Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Working with baby.

I am currently involved in my first experience with handling a foal. I have always had untrained horses to handle but never one younger than 2. Rafe was born on July 16, 2009 to a Belgian mare that we "rescued" from a friend of ours so that he wouldn't just send her to auction. Most people who know anything about the horse market would be able to tell you exactly what a green broke, 7 year old, fugly Belgian mare that was in foal to a Quarter Horse would have been worth at auction. So to keep her out of the kill pen, we brought her home. I guess in a bad way, it was fortunate that Steph (John's mate) had been snakebit and died in November '08 cause then John needed a mate to go into harness with. If we hadn't needed another VERY large draft, poor Bessie would have never found a home with us. Anyway, back to the point at hand.
I had never handled a baby before Rafe was born so I had some learning to do along with him. I was able to get there the evening of the day that he was born and do some imprinting, luckily, Bessie was cool with that an didn't interfere. She just stayed close by. Every day I was able, I would go out and just work on scratching him and petting him and getting him used to being handled. As the weeks and months progressed, he demonstrated that he had absolutely no fear of humans and apparently had inherited his mom's laid back temperment. The only problem was that he was beginning to be disrespectful like most foals will at some point. He became nippy and would invade your personal space, step on your toes, etc. I figured it was time then for him to learn something more than 'humans aren't scary'.
So I got my halter and lead and proceeded to teach him how to lead, which was suprisingly easy cause he follows me everywhere anyway. The hardest part was teaching him that when I stop, he needs to stop too. So I spent an afternoon just walking around the property with him and stopping every few strides. When he would get too close or bump into me, I would either use the halter or push my thumb into his chest to back him up a few strides. He finally got that one figured out. Then Dad started hitching Bessie and John (who had never been worked together before). After the initial training stage with them, when there wasn't much risk of having a problem with them, Rafe began to be tied to Bessie's side for the trips.
That helped his leading as much as anything. Now, at 6 months old, he is a friendly, respectful foal that will stand tied, hold his feet up as long as I want, and yeild to pressure on chest, sides, hips and will bend his neck each way. He stands 13.3 hands tall last time I sticked him and if the measurement of the cannon bone is correct, he should mature to right at 17 hands. I was hoping that with his dad being a quarter horse, he wouldn't be terribly big but I guess I will just have to get used to it. He is going to be my next personal saddle horse. He is already up into a full sized horse halter. I am really looking forward to watching him grow up but now that I have had my experience with a baby, I wish I could fast forward to his 3 year old year and start riding already.


  1. Aww..I just love Rafe! I can't believe he's as big as Lillie is at almost 2 yrs old. Even she doesn't fit a full size halter right now.

  2. Hey!

    Just followed your link here from HF (I'm Wild_spot :])

    Congratulations on taking the leap to follow your dreams - I'm sure you will have success.

    Looking forward to reading about your trials and tribulations :]

  3. Wow, that is one big baby. I am so happy to hear that you have gotten him started early in his training to respect you as a leader. I can tell that he is going to be. You have to admit that he will make a very fun riding horse. You might have some trouble mounting from the ground at times but he will turn a lot of heads. Good luck with him!