Handle or leave a baby?

LincsLady22

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Last year I bought an unbroken warmblood. He was very dominant and huge when he came to me and although had been ‘well handled’ in terms of basic care (hoof picking and rugging), he was very bad mannered and intimidating. So I’m wondering people’s thoughts, as I’ve heard different opinions on training babies. Do you just teach the very, very basics, but mainly leave the colt/filly untouched unless it needs farrier, worming etc. Then bring it in as a 3yr old to properly handle and break in? Or do you handle it lots and teach it manners, personal space and basic groundwork (yielding to pressure etc) from a foal?
 

Orangehorse

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I bought my horse from a stud when he was 18 months old. They were turned out in a big group. I think it was every day, or 5 days out of 7, one would be caught from the group and led back to the stable yard and tied up to have a bit of a brush, feet picked out, etc. They had all been vaccinated and some had been to shows.
He had had lunging tack on and done a bit. He went to a couple of shows as a youngster.

So they weren't over handled, they got used to leaving the herd and going back, and used to to doing some things, but they were mostly out in the field. But I wouldn't have bought him if he hadn't learned the basics and could be handled easily and he was a doddle to break in and ride, never turned a hair.
 

pistolpete

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Mine was mainly unhandled as a youngster and he’s so skittish. Don’t think he was started very well. Seen some video and he looks very scared. He still doesn’t really like people. Would he have been better with daily handling as a baby? We will never know but he certainly doesn’t trust people.
 

Nari

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I'd say it depends on the temperament of the horse and the ability of the handler. I'd rather start from scratch than start by undoing a mess, ie a horse that's learnt at a young age that it can walk all over a handler or intimidate them. Also some horses are naturally more compliant than others, if you have one that even as a youngster is jostling for position I'd want it well and regularly handled while it was young. Whatever the temperament or handler skills I'd still want it out in a herd though, the right herd can do a lot of the work for me!
 

NR88

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In general I have handled initially to teach the basics and ensure that they are good for the farrier and vet. The majority of the time they are left to be a horse.

However your scenario is different because your horse has learnt, or not learnt, how to behave around humans. Sometimes "well handled" does not equal "handled well" and as such, like yours sounds, they have become a bit too full of self importance and spoiled.

In your position I would do as much as it took to train the horse to have good manners and respect for handling and being around humans. Once the lessons have been installed I'd tail off and return to the "be a horse" plan.

This is also age dependent as I'd treat a weanling or yearling differently then an unbroken three or four year old.
 

ycbm

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Yup, it doesn’t matter as long as the handling is done right.

In an ideal world I would want to see all youngsters regularly handled and see some places away from home, so that being broken in isn't suddenly some monumental change in their lives.
 

I'm Dun

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Ive always taught basic handling then chucked them out in a youngstock herd. This time round due to circumstances the current youngster has been with me on a normal yard since he was 18months. Hes got a very playful older gelding and a very firm gelding who keeps everyone in check. I still dont think it has done him any favours.

Dont get me wrong hes a very sweet natured and easy young pony, but hes very much more in your face than my others have been and has certainly got himself in all sorts of trouble wrecking my fences etc. If I did it again I'd go back to the original way of keeping them in a youngstock herd.
 

LincsLady22

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That’s very interesting. I don’t have my youngster anymore. I had him professionally started and I did a lot of groundwork with him myself and brought him on a bit under saddle before selling him after a few months. I just couldn’t enjoy the bolshy temperament, as he was supposed to be my hobby and not knowing what mood he was going to be in on any given day wasn’t fun.

However the 2yr old warmblood we have at work is an absolute sweetheart for the 2 ladies who own him, but gets really in my space before suddenly lunging and biting me. I totally avoid having to go in his field 😂 He’s already about 16.2. He sees his owners daily for a feed and poo pick etc, but only gets brought up to the yard for farrier really. He clearly is a big softy with his owners though, just hates me 😆. He is only out with a little companion pony and not a young stock herd, so I wonder if that has anything to do with it? Or if it’s normal for them to be more wary of ‘outsiders?’
 

