Horseproblems Australia
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John O'Leary
© 2004



The Debate

"Do we do it when they are really young, wait until they are weaned or when they are ready to be broken in?


I 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.


  • The 'Natural 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.

There are three basic time frames where Studs or individual owner's halter break their young stock.

  • As a foal

  • As a weanling

  • Never, until the 'Breaker' gets involved'

I shall examine these in reverse order:


  • 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.

  • These horses 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 stronger 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.

  • That being the case, no matter what system you use, NH or GH, 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.


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.


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 of 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 handle. It also depends upon the systems used and hence this article.


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 the 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 attach mode, pulling back violently.

  • Your horse 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 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 tell


  • 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 off.

  • 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.

  • 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

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.

How do you check the inside of the mouth of your foal for correct Dental formation or if things need attention?

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?


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 ration. When done early, they do not have the strength to cause such damage imho.


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


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.

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"

If you are interested in what I consider is the best system that I know for the complete management of the foal and it's future training, go here:

For more photo', go here:






Halter breaking the foal is one of the most dangerous things one will ever encounter in the Horse World. It can be made less dangerous however.

The longer you leave the halter breaking of your newborn foal, the more dangerous it becomes. Day by day as the foal gets stronger and stronger and as Mum teaches it more and more to run from "Prey Animals", the harder it gets and the more they fight.

Mum guides the foal around the place by giving it the "mother in law" look or the "come here or else" look or making it get out of her way by walking straight through or over it. It must get out of the way or else. The foals learns to give to pressure, get out of the way or be run over and get reward and relief in the process. What mum doesn't do though, is to pull or push on the foal, so the longer time goes on and the more the mare imprints the push and shove without touching, the more the foal will object and fight the opposite. The pull and push, human style.
The first defense of a foal, once you put a halter on, is to react to your pulling on the lead rope by either rearing over backwards and landing on its head or leaping in the air and throwing itself down on the ground sideways. I have seen them leap totally in the air, turn 180 degrees upside down and land on the back of their head.
If the foal throws itself so that it is definitely going to hit the ground, you must be at the speed of light and jam your arms high in the air to basically hang the foal to save it hitting it's head on the ground. You must never allow that.
The resultant injuries, and I have seen many, are usually neck and brain injuries or a broken leg. (usually a back one.) Of course many other injuries can occur and do, largely depending on the surroundings that people  choose to take on such a challenge. I recommend a good round yard with an ample depth of fine sand. In case of.
I say again, halter break your foals on about the 7th day of their life and you will never risk their lives. People who do not do this are incompetent and are responsible for far more fear, danger and drama in the future lives of their horses.
The moment the foal is born, it is being taught by the mother to get mobile and to run from predators'. That means us too. The longer this goes on, the more fight a foal is going to have in it and the more danger it is in from injury through struggle.
In this day and age, we do not want the 'Flight from fear' thing taught to the foal and we should do everything possible to negate it's negative effects. They are not out in the prairie running from Wolves so it is a dam nescience to us and a problem for the foal. If I see a mare playing too much of the run game, I will bring it into a small yard to stop those games and handle the hell out of the foal to over come Mum's teaching. The less flight and fight that is in our foals, the safer they are going to be in this world.
1.                  PROFESSIONAL
2.                  AMATEUR
As I take hold of the lead rope of every horse that has been handed to me, I take particular notice of how well it is halter broken. I mean really halter broken not the fact that it leads and will follow you most places, but that lightness and willingness to follow you no matter what and to not hang back on the rope like a White Pointer Shark. I estimate that about 90% of horses fit that category and they are always the ones that you just know, that given the right set of circumstances, will not tie up properly and will hang back and fight if tied proper and solid. (See section on tying up the horse)
Now you may ask what does it matter if my horse is halter broken ordinary or proper. It follows me!
Well it depends what you want for your horse in the future and whether you want to go through life having fights. It is remarkable as well as a luxury, to own a truly properly halter broken horse. Here are some of the possibilities caused by ordinary halter breaking. The other huge benefit is this: My horses don't get injured during their lives. That is because they give to pressure truly and properly. They don't fight when tangled, hooked up or restrained in some accidental manner. Other peoples' horses go to Veterinary facilities for operations and receive all manner of injuries and scars.
  • Your horse will only lead places that suit it and hang back other times.
  • Your horse will never learn the true asset of submission.
  •  It will probably not tie up properly and have to be tied to twine all of its life. which it will break regularly and run around the show grounds.
  •  If it ever gets the rope over its neck whilst tied up it will fight instead of giving, probably smashing it's head against the float.
  •  It will be in far more danger of injury throughout its life than properly halter broken horses.
  • It will be a less submissive horse in every aspect throughout its life.
  • If it gets hung up in a fence it will fight harder and do more injuries than others.
  • It will refuse to lead places on it's terms. Like into Horse Floats.
  • From the very start of its life, it will not learn and therefore have eliminated out of its brain to a large extent, that thought of "don't co-operate with the handler" Always give them a fight rather than say "OK, I want to co-operate."
A.                 The tail rope system.
B.                 The truly give to the pull and get reward and relief.
This is the one that most people use.
Put a halter and lead rope on your foal and then get a longer rope with a slipknot tied in the end and makes a noose. Put the noose around the foal's back end and run the end of the rope back through the halter to ensure on a direct line pull.
The bum rope will tend to frighten the foal forward more easily as they are very sensitive when young. Pull the foal along by the lead rope and with the bum rope acting as encouragement. Bit by bit, the foal will get the idea of what is required and also bit by bit, the bum rope will cease to work as it turns into a "force meets force" situation as the foal desensitizes to it over time. It then becomes an anti training tool and turns into more of a struggle, teaching the young horse that it can use it's strength and bulk against the human.
By the time this happens, you should have a roughly halter broken foal. It will never be truly light though.
It is important to have another handler holding the mother and to make sure that you get mother to walk forward a little each time you ask the foal to move. This can help to give the idea to it and support what you are trying to achieve.
On the first day of the foal's life, you do the bonding thing if you like. (Depending on the mare but only after the foal has had it's first drink)
On the second day up to the 7th, take hold of the foal and restrain it a lot. Put one arm behind its bum and one around its chest and restrain it from moving.
Get all over it like a rash and totally desensitize it. Touch and rub it everywhere its mother wouldn't kiss it. Pick up its legs and donít let go until it stands quiet.

