Bringing the Broodmares In

Yesterday was Groundhog Day and by some accounts across the country, he didn't see his shadow! Which means, Spring is supposed to be around the corner.

Here's hoping…

In addition to the folklore, for us it was also the day to bring our broodmares in. With some early spring foaling dates, we like our mares to have at least a month or more of being inside the barn at night so they can get used to the surroundings where we hope they will foal. We find there are many benefits in regards to the health and well-being of our broodmare band in doing so. Giving the mares at least a month's leeway gives them a chance to acclimatize to a warm barn (versus the outdoors) and we can get them used to straw bedding at approximately 2 weeks prior to their due date. Also, bringing them in from the pasture every night allows us to take a good look at each mare and see how the pregnancy is progressing. And finally, putting them into the stalls of our foaling barn every night helps them build up antibodies in their colostrum for the foal's new surroundings.

On the contrary, bringing them inside with less than a month before the estimated due date, or even at their due date, only serves to stress the mothers-to-be out. And with expected due dates of early March, leaving them outside to foal is out of the question since March temperatures can be bitterly cold here in Regina, SK.


So for the next few days on My Stable Life let's talk about some other important considerations to keep in mind, in preparation for foaling.

IDEAL BODY CONDITION SCORES OF PREGNANT MARES

• All pregnant mares must have body condition scores (BCS) of 5 or greater. This is because maintaining pregnancy becomes very difficult when the BCS of mares drops below this level.

• A body condition score of 5 is defined as “moderate” in the equine BCS scale. It is described as a mare that has a level back and her ribs cannot be visually distinguished, but can be easily felt. The wither appears rounded over the spinal vertebrae and the shoulders and neck blend smoothly into the mare's body. Also, fat around the tailhead feels spongy.

• The mare should foal at a BCS of 6 or greater and this degree of body fat needs to be established during the first 8 months of pregnancy, since digestive capacity of considerably reduced during the last trimester.

• Lactating mares, on the other hand, must also have body condition scores of 6. Since it is still very difficult for mares to gain weight while nursing, this body condition should have been established long before the foal is born. Mares will also experience a small to moderate weight loss once the foal is born and nursing – and the mare can only eat so much to maintain herself, plus ensure she has the energy for lactation. It is not possible for her to also eat during this time so that she actually gains weight.

• A body condition score of 6 is defined as “moderate to fleshy.” It is described as a mare that has a slight ridge along her back. The fat over her ribs feels spongy and fat around the tail head feels soft. Fat packets are also deposited (and can be felt) along the sides of her withers, behind the shoulders and along the sides of her neck.

Ensure your broodmare is prepared for foaling by first ensuring she has the right body condition score.

Tomorrow, MSL will focus on broodmare nutrition throughout various stages of pregnancy, plus other things you can do to ensure your foal has the best start in life!

The Foal is the Goal

Today I need to tell you about an awesome book. Since the weather is so miserable outside, it might be a good time to settle in with this fantastic read!

Authored by Tena Bastian, a veteran breeder, The Foal is the Goal is an excellent resource for any mare or stallion owner who would like a realistic look into the world of breeding, prior to setting foot into it. It’s a great book for any time of the year too as Bastian focuses on all parts of the breeding decision including, the necessary forethought required to breed a mare, the process of breeding a stallion and preparation for foaling.

Bastian divides this picturesque publication into two parts: Part One is about The Mare and Part Two is about The Stallion and highlights considerations for being an owner of either or both, especially when it comes to the concept of breeding. Bastian candidly questions the motivation for wanting to be a breeder, sheds some light on the challenges that can be involved and offers advice for breeding methods and use of equipment, stallion handling, writing contracts and program promotion.

There is also a full color photo series of actual foalings, diagrams regarding basic mare anatomy and step-by-step advice for breeding methods and use of equipment. Whatever side of the equation you may find yourself, this books provides reader-friendly advice for the fundamental concepts necessary to approach the breeding decision in an informed manner.

