Imprint Training of Foals

     In a conversation with an equestrienne friend, I asked if she had ever read any books written by Robert M. Miller, DVM - she had not. She also was not familiar with the concept of imprint training of foals.  I guess she  was mostly focused on her horse’ performance rather than early training of foals. 


     Dr. Miller  wears many hats — veterinarian, equine behaviorist, author, and cartoonist.  My first exposure to his work was his whimsical cartoons on veterinary life published in Vet magazines.  One of which is displayed below.

     He is best known for his pioneer work in the concept of imprinting foals.    Early in his practice, Dr. Miller observed how dangerous it was-to vets and horses alike-when adult unbroken horses were first handled for treatment.  He developed a protocol of handling foals at birth to imprint an acceptance of human contact in the newborn foals. The lessons learned in the first few days of life persists to adult and makes the grown horses comfortable around humans and safer to train and treat if necessary.

      The process is relatively simple. The newborn is touched everyplace from ears to including feet and legs.  The foal may be haltered and taught to lead.  Feet may be picked up and examined, mimicking future activities.  The goal is to get the youngsters used to all the handling they will experience as adults.  Horses have exceptional memories and will remember early lessons for life. 

     Imprinting occurs in most species.  Ducklings hatched by a chicken will imprint on the hen as their Mom and follow her around. — a strange sight to see a line of ducklings following a chicken.  

     I don’t know of anyone deliberately  imprinting dairy caves but raising calves in individual hutches is a close second as it allows the animals to bond with their human caretakers .  It does, however, lack the actual physical touching associated with imprinting.  

Dr. Miller has written several books on this subject and there is a lot of information available on the internet. 

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