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Winning Your Foal's Trust

Implementing the "Approach and Retreat Method": Using a buggy whip, start out rubbing your foal where he accepts it and when he begins to get uncomfortable, retreat back to where he accepts it.  Then approach the uncomfortable spot again. Repeat this all over his body until he understands and accepts the touch of the buggy whip willingly.  Gradually replace the whip with your hand, until you can rub him all over.


Now is also a great time to teach your foal how to become handy and confident at picking up his feet.  DO NOT REACH DOWN AND TRY TO PULL HIS FEET OUT FROM UNDER HIM, because this will destroy all the trust you have developed up to this point. Never forget that TRUST IS HARD TO WIN, BUT EASY TO LOSE!  Gently rub down your colts front legs, all the way  to the hoof.  Pinch him just above the pastern until he picks up his foot, then immediately STOP.  Do not attempt to hold the hoof yet.  Do this on both sides until he willingly picks up his feet without getting uncomfortable or fidgety.  Now he is ready for you to pick up his feet and begin holding them.  Start out just holding the hoof for a few seconds and gradually increase the length of time you expect him to hold his foot up.  


When he is confident and willing with the front feet, you can safely move to the hind feet, using the same method.  When working with the hind feet, be careful not to get kicked.  In general, if you have earned the trust of your foal and he respectfully gives you the front feet when asked, he probably will trust you with his hind feet too.


These lessons will earn your farrier's gratitude, since it will make his job much easier!  Remember, though, many young horses can not learn all of this lesson in one day.  Patiently work on it a little bit every day until your foal gets it.  The results will be worth the effort.


(Edited version of article) by Christy Mellington


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