You can even make it move forward whilst holding it and get it used to being forced forward and not to fight. Push and pull it all over the place. Get it brainwashed that you are stronger while you have the chance. You will soon lose this asset.

On day seven, get a halter on it (a webbing halter) The moment you release it and it finds the end of the lead rope, hang on because the safety of the foal is in your strength, commitment, reading of position and reaction time.
Don't ever let the foal get anywhere other than face on to you. Never let it run past you and have the lead rope facing back over it's shoulder. It will rear over on it's head when you pull. Check it back b4 it runs past you. Check, release, loopy to rope to snap and back to loopy.
If you ever let the foal or any horse, take the lop out of the rope when they are hanging back being lazy, and go along with a slight feel through the rope to your hand, with you pulling it along at all, you are ruining the lightness gained during the halter breaking process. Once they lead, you walk along with them trailing along behind you. Normally on about 3 foot of rope. More if you like. As soon as you feel the rope slack being taken away to a feel of the head of the foal through the lead rope, take a hold, increase your pace a little and hang off the head of the foal with force until it learns to give and go light again. Demand this always. If you do not, they will get heavier and heavier as time goes on rather than lighter and lighter. The good ones will trot up as they feel the slack disappearing. That is how you want them.
I find that the biggest issue that faces people with halter breaking is the installation of the halter. Most foals are extremely sensitive around the face, head and nose. Often, when you go to place a halter over the nose, they will rear up and run backwards and it can be dangerous. One of the many reasons that you must handle them well from Day 2.
Take the Mare into a small area. Small stable, small raceway, you name it. The smaller the better. Block the foal off with the mare and have the lead handler stand in the gap beneath the mares neck. The catcher then walks to the back of the foal, scratches it's rump for a while, talks nicely, and gradually moves in behind the foal, pressing against the rump of the foal with their hip, stomach etc. Lean over the foal and hold the buckle of the halter in the left hand and the neck strap in the right hand. Have your body over the back of the foal, and stopping it from rearing off the ground. Physically and with brute force, stop that. Lift the halter out the front of the nose of the foal but above it. Swoop the halter down smoothly and quickly and over the nose of the foal. Do not worry about being too gently about it but do assess your movement as you perform it and react accordingly. Do the strap up and move to the front of the foal and get ready for the fun.
Commence simply by acting completely as a snubbing post. One meter down the rope from the foals halter. Immovable and solid. No lightness, no give, just hold until it stops fighting and then you give the loop in the rope while the foal stands there already nearly exhausted. Should you be late in getting to the halter breaking, like 4 weeks old, you will definitely need your husband to do it, horsy or not. The foal must NEVER get a victory or move the im-movable post called the husband.
This  has no sophistication. It doesn't need it. You are simply getting rid of the initial explosion without killing the foal in the process.
READ MY LIPS. Your job is to save the life of the foal if it tries to throw itself over backwards, sideways, twist with pike or somersault 180 degrees in the air. Yes, believe me. So this is what the slack foal owner is causing by leaving it too late. High danger to their loved one.
If the foal goes to throw itself down or loses footing, the job of the handler is this.
If the foal has fallen, slacken the rope as soon as danger has past and let the foal think about it. Let it relax but NE READY the moment it gets up. Be in front of it or reef it around to face you.

