|used to skepticism.
So, we were surprised and pleased to
see such large and knowledgeable audiences; we underestimated
the power of modern communication. Thanks to the internet,
DVD’s, and commercial airliners which can rapidly ferry
clinicians all over the world, our audiences were very familiar
with Natural Horsemanship.
PREPARING FOR FOALING SEASON
Foaling season officially began in January, and will peak in
May. Below are some tips on preparing your mare and facility for
where the mare will foal. A roomy stall bedded with
clean bedding is ideal. A clean pasture is okay, too.
* Know the signs of impending foaling, and what to do when it
occurs. If you are a novice, get a book or video I recommend
Foaling Fundamentals by Video Velocity
* Let your veterinarian know of the impending foaling, and the
expected due date. Will he or she be available if problems
develop? Does the vet recommend vaccinations for the mare or any
other procedures? Discuss the mare’s diet, as well.
Most mares give birth without difficulty, but if a problem does
develop, it is an emergency. Allowing a mare to
foal without supervision is gambling; you are likely to lose the
foal, and possibly the mare. Plan on some ways of observing the
foaling. A closed circuit TV camera in the foaling stall works
well. There are also several kinds of foaling alarms used on the
mare so that when she starts to foal, you will be notified.
Again, ask your veterinarian about such devices. Many people
will board a mare at a stable that specializes in foaling mares,
so somebody is always in the barn keeping watch.
WHY IMPRINT TRAINING ON NEWBORN FOALS WORKS
It was in May of 1959 that I discovered what I call
“imprint training.” Beginning with just a few hours at birth,
and a few extra sessions in the following days, I can teach a
foal nearly everything it needs to know for the rest of its
life. This includes grooming, saddling, bridling, shoeing and
foot trimming, veterinary procedures, and tolerating all kinds
of frightening stimuli. There was a lot of resistance to this
non-traditional method for much of the half-century I have
practiced imprinting training, but today, it is in use all over
the world, in a variety of species. Imprint trained horses have
run the Kentucky Derby, and are excelling in every equine sport
Still, confusion exists. Many people use the term “imprinting”
as a synonym for “training.” It is not. Imprinting is a visual
bonding that occurs when the newborn foal sees anything
moving around it. Training is learning by reinforcement. I
called it “imprint training” because it is training during
the imprinting period, soon after
birth. Why do it? Because the horse is a precocial species, born with
all of its senses full functional and neurologically mature. Most important, its learning capacity at that age, unlike that
of a human baby, puppy, or kitten, is at its peak. In the hours
and days after birth, the foal can absorb information faster and
more permanently than later in life. That’s how the newborn prey
animal manages to stay alive in the wild.
A lot of foals are imprinted by humans because they
are seen and handled by them. But they are not trained. We’re talking about two different things here. I
urge that imprint training NOT be done unless you are willing to
study it, and do it correctly. Like any training method, it
must be done correctly to ensure good results.
By two weeks of age, because they were trained at birth and
during the imprinting period, and subsequently during the
horse’s Critical Learning Times (CLT’s), my foals have learned
to stand tied, lead, back up, move laterally, turn, and move
forward. They are bonded to me just as they are to their mother.
Most important, they respect me. There is no swifter, more effective, or more permanent method of
shaping a horse’s behavior. Imprinting is easy to do (see FAQ,
above), but it must be done correctly. The
learning is permanent, so you mustn’t make any mistakes. Don’t
attempt it if you haven’t studied the method. Over the years, I
have done two books on the subject. The one I recommend is
Imprint Training of the Newborn Foal (Western Horseman
Publishing), and two DVD’s- the one I recommend is “Early
Learning,” (Video Velocity).
Light Hands Horsemanship
is almost here! Join us for three full days of clinics at scenic
Intrepid Farms in Santa Ynez, California, May 20-23. Dr.
Miller and clinicians Eitan Beth-Halachmy, Jack
Brainard, Lester Buckley, Jon Ensign, and special guest
Richard Winters will conduct clinics and seminars on
this year’s theme, “Equine Learning: From Birth to
Maturity.” Sign up now
or by March 15th from this
site and receive a $50.00 discount on tickets. Reservations are
limited, so don’t miss out!
For details, go to
or call 1-530-346-2715.
Two of my books,
Natural Horsemanship Explained,
and Understanding the Ancient Secrets of Horse Behavior,
have been translated into Polish, and I autographed hundreds of
copies. Our attendees knew Pat Parelli, Monty
Roberts, and Buck Brannaman. They belonged to groups who were
using Natural Horsemanship methods. Most important, there were eager for more information. I also noticed that most were
women. This emphasized what I have long been aware of; that the
Revolution in Horsemanship is most appealing to people who not
only love horses, but prefer to handle them with kindness over
coercion. We were especially heartened by the attendance of some
masters of classical horsemanship in both countries. I will
never forget when one of them, an older and highly respected
horseman, said to me, in English, “I came because of curiosity
and I was, frankly, skeptical. But what you showed us on DVD and
your explanations have convinced me that we still have much to
learn. There is obviously a better way.”
Debby and I saw half a dozen breeds of horse we had never heard
of before, as well as Polish Arabians. We were taken to the
Hungarian Plains, where much of the country’s horsemanship
evolved. Seeing Europeans from these two ancient cultures
practicing Natural Horsemanship, dressed in cowboy attire,
roping cattle and doing Western reining was fascinating. It’s
amazing that this cultural revolution involving an art and
science six thousand years old originated not in the
sophisticated riding halls of
Europe, nor in cultures where
horses have been used for millennia, but in the Pacific
Northwest of the
United States, an area only one century past
its frontier origins. And, even more surprising, that it was
created by a few working cowboys such as Tom Dorrance- veterans
of the rough and tumble sport of rodeo. In just 35 years, the
methods taught by Ray Hunt via Tom have spread all over America
and are now in use on nearly every continent. It’s only a matter
of time before they completely replace traditional and
excessively coercive methods everywhere. We are touched by the positive feedback
we’ve had since we launched our newsletter in October of 2009. We always welcome your comments and suggestions at
firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t forget our new
www.rmmcartoons.com; if you have an idea for a cartoon, send
a question for Dr. Miller?
Send it to
We apologize that due to volume, we can’t guarantee Dr. Miller
can respond to all emails, but we are building a more
FAQ page on our website
to address your needs. All questions may be edited for clarity
My foal, the first I have had, snaps its jaws when I approach.
Is this aggressive behavior, and should I correct it?
A. No! It is
submissive behavior. Ignore it, and be
gentle. It will soon disappear.
Interested in catching one of Dr. Miller’s lectures?
- May 20-23:
Dr. Miller’s Light Hands Horsemanship clinic will be held
in Santa Ynez, CA. For details, go to
- July 31-August 4: AVMA Convention, Symposium on
the Art & Science of Handling Horses.
August 20-22: This annual event on the Big Island features
workshops, presentations and exhibitions from the nation’s
leading clinicians and equine industry experts. For info., go to
www.hawaiihorseexpo.com, or call organizer Nancy Jones at
information on appearances and other dates and locations
Coming in our
Clinician Richard Winters
and Dr. Miller talk about their roles in this year’s Light
Hands Horsemanship clinic.
Interested in booking
Dr. Miller for a lecture, demonstration, or book signing?