Foal Education - Maserati's Kindergarten Time - Haltering [Slideshow]
Since a long time I was dreaming that my mare Mazirah would have a foal again. Well, here he is, little Maserati du Plessis. My dream became true! He turns out to be a very cheeky, self-confident and smart little guy.
As he is a Shagya Arabian with a lot of blood he is also very sensitive and it is easy to trigger survival mode and opposition reflex.Most important for me is to preserve his curiosity and playfulness and use it to my advantage.
His first task: Accept the Halter
When introducing the halter for the very first time, it is important to not force it onto the foal. Foals are born wild, this means that all survival instincts are very close to the surface and easy to trigger. Anything like holding, quick moves, catching or any sort of confinement can trigger these instincts. The goal should be to grow confidence.
These were my steps to help Maserati accept the halter:
- Foals are very curious by nature, all to do was wait until Maserati wanted to explore it. Of course, he was very sceptical of that thing in my hand at first!
- Foals love scratches! I used it to my advantage and scratched Maserati all over his body with the halter until he showed no more fear of it.
- I allowed him to chew on it.
- I made sure that he accepted that I touch his ears and the place just behind them.
- Then I slipped the halter over his nose and off again until he was fine with this
Only then I actually put the halter on all the way
The first few times that he wore the halter, he was quite irritated by the feel of it. So I just let him wear it 10 mins at the time - of course in an environment where he couldn’t get stuck anywhere and with me watching him.
Discover more detailed explanation by clicking through the pictures!
Hello little man! He saw the halter in my hand, so he is a bit more sceptical than usually. I don’t want to force him to look at the halter, but rather have him get curious about it.
It only took 10 second and curiosity took over!
Maserati managed to open the halter! I let him play around with the equipment like this because I wish to keep things playful and interesting for him. Of course I don’t use my best stuff!
Then I rub him all over the neck with the halter. He is a bit sceptical as you can see. Horses like him with a lot of blood tend to easily react claustrophobic when haltering, so this is an important step. And as foal tend to love scratches on the neck, they will quickly learn to like this!
Maserati was very sensitive and protective about his ears and the area just behind. So each time I put the halter, I make sure he is still ok with it. Otherwise he might feel the need to defend himself and start a fight when - which he did in the very beginning.
In the end I want him to put the head into the halter by himself - so I position myself at his shoulder and invite him to bend his neck towards me. This makes it also more difficult for him to kick me or run away.
Catch the nose - I have to be quick with him because he always tries to eat the halter!
When he was little, he was really afraid of that part. He would start to run backwards and try hard to get out of it. I spent a lot of time to just put the halter around the nose and behind the ears but not close it and repeat just that a few times. You can see that he is bracing a bit, so I just wait a few seconds before closing it.
Here he relaxed again.
The usual cheeky Maseratis is back!
Such a good boy! He did a great job in not moving at all, just trying to eat the halter in the process a little bit.
I find it very annoying when horses get impatient when taking the halter off - when they can’t wait until they can galopp back to their friends. So I take the time now to also explain that part to him now and make it a good habit, before I get in trouble. This step is so easy to just forget and not do. Again I position myself at his shoulder, asking him to bend his neck towards me.
Trying to eat the halter again!
I take my time and I don’t try to keep him bent - I don’t want him to feel trapped and feel the need to defend himself. Rather use his curiosity that he want to stay there.
He got the halter! I really don’t worry about this at the moment. He will quit it by himself. He is just exploring things - and his curiosity is my best friend right now to teach him new things.
Wow, that was a lot of brain-gymnastics for him! He is yawning a lot after doing things like this. Having to concentrate and accept a sort of confinement gives him lots to think about.
Read more about Maserati's Foal Education