You have a webbing halter on the foal. This is not a time to be feeling touchy with thoughts of 'savvy, feel and an ounce of pressure' This is the time to save the life of your foal if needed and if that means attempting to tear the foals head off, then that is what you do. You will not hurt it. Softy people cause injuries.
You will often get them act just like a cutting horse. Leap around to the side in an attempt to get their bum to you. YOU HAVE TO ALWAYS KEEP THEM FACING YOU NO MATTER WHAT
As they leap left, reef them laterally back to face up and loop the rope in relief. They will leap right. Reef them back to face you and loop the rope in relief. Look for them to stand and think. If they do this 15 times in 2 seconds, your speed of rope handling and reefing of their head must be up to the mark. Snap, snap, snap, snap, lateral, not forward, Forward makes them run backwards. Loopy to snap and back to loopy. Practice it. This is the real power of the lead rope.
The initial fight will only last so long. DO NOT necessarily expect to be leading the foal all over the place on the first go. That is unfair. You are only aiming to tie the foal up to the handler and for the foal to stop fighting, think and stand. Then we can start to add sophistication and dream of all those touchy feely threads on the Forums.
That will probably be the end of the session.  Be ready though, next session you are going to get the same but because it will last less long, you will have more time to add to the process because the foal will stress and fatigue less.
Once the foal is thinking and standing. You should start giving it a little stroke each time it does so and then back to the training. Now, what do you do next?
  • You can go to the procedure which is explained later as with the more mature foal or,
  • if you are strong enough, you can take up the contact and simply give the foal a good ol reef forwards and have already released the pressure on the rope before the foal hits the ground again. Let it rest, think, stroke. Repeat, repeat, repeat. As the foal gets the message, you can then start following the good aspects of NH.
  • Try taking up the loop, feel the head of the foal, increase the pressure to an ask forward, if the foal leans backwards maintain the hold, set yourself, let the foal lean, lean, lean until it then jumps forward. You would have given the loop in the rope be4 the foal hits the ground. Stroke.

First take of a feel. Instant fight.

Straight into the air to throw himself over backwards on his head and death.

2 minutes later, just prior to a leap forward. 60 seconds after this he was leaping forward each time I asked.

Temperament has a big bearing on it. This foal was too simple. Great temperament. Just look at Mum. The age is also the key. They are too weak to beat you. Born last Monday.

Now foals can only take so much of this and the maximum should be 3 minutes or you risk a heart attack. You must therefore get a total victory quick. So on day one, just teaching the foal to stop fighting and that it didn't drag or move you is good. I do succeed in getting them to move a little bit as well on the first day but you needn't worry about it if you want to take it a little slower.
 At this point in time there is no sophistication to it. Just a step or two at a time. Getting used to being hauled on the head. Make sure you have a webbing halter on, not a rope halter.   Make sure you win though and do not give with the rope at the start as you can stop the foal getting off the ground with its front end simply by your sheer strength against it. If the foal tries to get off the ground with the front end, be sure to be in control of the rear end and go forward button. Just like the older version of rearers. When the foal hangs back, which it will, just hold solid on it  until it stands up a little.
To make one move forward, just take the pressure and reef the foal forward a step or two but you must have already given to a loose rope before it comes to a halt again. "Reward and Relief' at the instant is the signal that you want the foal to learn.
When my foals are halter broken, they automatically tie up for the rest of their lives and don't pull back from day one. This is normally at about 7 days old.
As the days go by and you lead the foal more and more, get more sophisticated by taking a lighter contact to see if the foal is starting to give property rather being skull dragged.
If the panic has gone and remember that if you do it in the first week there is very little or no panic, start following the correct principals of "reward and relief" by taking a contact against the foals head, hold, hold, hold and look for the foal to make a move forward and total "give to pressure" The 100th of a second that this occurs, throw a loopy rope to the foal and give it "reward and relief"
While it is young and eminently controllable by you, re-enforce it's 'come or else' training if it starts hanging back as you go along. Pull it forward and release. Make it give and lighten. Never support it. Have it behind you on a meter of rope. Loopy rope. Mum walking along with it.
One cannot introduce complete sophistication whereby you take up a feel, hold, wait for the foal to give and then you give, until the Foal totally understands to come forward from a pull. Once they do understand though, it is highly advisable to go the feel and savvy route but, NEVER ACCEPT the "No'. Be assertive so that you win every time and don't hesitate to up the pressure to meet the increased resistance.
You will only meet lightness with lightness as they give it to you in return for the ask.

Make the foal keep up near Mum's shoulder. Don't allow it to be back near her hip because all it will think of is hiding behind Mum and this is anti the learning curve. It must handle the message and learn it.