Cortez

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That’s very interesting. I don’t have my youngster anymore. I had him professionally started and I did a lot of groundwork with him myself and brought him on a bit under saddle before selling him after a few months. I just couldn’t enjoy the bolshy temperament, as he was supposed to be my hobby and not knowing what mood he was going to be in on any given day wasn’t fun.

However the 2yr old warmblood we have at work is an absolute sweetheart for the 2 ladies who own him, but gets really in my space before suddenly lunging and biting me. I totally avoid having to go in his field 😂 He’s already about 16.2. He sees his owners daily for a feed and poo pick etc, but only gets brought up to the yard for farrier really. He clearly is a big softy with his owners though, just hates me 😆. He is only out with a little companion pony and not a young stock herd, so I wonder if that has anything to do with it? Or if it’s normal for them to be more wary of ‘outsiders?’
No it’s not normal to be a nasty, bitey horse. Softy in this case I conflate with spoiled.
 

paddy555

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I totally don't get the letting them live out, do nothing except have their feet picked up/lead bit. They are not feral horses and they are never going to live that life. They are going to live in a stable, yard, shelter, be brought in and out each day, have things on them (rugs, saddles and anything else) Why not start when they are v.young. What is to be gained from not doing?

My youngster bought at 18m from a stud had lived out since weaning in a herd of young horses. All he had learnt from living with other youngsters was that some one is going to get the most food in the winter and that is going to be me and this is how I am going to get it. I am a bully. Both the heels and teeth work well.

He brought that rather miserable habit with him and it was a bit of a shock to him to realise that it was going to end pdq.
In fact his face was a study when he arrived, I walked in with his feed, he threatened to kill me so I walked out again with the feed. He was an arab so he was bright.

Mine are all handled daily from the moment they arrive which is from 6 mths upwards. All fit straight into the routine with the other horses, there is never a time as they grow up when it becomes a shock that they are going to be broken. They are led around vehicles, walk past the machinery, go for walks on the road as yearlings upwards, things are constantly thrown over them, under them and around them. By the time they are 2 they carry the saddle I have just used from the yard to the back door.
They don't ever remember a time when they didn't do all this so when it comes to breaking then "boring" It is nothing. They have done is all for the past 3 years or so.

They are trained from the off to voice commands and the first one is back.

Obviously a stud can't do this and I only have one at a time but I cannot see any disadvantage. However you cannot be walked over.
 

View

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Paddy555, you handle well so yours are well handled in both senses.

But I have met too many youngsters kept on their own and then spoilt by poor handling because they are cute fluffy foals. And described as well handled.

handled often, yes. Handled well, no.

Every time we interact with an equine, we train them. Question is: do we do that well? (I accept that we all make occasional mistakes).
 

maya2008

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I have handled our foal enough that she will lead, wait nicely when headcollared with a lead rope attached, be caught, pick up feet, be brushed, you can get the vet to her if needed and she respects humans in the field. I will teach her to load and unload soon too. She wants to see the big wide world (tries to jump out and follow the others) so she will go on the odd walk for her entertainment but other than that no more training will happen until backing. Needed the basics though, or how do you get farrier or vet to them when needed? What if they are really hurt and need to travel to the vet?

I realised yesterday though that she also needs to practise doing these things with others, as she would not lead or stand with my husband when the vet came to do her passport. Perfect once I arrived though!
 

paddy555

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Before learning how to react to humans horses need to learn how to be horses and that actually takes some time, so out in the field they go to find their place in the world of horses.
can you explain why please? There is nothing to stop it being handled a lot yet still go out in the field with other horses for the next 3/4 years until it is broken. I don't see why it is an either or. It is being handled for a short period, it is learning to learn each time, it goes out for interesting walks, sees things, eats off banks, gets used to life, learns to leave it's friends.

