Pre-Natal Foal Imprinting is an entirely new concept. I say entirely new because it has not been formally thought out. There is nothing new in the world really. But this idea of imprinting the new life before it is born has been applied to the human with interesting results. It is believed that playing classical music to the unborn child helps it to be calm. However of course we should remember that it depends what style of classical music is important. Classic FM now sell CD’s specially recorded for babies.
Certainly the unborn is affected by stress, we know that. Often the first born is not as confident as the second born child due to the anticipation of the mother whose stress levels over giving birth for the first time can be high.
My first brush with this technique occurred in the USA while I was living and working with Monty Roberts in California. I was given a quarter horse mare to look after. She had been subjected to much stress and was in a frail state of mind and quite impossible to ride or deal with in any way. It used to take me 15 minutes to catch her and she was in a 15’ x 15’ pen. I work with the now named Ms Jones for 4 years at the end of this time she and I developed a relationship that was so close even Monty was amazed. I literally loved her. When she was put in foal I was at hand to talk to her and be with her. Twice a day I rubbed her tummy very gently and talked to the foal I now named Ms Nice. Ms Jones was quite lame at one point and I had to use a chi machine on her twice daily too.
I was walking around the farm one bright morning when I saw a bundle at the feet of my beloved Ms Jones. I shouted her name and the tiny bundle lifted it head and whinnied. I was staggered. How did she know who I was.
Every day I visited Ms Jones and Ms Nice and led her out into the field for the first time. Ms Jones was happy to have me between her and the foal. Quite unusual. The foal licked and chewed to me as well as its mother. She was a delight and easy to manage in every way.
The following photographs tell their own story.
I purchased without any idea that it was pregnant. At Christmas we noticed that the mare was getting larger at no fault of her eating habits so we had her tested and found to be over 100 days pregnant. We called the foal B. J. I got the girls to imprint the foal. We also added some other ideas I had following my previous experience. I was with the mare when the foal was born and lightly imprinted it. (See Dr Roberts Miller’s Foal Imprinting.)
The foal grew up with a knowledge of his name. His behaviour earned him top stars with the farrier who admitted he had never handled such a well behaved foal. B.J. comes when you call him. He has been long lined, I have laid over him, once he was 6 months old or so. And he has been boxed and generally well handled.
I now realised that I had a format that worked. I could imprint an unborn to accept farrier, clippers, being loaded into a box and also to know its name and come when called. I firmly believe that when it comes to breaking this young animal in the job will be done with such ease that it will hardly be noticed by him. I have yet to confirm this but Ms Nice was extremely easy to handle and work at all times.
The following photographs are of B.J. in Surrey. They show him 3 days old, interacting with other horses and dogs. He was wonderful to handle.
Pre-natal foal imprinting can go a long way to helping horses to lead less stressful lives. It will speed up training, and reduce significantly handling problems.
The work is quickly completed and is not going to make a huge difference to the day to day work load. It won’t matter if days are missed so long as generally some continuity is kept up.
The benefits are considerable with regard to safety. We find that the calmer a horse is the less likely it is to have accidents or cause harm to other people.
How to go about pre-natal foal imprinting
Foal Imprinting can begin 5 to 7 months before the foal is due.
- The mare needs to be handled twice daily for a period of about 5 to 7 minutes only.
- Her tummy can be brushed or stroked and the foal talked to from both sides. This must be done convincingly and with commitment. The foal will often respond with a kick or two.
- An old horse shoe and a hammer can be tapped around the area of the tummy and done on both sides 30 seconds is enough.
- Hand clippers can be turned on around the area of the tummy and left to hum nicely for 30 seconds on both sides. If the mare hates clippers use a hair dryer. It is the sound of the motor that is important.
- The mare needs to be walked over a wooden board twice daily. This allows the foal to hear a change in the sound of the hoof beat. So not bother with this if the mare and foal have been boxed. Very few thoroughbreds are box shy because many are boxed as unborn foals.