To inherit the perfect tying up and leading horse, you must finish this job before the foal gains the strength to move you off your feet. When that day comes, your halter breaking can and will never be top shelf. Then you must change training tactics as follows:
One of the greatest things that one can do with the foal of any age, or weanling, yearlings or even older horses, is to place a rope halter on them, tie a 12 foot lump of old rope on and drop it on the ground and walk away. Leave the horse like that for a few hours and do it for a number of days. This is the icing on the cake and you don't even have to do a thing. Just be around the place, not out of sight, in case there was ever a problem. I have never experienced one however. Make sure the facilities are good and that the horse cannot get hooked up via the halter. Rope halters do not break and should one get hooked, you have big problems on your hands.
Now, the simple fact that the horse starts to occasionally step on the rope, reef it's head to get relief, is halter breaking the foal for you. What is more, it is doing it with far more sophistication than you can as the 'reward and relief' is on the milli-second compared to us. The horse works out exactly what is causing the restriction and after a few times of bumping the nose with the halter, soon works out that there are better ways. They include:
  • Thinking a way through it.
  • Not panicking.
  • Lowering the head to get relief, thus becoming a light headed horse, and
  • stepping the hoof off the rope until it is free.
Whilst all of this is going on, the horse is having the rope around, between, through the legs, doing all of the desensitize work around the legs for you. Both front and back. Often they will trap themselves via the front leg but sometimes via the back leg stepping on the rope. In the latter case, you will witness the horse learn to break at the poll and backup to gain relief. Commencing one of the greatest tricks in the mouthing process of all. The photo below was taken the day after these three were weaned the day before. They have had the ropes dragging for 15 minutes. After a while, we had one leading the other as the rope was over the other ones neck, one trapped by the other as they were on it's rope and all sorts of other weird puzzles which they had to work their way out of. Teaching a cool head and a non panic horse for the future.

When you are halter breaking the older foal, two weeks upwards, it becomes vastly more difficult. The danger increases as every day goes by and so does the trauma that the foal is going to have to endure. Regardless of what you think of my strong assertive talk here, the owner who allows the foal to get older without halter training is far more unfair than anything I may describe.
If you have not caught the older Foal, you have a real problem. It can be dangerous, especially for the Foal. This DVD does not include handling of the more mature Foal so I will include the following for your information.
  • Lead Mum into a Stable or small yard. Move slow in everything you do. Wear gloves and have a long enough rope to extend right across the distance and have a pre-tied loop in one end of the rope. Two people are required and each will hold an end of the long rope. They will be each side of the stable and with Body language and position, will cause the Foal to run between them to the other side of the Stable. Being real sure to allow the rope to slide through their hands and when the Foal arrives at the far side of the Stable, the rope will be looped around it's chest.
  • Then one handler will walk across to the other handler, lifting their rope over the foal so that the rope is now looped around the base of the neck of the Foal. Place the end of the rope through the end with the loop and then pull and slide up so that you end with a lasso with a slip knot around the neck of the Foal
  • See if you can slide it up to behind the ears more so that you will have more purchase and so now go about taking up a contact and working on getting the Foal to 'give to pressure' with the pressure and relief system. Slowly teach the Foal to give to pressure and see if you can actually progress to touching it and stroking etc. Let it start learning that you are OK. When ready, get a rope halter on the Foal, not a webbing Halter for this age. Let it step on the rope for a week, in a safe facility where it can't get hung up and kill itself. That will basically Halter Break the Foal for you.
Wear gloves.
  • Have a long rope, long enough that when doubled, the Foal can reach the fence so that you have some flexibility and won't end up 'sand skiing.'
  • Use any system you like to get the loop with the rope doubled, around the neck of the Foal.
  • Then, holding both ends of the ropes, begin to restrain the Foal from walking etc, until such time as you get a 'give'. Release and relax immediately. The first is like Gold dust.
  • You may use as much restraining force as you like of course as most of the time the ropes will be around the base of the neck which makes it harder for you but no matter. For this reason, Men are often preferable to Women due to strength. The more they can be restrained, the faster they give up.
  • Work on the Foal to the point where it starts giving d that you can begin to manipulate it a bit. Get it to the point where you can make it stop walking away and that you can restrain it and start touching and stroking it. Get to know it. You are off and running.
  • You may repeat this more than once until such time as you can get a Halter on and then simply repeat the rope hanging on the ground trick for a week.

