CLINTON ANDERSON'S FOAL TRAINING
First Yielding Lessons
Learn to teach a foal how to yield both ends
in a way that prepares him for leg cues.
FOALS CAN BE SKITTISH CREATURES.
THE sooner you can get control of a foal's feet, the better you can control his actions. This month, I'll show you how to use a nonthreatening, touch-and-rub method to teach a foal how to yield to pressure the way he should his whole life—like a calm, respectful horse. You'll learn where and how to apply your fingers to his rump to encourage him to yield his hindquarters. Then you'll use the same method near his girth and throatlatch to prompt him to step his front end away.
WHY YOU NEED THIS
Think of a foal's body like a car. His hindquarters are the engine, because that's where all his power comes from. His front end is like the steering wheel, because the position of his head, neck, and shoulders determines which direction he moves in. So being able to control both his ends gives you ultimate control over his movement on the ground. As a bonus, by gaining that control in the manner I'll describe, you'll also be setting the foal up to understand the concept of moving away from pressure and responding to leg cues when he's older and under saddle.
FOR BEST RESULTS...
You should already have gentled the foal to handling as detailed in last month's lesson, "Catching and Restraining a Foal."
Place the mare and foal in a stall or a small enclosed area with safe walls or fencing for this exercise.
Ask a helper to hold the mare, or tie her safely to keep her from moving about.
Be sure to work each side of the foal's body equally, for both the front and hind ends.
Keep each lesson relatively brief—don't tire the foal out.
HERE'S HOW: THE HIND END
First, to steady the foal's front end, place a large loop of narrow rope or cord around his neck (the string removed from a training stick works well). Tie it so that the loop won't tighten with pressure; you want it to remain loose as you use it to keep the foal from moving forward while you work with his hind end.
Next, stand on the foal's left side, next to his rib cage, so that your belly button is facing his body. Holding the neck loop with your left hand, place the fingertips of your right hand on the side of the foal's hindquarters, behind his flank. Then spread your fingers like the prongs on a pitchfork, applying a light, steady pressure.
Increase the intensity of the pressure (touch, press, push, dig) until the foal steps his hindquarters away from you. Your goal is " always to get a response with the lightest touch possible. At the same time, use the neck loop as needed to encourage the foal to tip his head and neck slightly toward you, as this will naturally help his hind end move in the opposite direction.
The instant the foal does step his hind end away from you/ stop the fingertip pressure and immediately rub him to a stop with your hand in the exact spot where you were.pressing with your fingers. Continue to rub until he comes to a full stop, then ask for another step.
Once he's consistently responding well with a few steps, teach the exercise to the other side of his body.
Over time and many practice sessions, increase the number of steps you ask for until the foal can step his hindquarters a full 360 degrees in each direction.
Also gradually move the spot at which your fingers "ask" for the yield forward on the foal's body. Eventually, ask roughly in the place where your heel would be if you were riding and move your leg back to ask for lateral movement in the hindquarters.
HERE'S HOW: THE FRONT END
For this lesson, the neck loop will be only a backup in case you need it. Stand on the right side of the foal, facing his head and neck. Place the fingertips of your right hand on the foal's jaw near his throatlatch. Place the fingertips of your left hand just behind his shoulder, where the girth would be. Then spread our fingers (on both hands) like the prongs on a pitchfork,
pplying a light, steady pressure. Increase the intensity of the pressure (touch, press, push, dig) until the foal steps his front end away from you. As with the hindquarters, your goal is always to get a response with the lightest touch possible. Be sure the foal is yielding to your fingertips, and not to your walking into him—keep your feet still until he moves.
The instant he does respond, remove all pressure from your fingertips, then immediately rub him in the same places where you were applying pressure. Continue to rub gently with both lands until he stops moving. Always start gently and finish gently, even if you must increase the pressure in between to get him move.
As the foal becomes more confident with the lesson, ask for more steps. Then, reverse these cues to teach the lesson to his other side, as well. Over time, he should be able to yield his front end a full 360 degrees in each direction. ■
WATCH IT! To see a video clip of Clinton yielding a foal's hindquarters, visit HorseandRider.com this month.
This series is adapted won Anderson Foal Training, Professional Series." For more information on this and other educational materials, or to learn about Clinton's clinics, appearances, training gear, and horses for sale, go online at the .OCTOBER 2012 HORSE&RIDER