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Robert M. Miller, DVM

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  Click to enlarge Click to enlarge  How to do Imprint Training by Dr. Miller
 Book, Video/DVD, & Audio CD

Dr. Miller is one of the leading advocates and educators on the concept of imprint training of foals.  An overview of this technique is provided below.   

Imprint Training the Newborn Foal - An Overview

By: Robert M. Miller, DVM

Imprint training offers a singular opportunity to permanently mould a horse's personality. For a short time, the new born foal is programmed to imprint stimuli. The right procedures at the right time yield dramatic results. There is no time a horse will learn faster.


Imprint training can help ease handling, enhance later training efforts and reduce injuries. It shapes behavior in the following ways:

1) Bonding with the imprint trainer. Immediately postpartum, the foal bonds simultaneously with its dam and with one or more persons handling it. Such foals see humans, not as predators, but as fellow horses.

2) Submission, but not fear. During imprint training, the foal cannot escape (its natural method of survival) exposure to frightening stimuli. As a result, it becomes dependent and submissive in its attitude. The foal sees the trainer as a dominant horse or herd leader. Psychologically, this is the ideal relationship between horse and human. We must have submissiveness in a horse if he is to work for us. But, the submissiveness should be created not by fear (a predatory role) but by dependence (a dominant leader role).

3) Desensitization to most sensory stimuli (visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory). Most parts of the body, including all body openings, are desensitized. Rapid, repetitious stimuli (flooding) are used until the foal is habituated, i.e. permanently non responsive to those stimuli. Loud noises, fluttering objects or being touched anywhere on the body will thereafter be calmly tolerated.

4) Sensitizing to performance related stimuli. Specifically, the foal can be taught to respond (rather than habituated) to head and flank pressure. The responsiveness allows control over the fore and hind quarters. The foal will lead where directed, and will move its hind end laterally in response to the touch of a finger in the flank region. This is best taught on the day after birth, after the foal is on its feet.

Some believe that early bonding between the foal and humans will produce a "pet" foal. They believe that early foal-human bonding will produce a spoiled horse, indifferent to stimuli, which will lack the flightiness "necessary" to race or perform well. This is nonsense. Imprint training, properly performed, will enhance a horse's relationship with humans. It will teach it "good manners" and increase its responsiveness to stimuli that will later improve its performance.

The only "disadvantage" of imprint training is that, since it is best started immediately post-partum, the mare must be brought in for foaling. This is actually desirable, because it allows rapid identification of any obstetrical problems. It also requires that the Broodmare be gentle and well mannered. If she is not, it is better to correct before the mare foals, or, better, before she is bred. One should not expect to turn out docile, well mannered foals if one doesn't have a well mannered mare. Yet, some people seem to take pride in owning untrained, ill mannered broodmares. To me, poor manners indicate ownership by an inept horseman.

An enhanced relationship

I first became aware that neonatal foals can be trained and their behavior indelibly shaped, about 30 years ago. Subsequently, a behavior shaping routine evolved which I call "imprint training". I have no illusions that the training of new born foals is a new idea. In fact, there is no doubt that human beings have done this for thousands of years. All I have done is ritualized the procedure, given it a name, attempted to scientifically explain why it is so effective, and publicly promoted and encouraged its use because it enhances the relationship between horse and human, and, from a veterinarian standpoint, greatly facilitates the practitioner's job.

Ill mannered horses are the bane of the horse industry. If you can imprint train your foals, this problem will be minimized.
Imprint training is now commonly used all over the world. Since imprint trained horses are more manageable, far fewer injuries occur to horses and people. It has made life easier for both horse and horse handler.

This process is explained in depth with step by step instructions and pictures in Dr. Miller's book, Imprint Training, Early Learning Video, or Early Learning Audio Tape/CDsClick titles to order or click HERE to see all titles

What the experts  are saying about imprint training:

Imprint Training is the greatest advance in horse training in the 20th Century and possibly the greatest of all time - Don Burke in his Australian TV show Burke's Backyard

 "I found out these young ones [foals] learn just as fast, or maybe faster, than the older ones.  It's surprising how quick these little ones catch on and how lasting it is." - legendary horseman Tom Dorrance in his 1987 book True Unity.

"Relatively a few short years ago, the first pioneer in the field of 'imprinting' established a path to follow and most enlightened mare owners have their own versions of the process.  It is an opportunity, like few others, to meaningfully experience and guide the awakening of a new life.  You see horses as a species are born 'ready to learn' and there is a logical method to begin the actual training of a horse just a few hours and/or days old"  - Clinician Allen Pogue


  Click to enlarge Click to enlarge  How to do Imprint Training by Dr. Miller
 Book, Video/DVD, & Audio CD


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For comments about this web site, send mail to WEBMASTER at Note: With Dr. Miller's extensive lecture and writing schedule, he regrets that he does not have time to answer individual questions on equine behavior.  Our apologies, but the Webmaster is not qualified to answer equine behavior questions.
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Last modified: December 05, 2005