often hear and read the debate about when we should be halter breaking the
foal. Being a very analytical type, I examine with great interest, every
system of Horse Training that anyone likes to invent, re-invent and these
days, even the systems of 'Days gone by'
I therefore base this article
upon a number of years of experimentation and observation of the career of
the foals going forward, particularly looking for the positives or
negatives that impact upon their lives and those of their owners'. This is
what I have found and these are my arguments to back those opinions up.
Horsemanship' systems of taking a feel, focus, savvy, passive persistence
and so on or
The battle of
strength system as in, reefing the horse around from side to side until it
starts to give, get the message and hopefully follow.
The Rump Rope system.
There are three basic time
frames where Studs or individual owner's halter break their young stock.
As a foal
As a weanling
the 'Breaker' gets involved'
I shall examine these in
TWO YEAR OLD AND UP
I have had
the unfortunate experience of having to halter break 2, 3 and up to 8 year
old horses on many occasions. The unfortunate experience and a highly
dangerous one, is unfortunate on the horse and the Breaker. It is a
disaster in terms of Horse Management and verging on cruelty. Such people
shouldn't be in the breeding business.
can never be truly halter broken with a lightness and responsiveness that
is consolidated and stays with them through their life. Yes, they will
lead but only ever on their terms. Given the right circumstance, they will
run through the hand of a handler and make up their own minds.
The only hope
that these horses have of almost meeting the quality of true lightness
found in option one is that they are halter broken and broken in by a
career Horseman of the 'Good Horsemanship School' and never by Natural
Horsemanship. That is simply not possible.
the young horse is, come halter breaking time, the less true lightness
that can be put on it. I think that the weanling, no matter what the
Breed, has to be stronger in sheer strength terms, than us Humans.
the case, no matter what system you use, NH or GH, (natural horsemanship v
good horsemanship) you still cannot end
with the 'true lightness' in the young horse, however, it will be fairly
good, lead well and so on.
It will not
have the many fine attributes of the foal that is halter broken early,
with one exception, with the back up and use of the 'Roping Horse' to
assist the handler to eliminate the underlying and mostly hidden
resistances that appear when the 'flight response' kicks in.
Because of the arguments
hereunder, only horses halter broken with GH are equipped with the
'Foundation Stones' of the great horses. Thus protecting them from
accidents throughout Life.
By now, you should know that
I am a fan of NH, but it has some weaknesses and this is one of them. It
is interesting, that the argument about gaining 'true lightness' is one of
the main ones used by NH marketers but I have proved, time and time again,
that NH can never give what I term 'true lightness' which is the lightness
you get no matter what trigger has been applied to the horse in terms of
panic, 'flight response' or the temporary loss of the mind. GH excels here
and always turns out the best halter broken, tying up and shoeing horse,
over those done with NH principals. Don't get me wrong, NH turns out fine
horses but never the best.
THE MARES IMPRINTING
From the moment the Mare
drops the foal and it gets to it's feet, she is imprinting it with the
desperate and urgent need to run from danger. Run is translated into
fight, pull, and rip away from anything that it feels restricts it. She is
building the maximum 'resistance' into the foal and this builds with every
living moment. The older the foal, weanling, horse, the more the reservoir
of fight is built.
We then come along and apply
the exact opposite to what the Mare and Evolution has imprinted. We ask
the horse to immediately turn around all learning and instincts and to
give rather than fight, to lighten rather than get heavy, to trust rather
than run and so on.
The 'flight response' in
horses, comes via instinct and is handed down through the ages from when
the horse was hunted by Man and Predators, just like any wild animal. It
is cemented in Stone and regardless of the fact that the horse lives in
our, so called safe world, it is still drummed into the foal by the Mare
as this is her primary responsibility to her baby. It is all powerful and
is the most challenging thing that anyone halter breaking a horse, faces.
The degree of the 'flight
response' differs with temperament of the foal, temperament with the Mare
or Stallion, the restrictions placed upon the Mare in terms of housing and
open space, the experience of the owner to nullify it and the ability of
the handler. It also depends upon the systems used and hence
I take my responsibilities as a Breeder very seriously. I
also am mindful of the safety of the future life of the foal because I see
so many injuries and deaths in horses. Go look at some of the photo's on
this site) That is why I am so passionate with the choice of method and so
analytical in it's success. I want them safe, I owe them that.
There are two levels of
resistance in young horses.
There is the
normal 'day to day' types of resistance, bad ground manners, (man made)
halter and leading heaviness and so on, but they still come along and they
do tie up, most of the time.
Then there is
the underlying resistance which comes to the surface in times of trouble,
danger, panic or fear.
and this is what separates
the vast majority of horses from the others.. True lightness in every way,
all of the time and regardless of the issue. Some examples then:
Your horse is
tied up solid and I walk past cracking a stock whip or get dressed
in a Gorilla suit. Do they pull back or do they jump around in fear but
staying within the bounds of the end of the rope and to give to pressure
no matter what the danger?
You have your
horse tied solid but too long. It puts the font leg over the rope, lifts
the head and goes into panic attack mode, pulling back violently.
gets it's leg through the mesh of the gate, is stuck. It pulls back,
ripping the hoof off or, does it stand, waiting for 2 hours for the owner
to come and release it?
Yes, it was halter broken, it
leads well (most of the time) but it will react negatively should any of
the events described above happen.
The future protection of the
safety of the young horse then, is found in my opinion, in the reversal of
the 'flight response'. The complete cancellation of it. It is the biggest
danger to the domesticated horse and it is the one thing that is
responsible for the many heartaches experienced for so many reasons.