Baby Talk

Alright, I had meant to post this yesterday. And I had every intention of doing so, but things got busy and life got in the way. I’m sure you know how it goes! However, if it’s any consolation, I couldn’t sleep last night.

At any rate, last week it was time to separate our filly weanlings from the colt weanlings. As the yearlings have now graduated to the barn to begin their training, some space opened up in the pastures to allow us to do so. Which is a really good thing, because at the age of 6, 7 and 8 months or more, little colts can sometimes get bad ideas! And at these young ages, we have no need for “accidents” in the pasture.

First, the JDF crew ran all of the weanlings together into a laneway. A smaller area would allow Clay and his helpers to catch and halter them in a more efficient manner.

Then the idea was to halter the colts and lead them to where a new pasture awaited. The weanlings seemed to think this was pretty exciting. They ran up and down the laneway.

And up and down the laneway again.

All except for one… One little straggler just didn’t see the urgency in running down the laneway.

Or running anywhere for that matter. So Lacey ventured out to give him a little direction.

Finally, all 7 weanlings were right where Clay and Lacey wanted them.

The next step was to halter the boys and while all of our weanlings have been handled several times before, this is still a task easier said than done.

Therefore, a bribe was in order.

That’s when the troublemaker showed up. When Clay wasn’t looking, she got a hold of one of the extra halters and made off like a thief in the night!

Troublemaker didn’t get far however. She stopped when she got to the bribe in the bucket. At that point, Clay was easily able to slip a couple of halters on.

Except on this little guy, who was determined to have the bucket bribe all to himself…

But a few minutes later, Clay and Lacey had all 3 colts caught and haltered and began leading them to their new pasture.

Our old gelding, TK Texican was there waiting for his new boys. For the last couple of years, we have used “TK” as the all-around horse on the ranch to bring in cows, trail ride and as a demonstration horse. Having already paid his dues, TK is required to work only minimally these days. So the rest of the time, we use him in the pasture to teach young stud colts a few manners. And TK is more than happy to do so. In fact, I really think he cherishes his job as a “babysitter gelding.”

Here, one of the weanling colts meets TK for the first time and as you can see, his mouth is open. The colt has engaged in “baby talk” with TK, acknowledging that TK is the alpha horse.

Then the bunch of them started gallivanting around the new pasture again. It takes a few minutes for things to settle down and even though he is right behind them every step of the way, TK is careful not to play excessively with any of the new colts. The only time he gets a little more assertive is if one of the colts steps out of line and is need of some discipline.

It’s a perfect arrangement. Other than hoof care, deworming and vaccinations the colts will be allowed to be horses for the next 12 months. And then next December, the little guys will make their way into the barn for training and the cycle starts again with a new foal crop taking their place for TK to look after.

Frozen Waterers

No bueno...

In the winter, a noise I have learned to dread is that of a horse’s hoof thudding away against the side of an automatic waterer. And thud, thud, thud, went the bay mare’s hooves yesterday afternoon.

Upon inspection, I could see a crowd of horses gathering around a specific watering area. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who saw it – David our barn manager saw it first and quickly ran for reinforcements.

I ran for my camera. Did I ever mention how nice it is to be pregnant some days?? I’m not allowed to life heavy objects or overexert myself in any way. So this is the scene as it all unfolded.

David quickly ran for a bucket and easy-to-carry water jugs (that is, easy-to-carry for him, not me). Then he set the bucket down for our weanlings inside the pasture with the problematic waterer and began filling it up with water from the jugs.

Hey, Culligan Man...!

As you can see, the weanlings were pretty thirsty. We check our auto-waterers every morning and every night and therefore, we knew the problem waterer had been working earlier the same day. However, some time between the morning and afternoon, it quit. It just goes to show you how much water horses actually consume in the winter. A lot.

After 6 jugs of water, David went over to help Clay with the problem machine. I stayed on the other side of the fence to visit with the weanlings.

