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Lori's Library > Raising and Training the Young Horse > The Formative Years

The Formative Years
Raising and Training the Young Horse from Birth to Two Years

The Formative Years     
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Cherry Hill
Breakthrough Publications, Inc., 1988
ISBN 0914327194

This book presents a complete system for training your horse during his formative years, which will give him the proper foundation for whatever he will be used for in the years to come. Training lessons are presented in a progressive manner, and are specifically tailored to the requirements of the young horse.

The author does not believe in imprint training, preferring to let the foal imprint on its own species in the hours after birth. She is a proponent of early learning however, and recommends introducing the foal to the halter and to restraint at around two days of age (I think about 8-12 hours old is better). Her methods are gentle, quiet and firm while introducing the youngster to his first restraint with an arm across his chest and behind his buttocks.

I particularly appreciated the table of comparison of approximate human equivalents to the different ages of young horses. For example, a 2 year old is the physical equivalent of a human adolescent (15-year-old) but the emotional equivalent of a human 8-year-old, prone to emotional outburts. She recommends training sessions 3 times weekly varying from 15 minutes for a foal, 30 minutes for a weanling, working up to 60 minutes for a two year old.

Training principles are clearly presented and spelled out in advance. It is useful for someone who is well-experienced with riding or driving but has never trained before to know, for example, that in training we must accept and praise approximations or attempts at the desired action and then gradually refine and hone the behaviour. The first time you request an action it well seldom be presented perfectly, so we must reward the effort. Further, we must not move too fast toward the goal, or the horse may miss components of the lesson.

There is a section on training for hobbles and scotch-hobbles and my advice is to skip this section, unless you have direct access to a trusted and experienced trainer who has first hand experience with hobble training and can help you teach your horse. In the opinion of this reviewer, this is not an activity that novices can learn from a book, there is too much potential for things to go wrong.

Specific activities and lessons are laid out for the suckling foal, weanling, yearling, long yearling (18-month-old), and two year old. For a Fjord horse I would follow the program outlined in the book but stretch it out over three years instead of two, to allow for the slower development and maturation (more than made up for by enhanced longevity).

This book contains a very good section on stress in the young horse, as well as one on puberty, including gelding and aftercare, and fillies and the estrous cycle. A chapter on evaluating the potential of your youngstock is very useful, as is the section on recordkeeping and journals. There is also a section on management of youngsters including working with the veterinarian, the farrier and the trainer, veterinary care and health management, nutrition, exercise.

If a person were to ask me for a recommendation for one book to follow in raising and training a young horse this book would be a strong contender.

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