Should Veterinary treatment
be required, you can actually do it!!!
They wean easier, the frantic
dangers can be controlled to their benefit and protection and above all,
they are the only horse that can truly be floated for the first few times
without a real and present high danger of them leaping over the chest bar
and many other disastrous outcomes.
Ever wondered why there are
so many crooked legged horses in this World? The normal reason given is
that it is the fault of the Stallion, then the Mare. Well I can tell you
it is the fault of the owner, who failed to correctively trim the hooves
of the foal from Birth, 14 days and then every 21 days at the minimum and often
at every 14 days. I see foals born with incorrect angles of the hoof. They
hit the ground with those hoofs. If it helps any of the readers', our Vet
trims them at 5 days. The
crookedness of legs, caused by incorrect hoof growth and angles, is the
cause of the vast majority of crooked legs in horses. So how do you carry
out that important responsibility if you halter break at weaning time?? Do
If caught early, these can be influenced before the pedal
Bone sets in place. 6 Weeks is too late!!!!
I have found, that horses
that were halter broken as foals, with the correct GH systems, experience far less
grief during the process. Far less fight, far less risk of injury and skin
Provide a faster process, a
more co-operative mind in all respects and a lightness of the mind that
gives a far greater lightness of the mouth than more resistant horses.
They tie up immediately,
there is no risk, they shoe better than other horses and they lead
regardless of the challenges faced.
Are more economically viable
and finally, the thing called
respect. Respect equals a smooth ride throughout the life of the horse.
Not a problem horse, not the drama I read about daily. Respect to never
kick you or the kid that walks up at the Show and hugs the back leg of
your horse. Respect with ground manners, respect to walk into a float when
told and not to say 'No, make me' You just would not believe the benefits.
The Bum Rope system is another
technique that is widely used. It works, they get halter broken but they
are never truly halter broken with this system. They can never be truly
light. The reason for this is that they are moving away from the rope
because it is touching the ticklish bum. Yes, they move, you move, they
are leading but they have not learnt the big lesson, that of giving and
lightening to pressure via the rope and the halter. It does not and can
not eliminate the 'NO' in the foal, given the first encounter of the
frightening path ahead. This system has no relationship with the next
hurdle, that of tying the foal up and will never produce a foal that will
accept the process without the risk of fight and injury. Further, given
the fact that a huge percentage of people faced with the halter breaking
being classed as amateurs', the last thing they need added to the equation
is the bum rope system. They face enough danger of severe injury as it is
without a foal that is not halter broken to start with, adding the scoot
past the owner because of the rope with the marked increased in risk of
pulling the foal over onto the back of it's head. My system eliminates
such risk and keeps it simply.
Whip system. Once again, yes,
the foal will learn to move forward off a whip but that is all it is
doing. It will give the same result as the system above.
I could have written a Thesis
on this subject but I resist.
How do you Show your Warm Blood
Mare and Foal for the ACE or other registered Warm Blood Societies if they
are not halter broken? and
How do you check the inside of
the mouth of your foal for correct Dental formation or if things need
How do you worm the foal at 6
weeks? How do you give it Tetanus and Strangles at 3 months? Terrorize the
hell out of and jump on it?
How do you put it in a Horse
Float to go to a Show or the Vet? What if Mum has to go to the Vet, the
foal has to go too. What if the foal is 8 weeks old. Forget it!!! Well
perhaps the Vet will end up having to come to the foal.!!!. What if a Bush
Fire is coming and you have to Float them away????
I have been asked about the risk
of skeletal damage being caused by halter breaking foals at a young age. I
am yet to see this. I do however, see broken necks, fractured skulls,
broken back legs and the like, due to the weight to fight ratio. When
done early, they do not have the strength to cause such damage imho.
BALANCE OF RISK
One must make a decision and
strike a balance. I know the risks associated with late halter breaking
but I have never seen the risk of injury due to the young age. I therefore
come down on the side of the latter
VICES AND DANGER
Farriers put their lives at risk
every day. They get injured regularly and even killed. I make the point
that none of our horses, have ever attempted to kick or been anything
other than perfect to shoe for the farrier. That is because they had their
feet and legs handled as young ones and from that day on, they learnt that
they can never dislodge a farrier, so why try. It is called responsible
horse ownership. I am sure the farriers of this World will agree.
In Europe, a huge proportion of
them are halter broken in the first week and they even take the Mare to
the Dressage Comp and leave the foal boxed. The one in the photo included.
Best of Luck
My Stallion being spoilt rather than locked up...because he
tethers....because he was halter broken 'light.......and one of this
seasons 7 day olds.
Proud Mum and 7 day old here at the moment.
and here is one of my apprentices at the Young
Horse Championships in Holland.
Now, a small story. The lady will not mind, she
is a friend of mine and a pupil. She is still getting the hang of things.
She was leading the Chestnut foal that is in the
photo above. He is now 17 days. The young Colt is needing behavioral
direction already, as they all do. 100% of them. He kept running ahead of
mother and into the lady. She was meekly waving her hand at the foal,
asking him to stay back and be a good boy. Again and again and again. All
of a sudden, the mare turned around, grabbed the Colt in her teeth by the
centre of the neck, lifted him off the ground and put him back where he
belonged. At the shoulder. He was then a good boy immediately. What was
going through the Mare's mind at the time? "For God sakes Mother, get
assertive and establish some rules around here, or I WILL"