When you feel you are ready:
Once again, select the safe area, have someone hold the mare at the halt and after getting a halter and lead on the foal, work close to mother. Here are the steps:
1.         Walk around to an angle of 45 degrees to the foals shoulder, take up the slack in the rope until you feel an ever so slight contact and then briskly and with strength, reef the foal around to face you in one pull. The foal should come off the ground for a split second, turn on the hinds and land facing you. You must have released the rope before the foal hits the ground so that there is no contact on the halter at all.
2.        Give the foal 15 seconds to think about and if it is touchable, walk slowly to it and pat it for a job well done. Repeat the process time and time again.
3.         Over time, you should start to diminish the pull and have a little checkout. See if the foal is identifying what you want and is it lightening.
4.         Once you experience that observation, get more and more sophisticated by asking nicely and adding feel to what you are doing.
5.         Once you feel the foal reacting as you want,  walk around to your 45degrees and then just hold against the foals head and ask for a few steps to change the angle and possible a forward step as well.
6.          Diminish the angle more and more as the foal steps more easily and presto, it ends stepping in a straight line.
7.         Once has started doing that, you must then bring your natural horsemanship into play. Every time the foal gives to your hold, give it the loopy rope and walk it on a loopy rope until it hangs on the rope again. Then you hang on its head until it gives and causes a loopy rope again. This must be your rule throughout its life.
8.         Remember though, it highly important that you don't take the principals of NH too far here. If you hang off the foal's head and it digs it's feet in, you should act like a tile up rail and be rock solid. This is where the foal truly learns to tie up and to give. If you are not up to the strength of the foal at this age however, you are stuck with what you have got unless you have a roping horse.
When you pull the foal around the 45 degrees the first time, it is likely to leap back the other way, in which case your speed and timing must be spot on and you will reef it immediately back the other way again. After it gets the message, it will stop the jump back from where you tug it.

Once the foal is properly halter broken, it must always be reminded to stay light and that it is its responsibility to provide the loopy rope.
Just say your little darling decides to not lead out for some reason. This could be, not wanting to leave the stable, frightened to cross the creek, dark ground, plastic, anything. What do we do? (older established foal)
1.         Stand out at the end of your 12-foot lead rope and, take up a contact, as much as you like and hang constantly off the horse's head. It will stand there with its neck stretched out and the four legs out front to give you the old "Tug of War". Continue to play "Tug of War" until something happens.
2          What can happen? Three things can. The horse can rear, give and come forward or start dragging you backwards. If it is the latter two things, stay hanging of its head in a passive constant way no matter how long it takes. Your horse may drag you 100 meters backwards but that doesn't matter, in the end it will give. 100 percent of the time they end up giving and when they do, it is the greatest lesson in life. They rarely try you out again. If they do, repeat the process every time.
3          Remember, you are not trying to drag the horse forward and pit your strength against it, you a merely hanging off its head and giving it the pip with the halter.
When they are foals, use the webbing halter. As they get older, two months and upwards, use the rope halter always.

As horses get older, about the only use that I see a webbing halter having is to leave on them to hold on a neck rug etc. Webbing halters are too soft and comfortable. They make it too easy for a horse to hang back against them.


These are the only ones that I will use for training on any horse over the age of about 3 weeks. They make horses lighten up and stay light. Horses have more respect for them as if they lean on them, at least they get some discomfort. They are highly dangerous however and they should be used responsibly. Don't ever leave one on in a paddock as if the horse gets hooked up on a tree or similar, it could even die. Unless you are proficient in the safety aspects of tying horses up, you should probably not do it until you are up to speed. See Tying Horses Up.

The great thing about halter breaking them young is that, apart from an accident with going over, there is very little chance of injury. Especially with the tying up. Even the amateur can probably get away with this and it should be done on about the 10th day of their life.

Tie them no longer than 6 inches. You do not want them being able to get up over the rail or fall down to the ground, or get their leg over the rope. Short is safe with the ones at this age.

Leaving a rope halter and rope dragging on the ground in a safe yard is a fantastic idea. It makes them lighten themselves up, they can work out over time that it is easier to give their face than reef their heads up and mump themselves on the nose. It is also great training as the rope drags between their legs. Stops panic later. Here they give themselves their own 'Reward and Relief" and you can imagine the timing of that. Better than any Level 3 Parelli person. lol


I am not recommending that you do the following but if you choose to, here's how. It works a treat. I think  this may be my invention and it produces the absolute best halter broken foals. Do this before the foal gets too strong for the mare and a neck strap is preferable than a rope around her neck but I do use rope. Maximum 3 weeks old foals.
WARNING: Only do this in a safe sand yard. Not out in the open. Know your mare and don't try it with anything suspect.

Until you know the mare, just test it with the lead rope of the foal looped around the collar strap or soft rope loosely tied around Mums neck. Lead her forward to take the strain. It is amazing how quickly they respond. I have never had a problem with any of them. When a foal is past about 2 weeks old, they get a bit strong for Mum so have them done before then.

Have someone hold the mare or tie her up. Then tie the foal's rope around the mares neck in a loose noose and using the horseman's knot called the bowline, incorporating a safety release. Tie the foal short so it remains at the side of the mare. The foal should not have it's head any further back than the shoulder of the mare. Do not have it so long that it can get behind the mare. No longer than 300mm. Long is unacceptable

Ask the mare to lead forwards and see how she copes with the pressure of the foal hanging back on her. Some won't go and you will have to encourage them and briefly turn them into roping horses. Once they get the message, this is a brilliant system and one that makes the proper halter broken foal as they come or else. The other good thing about it is that even if the foal tries to throw itself over, it cannot as it is tied to the mare, too high to reach the ground.

Be in a confined area in case the mare gets fractious. You will find though, that the foal will follow along far easier because it is used to do such a thing in times of trouble. You are therefore getting the ultimate trainer to train your foal. The mum!!