The reason I don't get it is because I have seen horses who have been out in the field with minimal handling or just about none. For 3/4 years they have been out playing at being a wild horse because they deserved time to be a horse.
Then they come in and breaking starts. That is a very big shock. Why would you do that if you could introduce things so slowly the horse didn't even notice? Why stress the horse? I just don't get the point.




I never got the learning to be horses thing from the first time I saw youngsters. I went to look at a 3yo to buy. I bought him lying down. Went into his stable, he was so calm happy relaxed and couldn't even be bothered to get up. The most unstressed horse ever and that is how he remained for the 20 years I had him. He had come from a very well handled home before moving in with this dealer (a friend)

I then looked at 2 three year olds the dealer had just bought. They were 16.3 magnificent, in a barn for the first time, and stressed beyond belief. Everything was difficult for them. I looked back at the 3 yo I had just bought and just wondered why he was having such an easy time of it and these 2 weren't.


I get the problem of mishandling the fluffy baby who then walks all over everyone, I am talking about the baby who is taught to behave nicely and treat people with respect.
 

Cortez

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I'm not suggesting that horses should be "wild", you should handle them regularly anyway if they are being looked after properly with worming, farriery, vaccinations, etc. And every foal should learn to be caught, led, tie and have it's feet handled before going out into the herd with it's mother. But there is no need for any more than that until it's growing time is ending and it is time to learn to be a ridden horse. Actually I usually do a bit with the late 2 year old, loading and unloading and maybe a bit of saddle on, saddle off. IME there is nothing worse than an overhandled young horses. I'd rather have a completely untouched horse any day, they usually come around quicker.
 

ihatework

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Paddy - as long as they learn to be caught, led, pick feet up young then they don’t forget (although May test the boundaries 😉).

It’s not about letting them run completely ferel from the outset. It’s about not overdoing it. In my opinion there is no need to be handling every day, taking for walks, grooming, faffing with tarp walking or god forbid parelli shite.

Check them and give them a pat every day. Headcollar goes on for vet/farrier/moving fields. If you run into an issue, sort it with a short spell of targeted handling. Then leave them be.

I speak to many people who break horses. I’ve seen loads of youngsters grow up in different environments and this, in my opinion, is the best way - as supported by the vast majority of pro handlers.
 

ycbm

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Exactly , they need and deserve time to be horses .
But if we start thinking that way, they don't ever deserve to have their world turned completely upside down when they are brought into work at three or four.

I would much rather see a youngster regularly doing fun and easy stuff with a human who is managing it well than have it suddenly put through a massive change in its life, which is what I see happen to young stock which are largely unhandled after learning the basics.
.
 

Cortez

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I've always felt this was as at last as much about reducing work levels as it was to do with what the horse needs.

If it was sick a problem to handle young stock all the horses shown as a youngsters would grow up with bad manners, and they don't.
.
No they don't, but they are often less enthusiastic about being ridden, almost sour, and IME don't progress as fast. Over time they are fine, usually, but I find heavily shown young horses are often a bit dull.
 

windand rain

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I believe a bit of both to be honest I like to think by and large every pony I have had from a foal has grown up with good manners and been an absolute doddle to back and ride away. My system is probably a bit haphazzard for most they arrive as foals either born here or at weaning and spend the next 3/4 years living out 24/7 in a herd of young to old horses. They are caught regularly lead and load and do feet until that is established then they only do stuff when the fancy takes me. I check daily and they come to be fussed but also go out of my space when asked. I will do silly things with them odd days and like to finish on a good note. We buy/breed to show so might get them to a dozen shows in the first 3.5 years although covid has meant Kitten has had more experiences at home than out and about. They seem content enough as am always firm but fair one thing that drives me nuts is when foals arrive here already swinging bums for a bum scratch it is a habit really hard to break and scares the bejeesus out of non horsey visitors and has a habit of knocking my 68 year old body flying not getting any younger sadly. I like my space I like my ponies to like people but at a respectful distance
 
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