From: Equestrian and Horse
This is the when you teach the horse the basics of wearing tack, being groomed learning to lead and tie up safely and correctly, the more confident they become the more they will trust you and allow you to put on items such as boots, rugs and numnahs. Handling horses is a key part of getting to know them and if done correctly will lead to a happy horse that is safe to handle and deal with.
Foals are fitted with a foal slip when they are a few days old, these enable you to gently handle right from a young age, as well as making them easier to catch. It is a good idea to have a short piece of rope or leather that hangs down from the slip, as this gives you something to gentle keep and get hold of that wont entangle the foal up. The size of head collar must be changed regularly to cope with the rate of growth otherwise rubbing and sores can appear.
Start off by having an assistant hold the youngster by the area that they they will eventually be tied up to, this helps them to get used to standing still in one area. Next proceed to passing one end of the lead rope through the string on the tie up ring and your assistant can keep hold of the other end acting as the tied end, by doing this if the young horse does in any way pull back the assistant can increase or decrease the amount of pressure pulled back with so as not to upset the young horse, once they realize that they cannot pull back to escape then you can tie a quick release knot as usual. When you first start to groom it is better to have an assistant hold the young horse as they can be quite fidgety to start of with.
To start off with have an assistant hold the young horse for you then simply accustom the horse to letting you run your hand over their body, starting off at the neck and gently stroke your way along the horses back, shoulders, legs and hindquarters. Some horses object to having their legs touched in order to accustom them and keep you out of harms way you will need to get a short broom handle or similar and use that to simulate your hand, by gently sliding down their legs, once they stop kicking out you can use your hand. When the horse is happy to be touched all over you can use a body brush and following the lye of the coat brush the coat through. Take care around the head and especially the eyes and ears. It is a good idea to accustom the horse with having its ears gently moved forward and back as this helps to prepare for bridling. Feet should be picked out on a daily basis, if you find a young horse will not pick up its foot then try squeezing the chestnut on the leg that will not lift, if that does not help try to move the horse over a step or to and when they move over simply hold the leg up for a moment before releasing it, use the end of a broom handle for any unruly horses. Manes and tails should be brushed through as normal.
When leading a new born foal, simply wrap one hand around their chest and the other arm around their hindquarters , you do this to simply help to steady the young foal on its way to the field for the first few times. They should be led alongside or in front of the mare to prevent either from getting stressed. Once a sense of self balance has been achieved then you can lead with a short lunge line that is passed through the bottom ring of the head collar but not fixed onto, this allows ensures that you can release quickly without the young horse getting caught up in a loose dangling rope.
When leading wear gloves and a hard hat if it is thought necessary. Start off by leading in a quiet area that is fully enclosed so that if they do get away from you they cannot go far. Lead the horse from the left hand side with one hand at the top of the rope and one hand at the bottom. Use your voice and say "Walk On" and start to walk in a purposeful manor in the direction that you had planned, if you need to turn the horse around then you need to turn them away from you not towards you as this gives you the greatest amount of control and reduces the chance of being trodden on and walked all over. Horses who are a challenge to lead can have a bridle or Chifney bit put on to give the leader more control. And if you need to lead on a road then a bridle is compulsory.
A bridle with a rubber bit for softness with the nose band and reins removed should first be measured against the side of the horses face, it is a good idea to ensure that the buckles are not put through the keepers when first placing it on the horse so that quick adjustments can be made without too much fuss from the horse or handler. Ensure that the bit is also the correct size for the horses mouth as any bit discomfort such as pinching would be a disaster so early on in training. Then taking your time, gently slip the bridle on to the horses head and secure the throat lash. If you find a horse being a little challenging to have its bridle put on then move to a stable or equivalent place where fidgeting or stepping back can be limited. Leave the bridle on the horse for 20 to 30 minutes at first so that they can get used to wearing one, this exercise should be repeated daily until the horse is happy to have a bridle put on and taken off with ease. Young horses will often mouth the bit quite a lot to start off with, this habit will lessen once they accustom themselves with the feel of the bit.
Saddles And Surcingles
To begin with use a numnah or saddle cloth and with the horse being held by a assistant slowly place onto the horses back, do not throw it on as this will startle them. Keeping hold of it walk the horse on a few strides so that they can get used to the feel of something very light on their backs. When the horse is standing quietly gently lift the saddle cloth off. If the horse is happy with the feel of a saddle cloth then with your assistant holding the horse place an elasticized surcingle over the horses back and draw it up to the point where you would do it up. Keep an eye on your horses expressions as this will let you know how your horse is feeling about the tightness. Practice holding it tight and then relaxing it, because it is not actually done up you have the ability to increase or decrease the pressure within a split second which simulates the feel of the constant pressure that the girth will have. Once the horse is relaxed with the feel of the surcingle and the feel of the tightness then do the surcingle up so that it will not slip but not too tight at first, if the horse is quiet once you have done this then walk them on. Repeat all these exercises as many times as is necessary to put the horse at ease, you'll find some take a bit longer and others simply are not fussed what you do!
A wool exercise sheet is a great way to start off as it does not have any dangling surcingle straps. Have your assistant hold the horse and practice folding it in half and placing it over the back of the horse where the saddle would go. If the horse is still stood quiet then open the rug out so that it covers the haunches as well. Then keeping hold of the rug walk the horse on for a few strides before halting and removing the rug. Practice each day to accustom the horse with having a rug put on and taken off, then move onto a cotton summer sheet which should be folded in half and and put on in the same way but this time do up the surcingle straps and front buckle, once on walk the horse around to allow it to get used to the feel of the rug now fully fitted.
The wearing of boots will help to prevent knocks and injury from occurring when the horse is is training, this is especially important when lunging due to the size of the circle and the demands of the trainer and not forgetting any lively behavior from the young horse. Start off with the wearing of front boots and then move on to hind boots after that. Put them on to the horse when you are in an enclosed area such as a stable or arena so that they can get used to the feel of them on their own. It is often the sound of new velcro opening quickly that will make them jump with surprise so always undo slowly to begin with.