I've recently been working with a newly born foal. This filly is friendly and unafraid, and her mother is watchful but not worried so my work with her has been an easy and pleasant task.
With help, I've been putting on and taking off her halter and asking her to move a step or two towards me, starting with asking her to move her head towards me to the left and then to the right side. I ran a long rope around her butt and gently tugged on it, encouraging her to move forward.
I think it's important to talk about how this relates to a young horse's early career under saddle. When I ask this filly to move her head or take a step, I gently bump then release, giving her time to respond before I gently bump again (and it's helpful to move her towards, not away from, her mother). Never, ever, do I just pull on the lead or the butt rope. In handling her this way, she doesn't fight me and her reward is that I leave her alone, not putting pressure on her nose and poll again. She gets a little break, then I go through the routine again. I only work with her for a few minutes at a time because I think it's very important to remember that foals this young have not developed any attention span yet.
Now, this lesson is key because all horses naturally want to move their noses into pressure. That's how they bring the milk down to nurse. This bump and release is all the more necessary for them to learn and if you're considering riding your young prospect in a hackamore, it will make it easier for your horse to understand what's being asked of him. All horses must learn to move away from the pressure on their nose, but it's especially true of junior hackamore horses.
This is a good lesson for you as well because you will be learning skills needed to ride in a hackamore. You can do these early lessons in a manner that discourages resistance and encourages yielding. Starting your foals this way not only puts you far ahead of the game, it helps to make the next lessons, including the all-important tieing lesson, that much easier to learn. See you next week! JD (P.S. I'll talk more about my work with this foal later.)