Because my mares are trained to drag things around under saddle, I even train the young ones to go into the float this way. Mum walks into the float without a division and foal has to go. No arguments from day one. No failures, no questions. Not even the glimpse of an out.

So you can now see the difference between the "half baked" halter broken foal versus the truly finished one. If you want proof, see the photo hereunder. Four weanlings loaded on a public road with their mothers screaming out from 15 meters away in the paddock. I rest my case.


A highly dangerous exercise if not done in the first 7 days. An absolute non event if done as described.
I tie my foals up after halter breaking and normally at 7 days. Just tie mum up and tie the foal up near her as well. (See section on tying horses up)
Because they were properly halter broken, they naturally tie up properly as well and dangers are eliminated. Tie the amateur halter broken foal up and it will throw itself down and fight. The "Bum rope" foal does not tie up and you would be a fool to try it.!!
The tying up should be for 10 minutes or so every day and can incorporate a treat for mum and foal.
The foal that ties up perfectly from day one will always tie perfectly throughout its life. This eliminates the dangers that can arise from poor tying up training.


Here is another graphic example of young horses giving to pressure and not fighting or panicking. This equals a safe life for them going forward. This is called, responsible ownership. Note my invention of the wither ropes to stop them jumping up. It works every time and they only try once. They give....they do not fight.


So your foal ties up? How easy is everything now? You can do precisely what you want to it, how you want and when you want. So let's handle its legs. It is too small to kick us. We are stronger than it. How simple.
Just go about your business and act like a farrier. Don't just pick the feet up and put them down. Take the opportunity to act like a farrier and make the foal accept everything a farrier will do. Including most importantly, the farrier positions.


Once you take hold of a foal's leg, do not let it go until all fight ceases and the foal stands relaxed. Then drop it on the instant.
Regardless of how you halter break your foal, if you send it to a professional breaker later on, he will not accept ignorance in your horse's head. So when you are not looking, your horse is going to be subjected to a harder road and more danger of skin off etc, because you took the easy road initially. Your foal will be the victim of your soft road. Just like most things in life.
Believe it or not, but submissiveness, all the way up to the mouth or leg yielding, is affected by the quality of the halter breaking. You will never know if you don't experience it. We horse breakers are lucky because we get to compare horses all the time.


Then train it to hobble. Do it regular. That takes 10 seconds and has NO danger. Go Here and read:


Your horse will have benefited in the following ways.
 It will diminish its chance of injury throughout its entire life.
 It will break in, in half the amount of time and with far less danger and trauma.
You will be able to tie your horse up anywhere and as long as you like.
It will be more submissive and calm in every way.
It will have a better mouth when broken in.
 It will walk where you ask it, not say no or maybe like the rest of them.


If you follow the systems here, your horse will be basically broken in before it gets to the Breaker. You will have the horse with the best mouth, the one that ties up totally and is never in danger when tied up because you could not make them pull back if you dressed in a Gorilla Suit. They will be saved in the fences that incompetent horse owners like to erect, they will be saved from death at the badly designed horse floats and you will be saved when you fall off and get dragged. All of our horses have these attributes. Yours can too.


Why not, they are smarter than we are. People are always wanting to 'do things with their young horses' So, what do they do? Lunge the guts out of them and break them down, piddle them off and turn them sour. All because 'Mother' could only think of lunging because that is what everyone does. Teach them the 7 Games. Cross Country train them, obstacle courses, over plastic, through the water jump. You imagine it, they can do it. They are only limited by our imagination and us being stuck in the rut of conventional PC and English World boredom.


  • Keep the Mother wormed all the way through pregnancy, preferably with Equimax. Then worm the mare when the foal is one week old.

  • The mare must have a Tetanus shot 2 weeks prior to delivering the foal.

  • The mare should be covered with strangles as a matter of normal course.

  • First Tetanus/Strangles (Equivac 2 in 1) at 3 months.

  • Then a booster 4 weeks after the first one.

  • Worming should commence at 8 weeks, relative to the weight ration of the foal and as per the directions for use.

  • Then worm every 6 to 8 weeks for the rest of it's life. Alternate the wormer to cover the full range of worms with the different compound groups of the wormers.

  • Booster for Tetanus/Strangles every 12 months.


The Mare must be fed hard feed, commencing 3 months prior to the birth of the foal. Then, daily until the foal is weaned. The rate of feed will need to be progressively increased as the foal gets bigger and stronger and starts to creep feed Mum's feed. This will start as early as 4 days old.

For feeding rates, contact Ridleys. We feed 2 kg morning and night from weanling onwards. Plenty of Hay and Lucerne.

The best feed in Australia is Ridleys 'Breed & Grow' It is better than 'Breeder'.


  • Supervise the foaling from a distance. Allow the foal to drink and the Mother to Bond.

  • Make sure the Mother is not bleeding excessively, that the cord has detached from the foal successfully and that all is generally well with them both.