They took it apart:

They fiddled with the float:

And quickly Clay and David realized the problem was simply a breaker that blew. We were lucky this time – the problem involved a quick-fix solution. But as the temperature gets cooler and cooler through the winter months and windchills threaten -40 and -50 temps, we anticipate that the fixing of frozen waterers will be a daily occurrence. Therefore, tomorrow I’ll be back with some great tips for preventing frozen auto-waterers.

Meanwhile, this was the scene that played out for me from the other side of the fence.

Once the babies had gotten their fill of water, they decided that playing with their bucket was a pretty fun game.

And it was kind of funny until I realized they had become hellbent on removing a piece of twine that had been previously tied to one of the bucket handles. Before I knew it, one filly actually got the twine free and was chewing on it like a piece of hay!

Panic set in and I dropped my camera on top of a snow bank so I could get into the pasture and remove it from her mouth. However, I forgot that my ever-growing belly would make it difficult to climb through the fence like I usually do! Climbing over top was difficult, but somehow I made it and gracefully dropped to the ground on the other side. Then at first, the filly wouldn’t let me approach her – perhaps my excitable energy told her something was up, or maybe she just wanted the twine all to herself. Either way, time was running out. She was close to ingesting the orange string. And as any horse man or woman knows, this is a colic recipe for disaster.

I took a deep breath and tried to calm my energy and at that point, I was finally able to approach the filly and remove the twine from her mouth. I’m sure you can imagine, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it was all over with.

After that, it was back to the house for some warmth and a hot chocolate. With 2 babies on board, I tire pretty easily these days and that was quite enough adventure for me for one afternoon…

Foal Vaccinations

Ensure to protect your foals with the added benefit of a vaccination protocol.

Immunity is the ability of an organism to be able to resist and destroy micro-organisms. Just as humans do, horses have 2 forms of immunity: natural and acquired immunity. As you might suspect, natural immunity is the horse’s inborn ability to resist disease and infection. Acquired immunity comes from natural exposure to disease carriers, recovery from an infectious disease, antibodies obtained via the placenta or ingested through colostrum at birth, or vaccinations given to the horse to product antibodies against a specific disease.

Despite the fact that the snow may already be flying where you live, if you haven’t yet vaccinated your foals this year, there’s still time. The important thing is to get it done! When incorporated into a program that includes regular deworming, a good nutrition program and a safe environment, your foals will be aimed towards to a healthy future.

So when it comes time to book your veterinarian appointment, what vaccines should you ask for, for your foals? Well, there are several specific immunizations needed but many depend upon your foal’s age, exposure risk, value, general management and geographic location. Your best bet is to discuss a protocol with your vet. However, here are a few basic considerations:

1. TETANUS – Tetanus is caused by toxin-producing bacteria present in the intestinal tract of many animals and found in the soil where horses live. Spores enter the horse’s body through wounds or the umbilical cord of newborn foals. Tetanus is a constant threat to horses and humans and as such, horses should be vaccinated against it annually. Foals can receive their first tetanus vaccine as early as 6 months of age if the mare was vaccinated within 30 days of foaling, or 3 months of age if the mare was not vaccinated. Talk to your vet.

2. ENCEPHALOMYELITIS – This disease is often referred to as “sleeping sickness” and caused by Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (WEE) or Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE). These two strains of the disease have been seen throughout North America. A third version, Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis (VEE) has recently been seen in Mexico. These diseases are usually transmitted via mosquitoes and the symptoms vary a great deal, however they are result in the degeneration of the brain. Foals can be vaccinated at at 6 months of age if the mare was vaccinated within 30 days of foaling, or 3 months of age if the mare was not vaccinated. Talk to your vet and specifically ask if your foals need a encephalomyelitis booster.

