get my hands all over him. My neighbor, Sue, came over to assist. We gently laid Cash on the ground and began to caress him all over. A first he wiggled and kicked, but then as he began to trust us, knowing we were there to care for and love on him, his body began to relax and his breathing slowed to normal. This technique is called Imprinting; Dr. Robert Miller wrote a book and if followed properly, the foal becomes quiet and easy to work with.
Timing is so important when imprinting a foal, as in all aspects of horse training, because the trainer can easily release pressure at the wrong time and create a bad habit. For example, when I was rubbing Cash down, if he kicked and wiggled and I let go, then he would think that was what he was supposed to do to get me to stop. But as I rubbed and soothed my copper-colored baby and he kicked and wiggled, I had to keep my hands on him as Sue helped me firmly yet gently hold him in place. You see horses learn from the release of pressure. Timing is key.
The longer we rubbed, the quieter Cash became. I placed my fingers in his ears, nose, and mouth. Eventually a vet may need to check these places, and once handled as a baby, they remember the good experience and have confidence in the future. When it came time to place a bit Cash’s mouth or worm him, it was simple because he already knew what to do. He trusted me.
As a youngster, I had to take him to the vet to be gelded and another time for a puncture wound. He stood still and tranquil because I had already worked with him, on literally every orphus of his body. He was comfortable; his eyes remained soft and gentle. He was more frightened to walk into the vet building that actually have the vet’s hands on him. In fact, the more the vet worked with him, the calmer he became.
I spent 10 to 15 minutes a day sacking him out, meaning I rubbed him down with items like Walmart bags and tarps, but also brushed him, picked up his feet, tapping on the souls as a farrier would eventually do, rubbed a handheld massager all over his body, got him moving forward and in circles, keeping his training balanced and not dull nor spooky. I sacked him out or desensitized him, the moved him around or sensitized him, alternating techniques to gain the desired balance.
All I had learned in the Natural Horsemanship arena in the past 15 years was finally coming into play on my newborn. I have followed many trainers wanting to be well-rounded. Wanting Cash to be well-rounded. After months of this, I was seeing the molding of a willing partner.
Yes, until I broke my arm, right? Wrong. I’m satisfied knowing I’ve followed everything I’d been taught; it was a flimsy fence that caused my demise, not the colt and not the training methods. I was at fault not Cash. My husband and I have gone round and round dialogueing about whether or not to add panels to that one side of the arena that folded with the slightest amount of pressure. Guess what will happen soon? Yes, a new, stronger fence will be erected.
Feel. Timing. These are buzz words swirling in the horse world.
Sometimes timing is not up to me, but it’s a divine appointment as God whispers in my ear, “Trust Me. No matter what, I’m still in control.”
I was being careful because as a writer and almost 50, I can’t afford to make mistakes and get hurt. I can’t afford a broken bone. Was it fate? Probably not. Don’t really believe in that kind of thinking. I believe my Creator was simply saying, “All is okay, I have you no matter what.”
And He does.