  • Make sure the after birth has come away from the mare within the acceptable cut off point of a maximum of 6 hours after birth. If you are worried about the non release of this, ring the Vet immediately and they will give an injection to make it release.

  • Day 2. Grab the foal with the left arm around the chest and the right arm around the bottom of the rump. Restrain the foal and 'get all over it like a rash' as we say. Handle it everywhere. Legs as well. Touching and stroking. 5 minutes or so. Push and drive the foal around a little and treat it like a bag of wheat. Treat it like the Mother will in the days forward. Do this every day.

  • On day number 7, halter break the foal.

  • On day 10 hook the foal to Mother.

  • Take Mum for a walk every day, with foal attached. (remember the foal is there. Do not walk through narrow places and kill it against a fence or a tree.

  • On day 11, tie the foal up along side Mum at the tie up rail. (Do it every day from then on.)

  • On day 13, after tying the foal up, start to pick up it's legs. (Do it every day from then on)

  • Day 21, change from the webbing halter to the rope halter.

  • When and if the foal is hanging back and testing Mum too much, cease that system. This depends upon how much of a softy YOU have been during the previous 3 weeks.

  • Day 28, introduce hobbles (if you can handle the thought)

  • Commence a little NH. Throwing the rope over the foal, around the legs and so on.

  • Start taking the foal out to Shows with Mum if you like.

  • Wean the foal 4-6 months depending.


Properly halter broken foals tie up forever and tie up solid. They DO NOT pull back and you could not make them. That my friend is a luxury beyond belief and will be experienced many times by the owner throughout the entire life of the horse.

When tying the foal up, the rope should be no longer than 300mm from rail to halter clip. "Short is safe, long is dangerous" If it pulls back.....great....gooood. It will do no harm and it will not get serious about it. That is long gone because it was halter broken properly.

When you go to handle the legs, lift them up and make like a farrier, it WILL pull and hang back for the first couple of times. Ignore it. Goooood.

Tie it up every day. After a couple of weeks, you can tie a little longer but never this long. It is dangerous.


I own a proper Collar strap. You don't need one however.

You can use a doubled over soft Parelli rope or any soft, thick one. Tie the rope loose around the neck of the mare, like the collar rope in this photo. Use the knot called the 'bowline' The horseman's knot.

You can always undo it and it never slips or tightens.

Take a couple of wraps of the lead rope around the collar rope and ask the mare forward. Let the foal take the pressure and the mare to respond. Have the mare in your left hand and the foal rope in your right hand. You are testing things at this stage. You can let it loose if you absolutely have to but I never would. You can imagine the lesson.

Be walking backwards, facing the mare and foal. Ask the mare forward a couple of steps and make the foal come. Ignore any fight. Once the mare shows you that there is not going to be panic stuff, hook the foal on and just walk off with it. The Mare will 'skull drag' the foal along, it will dig it's heels in, ignore it. Walk on a circle to the left with the foal on the near side of the Mare and you the same side at the start. Once everyone is getting the message, you can put the foal on the off side and you lead from the near side and this will allow the foal the confidence of coming up to the shoulder better, because you are not leading from the same side.

After a couple of days, just go walking around the property at will and the foal will be trotting up alongside the shoulder of the mother, on a loopy rope and not pulling at all. It is now a light headed young horse. Well done.

Read my lips!!! The foal should be tied no longer than about 6 inches long because you already have the slackness of the collar rope. You must never allow the foal to get back near the hip of the mare as this promotes pulling back and the foal wants to get around behind mother. Keep him up short, near the shoulder.

Test this in the Round Pen until you know the Mare will accept it and drag the foal. I am yet to meet a Mare that will not do it immediately and I am also yet to meet a Mare that panics with it. Test though. If in doubt, don't bother.


Across the World, horses that are broken in by most NH Trainers, have a reputation of being bad horses to shoe. That is because most NH Breakers' cannot produce the horses that we can because they are restricted within the 'religious rules' of the movement. You may or may not agree with training horses to 'leg restraints' Regardless of your views, here is your chance to turn out the shoeing horse that only the Good Horsemen can turn out and yet, should you not wish to use 'leg restraints', you will have still achieved the same results.

I have already mentioned crooked legs in horses and one of the main reasons being a failure to trim foals hooves. So, at the designated time, start handling their legs.

Tie the foal up and pick up the front leg. It will pull back, stay there, ignore it, keep the front leg up to trimming level and just wait for it to stop pulling back. It will hang back, lower the bum real low and also lower the front end. Keep the leg up and wait for it to give and lift up to a proper stand. Rub the leg, say good and drop the hoof. Incidentally, we do not place hooves on the ground, we drop them. They know where they go. Never let a leg go, never drop it during the struggle. If you ever do, don't tell me about it.