3. INFLUENZA – This is one of the most common respiratory diseases in horses and the virus is highly contagious. Horses that travel or are exposed to high horse traffic should be vaccinated regularly against it. Flu viruses can result in nasal discharge, fever, coughing and loss of appetite. The disease can be expensive to treat and it usually very uncomfortable for your horse to endure. Foals can be vaccinated at 6 months of age if the mare was non-vaccinated. Often, this vaccine is given in combination with the rhinopneumonitis vaccine. Which brings me to my next bullet point…

4. RHINOPNEUMONITIS – It’s important to know that there are 2 very different disease viruses: equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) and equine herpesvirus type 4 (EHV-4), that cause 2 different diseases, which are both known as rhinopneumonitis. Both cause respiratory tract problems, however EHV-1 can also cause abortion in pregnant mares, foal death and paralysis. As mentioned above, foals can be vaccinated at 6 months of age if the mare was non-vaccinated. Speak to your vet about Flu / rhino boosters.

5. STRANGLES – No matter where you live, Strangles is a highly contagious disease you should hope your foals never have to deal with. That’s we vaccinate our entire foal crop, every year within the first year of its life. Now if your foal does contract this disease, consult with your veterinarian for a treatment protocol. If your foal has contracted Strangles in the first year of its life, ask your veterinarian about vaccinating this animal specifically – some vets think the horse may receive enough immunity from being exposed to the disease in the first place.

There are some side-effects associated with the vaccine, which is a modified live virus – meaning the virus cannot cause serious disease in the horse – allowing it to provide longer lasting protection. However, as such this class of vaccine is often not recommended for pregnant mares. The efficiency of this vaccine has been questioned by many vets because outbreaks can occur even in vaccinated herds. However, we have always remained under this steadfast rule with our own horses: “Even if our horses do contract the disease after immunization, the outbreaks of the disease will be less severe than if we didn’t vaccinate then.”

This vaccine is given intra-nasally and can be given to foals starting at 6-9 months. This vaccine requires a booster administered 3-4 weeks after the initial intra-nasal shot has been given.

6. RABIES – Rabies is a scary disease that always results in death. Luckily, it is more prevalent in some areas than others – concern areas include southern Saskatchewan and Arizona, therefore our entire herd receives an shot against Rabies every year. If you also choose to vaccinate your foals against rabies, your veterinarian may not want to administer it on the same day as other vaccines as some serious health threats can occur. Foals can vaccinated against rabies at 6, 7 and 12 months of age if the mare was vaccinated.

In summary, it is my personal belief that there’s really a lot to gain, and everything to lose when it comes to vaccinating your foals.

Fraidy Cats

With the beautiful weather we’ve had here in Saskatchewan lately, my husband has had the good fortune of being able to utilize his outdoor arena a little more these days. Last Thursday, some of our little reiners-to-be on the other side of the arena fence also got to partake in the training session.

At first we thought their curiosity was simply “cute,” but as Clay’s training time progressed on the palomino mare he was riding, the colts became downright hilarious.

Our reiners-to-be. Aka, the 2010 foal crop.

For kicks, Clay took his mare over to the foals to make friends.

First one brave foal came to greet the palomino, then another and another until all 7 finally came up. Many engaged in equine “baby talk”, acknowledging that Clay’s mare was the alpha horse by gumming the air. The foals were very curious.

However, the meet and greet party couldn’t last forever. Clay and Porsche had to work to do and with the space in the outdoor arena allowing for the perfect practice of rundowns, Clay began putting Porsche through the paces of a large rectangle shape in anticipation for a sliding stop. The foals stood vigil from their post on the other side of the fence.

In this exercise, instead of asking Porsche to stop at the end of the rundown (which occurs essentially at the end of one of the long sides of the rectangle), he simply pushes up her speed gradually from one end to the other and turns the corner. There is no stopping involved. With this type of practice he can work on the mare’s gradual build up of speed, without her anticipating the stop maneuver every time.

It was at this point where we saw the colt’s eyes bug out of their heads…

Even though was Porsche was beginning her rundown exercise on the north side of the arena and the foals were standing more south of her,  the speed at which she was approaching the fence must have startled them. You could literally see the wheels turning in their heads until one foal finally yelled… “OMG!! She’s coming! Ruuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnn!!!!”

