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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.
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:
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.
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/CDs. Click titles to order or click HERE to see all titles.
What the experts are saying about imprint training:
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