Having been on every continent to teach equine behavior (except for Antarctica, which has a very low equine population), there has been a variable response to my presentations.
These invitations have been the result of the training technique I stumbled upon in 1959, which I called “Imprint Training”, because it is done as soon as possible after the foal is born, even before it gets to its feet. What the foals learns that first day it learns swiftly and remembers permanently. It attaches to what it sees moving and is immediately programmed to trust that thing, follow it, and respect it. Of course, evolution and nature have provided this is in order to help the foal to survive. So, the foal, a precocial prey species, in the wild, is imprinted to follow and to trust its mother and other herd members.
Although, initially, there was a lot of resistance to this non-traditional training, now more than half a century later, it is used all over the world, in all disciplines, and within all equine breeds.
Still, even during the first decades, after my books and videos familiarized horse people to the concept of shaping foal behavior as soon as they were born, it intrigued some horsemen. As a result I got invitations to teach it, which ultimately led to the second career, which I am still involved in; teaching equine behavior.
When I was invited to lecture and / or demonstrate imprint training, my response was always, “I will come to teach the principles of equine behavior including imprinting.”
The response, with one exception, was “Oh! Okay! That’s fine, but we are especially interested in the things you do with the newborn foal.”
The one exception was an invitation to an annual congress of one of the gaited breed associations. The caller said, “We are only interested in the foal training.”
I considered rejecting the invitation, but instead said, “Okay. I’ll only talk about foal training.” But, I gave them the entire seminar, which covered ten unique aspects of equine behavior, including foal training.
And, they were happy with my seminar.
One of the most memorable invitations I received was from a man named Andre in Poland, an advocate for more humane and progressive methods of horsemanship. He wanted me to actually demonstrate what I do. However, the event was in the late summer and they were concerned that a newborn foal might not be available.
I suggested that a life-size toy foal might be adequate for the class I was to teach, combined with my videos.
When my wife and I arrived in Poland, we were taken to a Thoroughbred farm where the seminar was to be held, and they had a toy unicorn for me to work with, the size of a pony foal.
I was invited back the following year and they brought out a group of beautifully mannered Thoroughbred yearlings to show me what they had learned during my first visit. What a great job they had done.
Since then the horse group in Poland sends us many reports, emails and letters.
Thanks to our host, Andre, and his staff, the training of newborn foals has caught on in Poland faster than anyplace else I have introduced it.
Andre flew to California to attend one of the Light Hands Horsemanship clinics, sponsored by Spalding Laboratories and finally, Debby and I received the toy unicorn in the mail. Every time we see it in our home we recall the wonderful hospitality and appreciation and enthusiasm we experienced in Poland.
We have been told that imprint training has really caught on there, and that they have formal classes to teach it to horsemen. This has been very gratifying for me and Debby. We know that harsh and inhumane methods are not necessary in order to train horses, that they deserve better, and that more humane and scientifically based methods yield better performance.
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