With wide eyes and nostrils and tails cocked up like Arabians, they bolted.

Clay was laughing so hard, I thought he might fall off his horse and I could barely hold my camera properly. Poor little baby reiners. Maybe someday you’ll understand…

Mare Care

This year has absolutely flown by and nothing drew my attention to that fact more than when I realized we had 3 mares already due for their 5th month EHV-1 vaccinations. Could it really be? Are they seriously in their second trimesters already??

Guess so.

Organizing – and keeping up with – a vaccination schedule for a large group of horses is a big chore. There’s much more than just the annual doses of EEE / WEE / tetanus / influenza / Strangles / and West Nile Virus to look after. In southern Saskatchewan, Rabies is a big concern. And with each new crop of foals coming up every year, there are boosters to keep in mind. Not to mention the frequent rotational dewormings required for a herd of 40 horses (this year we got even more aggressive with parasites by collecting fecal samples from many of our herd – this allowed us to have fecal egg counts done by one of our veterinarians and really combat our farm’s parasites accordingly.)

All that aside, there are then the specific needs of our broodmares to keep in mind. Proper nutrition, dental care and farrier work are essential to the health of the broodmare. And in my opinion, it is absolutely vital to protect broodmares (and unborn foals) from Equine Herpesvirus 1 (EHV-1). According to www.foalcare.ca, the “EHV-1 strain of Equine Herpesvirus is the leading cause of infectious viral abortions in mares. EHV-1 is typically associated with late-term abortions and the delivery of a well-preserved fetus and outwardly normal placenta. Most horses become infected with EHV-1 during the first year of life. In the majority of cases, the virus becomes latent, just waiting for stress-induced reactivation. Sources of infection for pregnant broodmares include: clinically ill horses shedding the virus in nasal secretions; asymptomatic horses experiencing reactivation of latent infection; or virus laden uterine secretions and placenta/fetus from mares aborting due to EHV-1.”

My 3 most important tools to protect the health of our broodmare herd.

There are 3 very important things that I keep in the barn to help us organize and safeguard the health of our broodmares. These include:

1) Breeding Management & Foal Development textbook from Equine Research. This book features 700 pages of vital information for anyone who is serious about equine breeding and production.

Pneumabort-k vaccines.

2) Equine Pneumabort-k Vaccines – This is a killed (or inactive) vaccine from Fort Dodge designed to prevent abortion in horses. It is given IM at the 5th, 7th and 9th months of pregnancy and does not present any risk to the fetus.

My Mare Care wheel.

3) Mare Care Wheel – This handy little wheel is possibly one of the greatest things I’ve ever picked up! First off, it was free from Foal Care (an Intervet program) and it has been an aboslute lifesaver. With anywhere from 7-11 mares to care for every year, keeping all those vaccination dates on track has proven to be one of the trickiest aspects of herd management. This wheel literally, spells it out for me. I simply spin the wheel to the mare’s breeding date (we take careful notes every time an ultrasound is performed in our breeding lab, therefore there are no mistakes for discerning a last known breeding date) and this starts the vaccination process for each individual mare.

Next, the wheel will point out the dates for the mare’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd vaccinations for EHV-1. It also tells me a 15-day window to organize the mare for her pre-foaling booster vaccinations (which stimulate the mare to produce high levels of protective antibodies at a time during late pregnancy when she is also producing antibody-rich colostrum.)

Then I record the wheel’s dates and print up a document for each mare accordingly. These documents (as below) are then kept in the mare’s individual medical file at the barn, so I can record every time something is administered to her.

The great thing about my Mare Care wheel is that is also provides me with a 340-day guesstimate from the mare’s last known breeding date. Hence, I have a pretty good idea as to when the mare will foal out. Of course, there is no exact science to predicting a mare’s due date but we usually come pretty close. And because we watch each mare’s signs and behavior closely as the wheel’s predicted date approaches, we are usually present during her parturition.