Then the back leg. Pick it up, DON'T ASK FOR IT. Regardless what the foal does, do not let it go. You are far better off stepping beneath the back leg like the farrier and as the foal kicks, just lift up and hold it as a rock. It will give, stop fighting and then you stroke it for 5 seconds and drop it. Stroke the foal (scratch) Speak nicely to it.

Do each leg the same. On about day 3, providing you have been assertive and not let go, there will never be another 'No' and you will have trained the old fashioned good shoeing horse of the past. You will also have commenced the understanding of give, rather than fight, in fences.


Treat your foal as the Mare treats it. If the Mare wants to move the foal over, she will walk through it or tread on it if it doesn't move. Likewise, if you have the foal tied up and it is around to one side, just hip it over and let it know to get out of your way as well. This is where you rid the anti-training habit that horses inherit, that of pushing or pulling back against any force that you apply, instead of how they react to the Mare, where they get out of the road, move over and out of the way.

Treat your foal like you own it.


The foal will learn to lead behind and following the Mother and you. Do not attempt to teach it to lead up alongside of you. That causes too many problems that I won't go into here.

Keep it trailing behind you, on a loose rope, until the time that you may like to take it to a 'Halter Competition' Now you may want to train it to be up at your shoulder and you should. Then you can have them behind you, out of your space and off your legs most of the time or up at your shoulder when you are in competition.


The wonderful thing about Pat's '7 Games' is that it re-educates the human, b4 it educates the horse. Now that is wonderful for a 'Horseman' to see.

As soon as the foal is weaning, well after a few days, commence it's '7 games training' The entire system should be taught to the foal over the next few months and it should know the lot by the time it is a yearling.


If you don't halter break the foal, forget taking it to a Show or to the Vet should the foal need to go or should the Mother need to. Remember, the foal has to go too.

Once the foal is halter broken, you simply 'skull drag' the foal into the float, Mum alongside and following the foal in. Do not attempt to load Mother first. It will not happen as she will not leave her foal. Load the foal and the rest will happen. Called 'common sense' or lateral thinking. Take the Mare to the entrance to the back of the float. Have the float in a race way. If mother will lead up onto the ramp, good. Just stand her there. The foal will suddenly not be halter broken and will have forgotten everything you taught it. The person leading the foal (a Male) will be about 2 feet down the lead rope, facing the foal and backing into the float. One or preferably 2 people will link arms behind the rump of the foal and simultaneously, throw and skull drag the foal into the float in an instant. In a flash. Everyone is fully committed. No softly, softly. No training, just total skull drag and throw it in. Forget the mare. She does not matter. Load the mare as normal.

If you can enclose your float with the top doors above the ramp, you may leave the foal loose but with lead rope and halter on. If you do not have top doors, the foal MUST be tied up. Remember, it ties up. (Read about it below)

Once the foal is weaned and as soon as it is, you may train it to float load with the continuation of the '7 games' or what ever other system that you prefer. There are only about 5 incidentally. Do it early so that you can float the weanling.

Do not attempt to float your weanling on it's own until it has been on a number of trips with another horse or horses. When you do, you can pray when you drive off as the chances of the weanling rearing and going over the chest bar are high. Hung up by the front legs and fighting like a barracuda.

You can now be one of the few people in the World who will have eliminated most of the risk involved. I have invented and widely tested on horses young and old, the 'wither strap'

Remember,  your foal has been to taught to totally give....right? Well here is your reward. Check out the enlarged photo and do the same when you first float your young one on it's own or thereafter. There is NO DANGER attached, only benefits.


My opinion of 'Foal Imprinting' is that it has been invented for the gratification of the human in the equation and as a mistaken attempt to make the on-going training of the foal easier than it would normally be.

I have found that this these foals are often the worst to break in as they are too humanized, that for this reason it is unfair on them and the 'Breaker' for the drama is increased to a level that would not normally be the case, just to re-jig their mind that they are a horse and that even then, they are often far more difficult.


There are two ways of weaning the foal.

  • Progressive way over time

  • 'Cold Turkey' and instant.

I prefer the latter of the two but you need alternative facilities or properties. Either way, I strongly recommend bonding the foal with a mate of some description, prior to weaning and then when you do carry it out, things will go smoothly and danger of running through fences will be largely eliminated.

Then you have the second weaning phase. The one that most people don't know about. The bonding between the mate after Mother, also becomes almost as strong as it was with Mum and if you think that you can walk down the paddock and take the Mate out for a ride and not find that the weanling won't jump the fence, you could be in for a huge shock. I intend to write an article on this subject soon. (Free)


Weanlings leaving their mothers.

Foal on about day 3 of the halter breaking.

Weanlings tied up ready for their second float ride, back to the stud.

10 days old.


This is a photo of one of my recent Trainee's from Europe. This was at a foal show in Holland in July, 2004. Note the long ropes and light headed foal. 4 weeks old and Lee-Anne did the job.

Some other photo's  and video to show that there is nothing you cannot do with the properly halter broken foal.

Articles to be read in conjunction