Weaning Time

It’s that time of the year again. Last Thursday was Weaning Day. Needless to say, neither the foals nor the mares were incredibly thrilled about it but since our youngest foal is now 4 months of age and the oldest is 6 months, it was time for the weaning to be done.

With many of our mares bred back for the 2011 season, weaning at this point in their pregnancies gives the mares a chance to regain any condition lost during lactation. Plus, this also gives the mares time to put on some more weight before winter sets in.

However, please keep in mind that this doesn’t happen immediately…

Weaning is an extremely stressful time for both mares and foals. And for us, it means a loud three days at the farm… Since we choose to keep the foals in the pasture right behind our house, we can hear them whinnying to their mothers for at least a solid 48 hours afterwards.

In our circumstances, we wean as follows:

1. Bring all the mares and foals into the area where the foals will remain and quietly and carefully, slip halters on the mares.

2. Then we walk each mare outside of that penned area, ensuring that the foals stay behind in the fenced area. Since the foals are of an age where they have started to developed some independence anyways, sometimes it takes both the mare and the foal a minute to realize they have been separated.

3.  Walking 2 or 3 mares together at once (the buddy system is the only way to go with weaning), we take the mares to the pasture on our farm at the farthest location away from the babies. It’s hard for them to see each other in these locations, however when the wind has died down, unfortunately the mares and foals can still hear each other at times.

The foals take great comfort in each other during weaning time. We monitor them closely immediately following the separation, just in case somebody comes down with a temperature, runny nose or any injury. The foals spend a great amount of energy running around and calling, when they are taken away from their mothers and may appear depressed or sickly. So we need to be prepared for any loss of appetite that may occur, or medical treatments needed in the event of an injury. This is why we like to keep the babies very close to our house – where we can see everything.

As you can see, this little filly (on right) is taking her weaning anxiety out on some of the other colts around her.

Please note that prior to weaning, we also keep a close eye on the weather report. Weaning during extreme heat or cold, rainy days can cause the foals to become very ill, very fast. Since they run around so much, if it’s a +30 degree Celsius day, you can almost guarantee that you will be dealing with a heat stroke foal in a few hours time. And if it’s incredibly rainy, prepare for high body temperatures and snotty noses within a few days. The best day to wean is neither too hot of an ambient temperature, nor too cold. And if the weather does not co-operate with your weaning plan, you are best to wait a few days until Mother Nature smartens up.

Also long before we weaned, we dewormed each of our foals on 2 separate occasions with a Pyrantel dewormer. In our area this year, the hot/cold/hot/cold summer weather created an ideal environment for Parascaris equorum aka, equine Roundworms. Therefore, to ensure the foals and mares were in the best possible health they could be before enduring the stressful time of weaning, we dewormed them twice and fed them up to good body conditions. Since often during the first two days of weaning the foals refuse to eat, their body weights won’t drop too badly if they have healthy weights to start with.

We also feed our mares and foals a supplement called Frisky Foal, made by Masterfeeds during the time of lactation to help prepare the foals for weaning. Frisky Foal is a pelleted feed created especially for nursing foals, for weanlings and for horses up to one year of age. It encourages growth, development and improved immunity for the foals when they are weaned away from their mothers’ milk. Plus, the supplement is somewhat of a “comfort food” for the babies, since it’s something they’ve been eating alongside their dams since nearly the start of their lives.

Foal Halter Breaking

Besides the fact that foals in halters are absolutely adorable, there is a practical reason to properly halter break your babies early.

One of the most common questions Clay and I have been asked lately via email and personal conversation is in regards to advice about foal training. Each year we have an average foal crop of about 7-8 foals, therefore it’s important that we start our foals properly and early on in their lives – otherwise training later on can become a big chore. And that chore becomes really apparent when it comes time to do their feet or deworm the unruly rascals…

Halter breaking is one of the biggest challenges a horse owner may face with a young foal. Done properly, it can be a very positive experience in a young horse’s life. Done poorly – and halter breaking can lead to head shyness and various other psychological problems later on.

If you are still wondering how to tackle your foal halter breaking issues, here are a few tips from Clay. Please keep in mind that safety for both the handler and the foal should be of the utmost priority. Good luck!

Meet Bella. This filly was the last in our herd to learn about halter breaking since she was the most "standoffish" in the bunch.

1. Be patient!
When working with foals, you don’t want to be abrupt in your mannerisms. However, you don’t want to be sneaking around them and appearing like a predator either. Find a balance between the two and approach your foal with confidence and a calm, cool and collected demeanor.

Prepare the halter in your hand before your approach the foal. (There is nothing worse than the crucial moment when you should be putting the halter on your foal and your hands are fumbling around to get organized!)

Reach under the foal’s neck with the nose piece and crown piece in your left hand. Then reach over the neck with your right hand, grabbing ahold of the crown piece and slide the nose piece down to the foal’s nose in an effort to snare the nose. That way you can maintain control of the foal’s head and neck, while quickly placing the halter on its head. A small area such as a stall is a good place to do this – and it may take more than one person. Your assistant might have to prevent the foal from running laps around the mare and block its path, allowing you to prevent the foal from backing up and evading you.

2. Safety
Always keep in mind that you don’t want to put yourself directly in front or behind of the foal, where you can be jumped on or kicked. Safety for the handlers as well as for the foal should be kept in mind at all times! Putting the mare in a halter may be very beneficial too, in order to keep everybody safe. You want to keep the mare close in the area so she can help comfort the foal, but you need to keep her from stressing during the foal’s training.

Once the halter is on, Clay uses a steady, light contact pressure on the lead rope until the foal shows ANY sort of sign of yielding to the pressure. This includes slight cocking or tilting of the foal’s nose towards the pressure. Or, yielding the hind quarters away from the handler showing signs of thinking about the handler. Or in the best case scenario, taking a step toward the handler – no matter how small that step might be. At the display of one of these signs, Clay will then release the contact on the lead rope.

Clay allows for slack in the lead, since Bella made a "baby step" in the right direction towards the pressure.

Horses always learn from the release of pressure, not from the pressure itself. Therefore, consistency of releasing the pressure will allow the foal to understand and process the information quicker. Here are a couple of other pointers to keep in mind:

* The foal has 6 directions in which it can go, as all horses do. These include: forward, back, left, right, up or down.

• If the foal pulls away from you, you shouldn’t add more pressure but instead maintain the same steady pressure so when the foal does actually make a motion in the desired direction, it is left with only one option of the 6 in order to obtain the release of pressure.

Clay will spend as much time as it takes in the first session – typically 15-25 mins. Every time you release, give the foal 5-10 seconds of release / reward before repeating the step, to allow the foal time to process the information. If the foal is licking its lips during the release / reward do not attempt to add any pressure until it’s done licking its lips. Licking of the lips indicates that a thought process is taking place.

Here Clay attempts to pet Bella's face. He will retreat before Bella gets a chance to leave first – proving to her that she can survive this.

Once the foal starts to feel soft and responsive to the added pressure of the lead rope consistently, then Clay will start to rub the foal on its neck and all across its body. He tries to retreat away from the foal, before the foal retreats away from Clay to help the baby build confidence. Clay will retreat away from the baby before it retreats away from Clay – this allow the foal’s question of “Will this be okay?” to be answered. Whereas if the foal pulls away first, it will never know if it was gonna be okay because it pulled away from the situation before Clay had the opportunity of simply being able to pet it and leave. The foal in that sense would never realize that it would have survived in that scenario.

In this pic Bella's body language clearly indicates that she is not comfortable with Clay rubbing her neck.

But after a couple of seconds, she relaxes.

When Clay goes to take the halter off, he’ll often take it off and put it back on as many as 15-30 times, just to get the foal being accepting of having the halter placed on its face.

After this, we’ve had our first successful foal halter breaking session!