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What Is Imprint?

Imprinting can be defined as a learning process occurring soon after birth in which a behavior pattern is established. Dr. Miller believes, the new born foal is imprinted to follow and bond with whatever large object that looms above it at the time of birth. There in lies the foundation of what he calls "imprinting training". It is early training, during specific critical learning times and given as soon as possible after the foal is born.

Dr. Miller noticed when he had to assist in the delivery of a foal - manipulating his position in the mare, pulling him out and then toweling him dry and treating him - that such a foal behaved differently when he saw him again. It was then that he started to read a lot on various animal behaviors on imprinting and began to suspect that a similar phenomenon was occurring in these young foals.

Upon his retirement from a fulltime practice he started to pursue this interest. His enthusiansm for the method was so great and he was so eager for horses and people to benefit from it that he wrote a book on it as a stepping stone. Like wise he also published a video showing step by step imprinting on newly born foals.

Using his methods I will try to show you a way to not only be able to produce a foal but one that you will enjoy to be around and work with. Best of all the training will be easier and easier as it gets older. Breaking this horse will be a snap as you will have instilled in this foal the lack of fear in handling each and every part of its body from the time of its birth. You will earn its trust as if you were its mother.

Where To Start?

You will need to prepare yourself as early as possible by lining up your help. Imprinting especially for the first time, will require as many as four people but no less than two. Reasons for this is a hundred pound, flaring four legged hooved foal struggling to get up against your wishes takes not only your strength but both your hands. You will also need help during the imprinting when your ready to turn the foal over to repeat the process on the other side.

While you and your helper are doing this you will have by this time a mare starting to get up and onto her feet wondering what it is your doing to her foal. If she has never been imprinted herself and/or is not her first birthing she might begin to get stressed or upset with you, therefore the third person with a lead line can allow the mare to be close enough to stimulate the foal by licking on it, bond with it as you do but not allowing her access to hurt you or your helper.

The fourth person allowed me to one; never to have to stop what I was doing and two; to force my helper to struggle alone holding the foal down while I had to go get my imprinting objects as needed. Remember, where ever you plan to imprint is more than likely never where you actually will end up imprinting as the mare will be constantly positioning herself till the actual birth with the foal on ground. This person comes in handy running for the imprinting and birthing objects which always seem to be twenty feet away. She can also collect the afterbirth in bucket for later inspection and if your lucky can take pictures of the birth and imprinting for you.

In choosing your help make known to them up front what imprinting will require of them. Remember that from the first stage of birthing to the last is no more than an hour. Your help will have to live close by, be able to jump in a vehicle and get there in time to work with you before that foal starts to get on its feet. They must be reminded that births seldom come during wake up hours. The calls more than likely will come during hours of eleven p.m. and two or three a.m.. If this is going to be a problem they need to tell you this now not when they don't answer your call or not be there for you. All must be dependable for this project to work.

Birthing & Imprinting Supplies

Now you are ready to work on your birthing and imprinting supplies. Anything you want to imprint on the foal needs to be collected and ready about two weeks prior to the actual birth. The way to work at this is to think what problems are you having now with the horse you have. Does it shy away from being sprayed with fly spray? Do you chase it all over the field or in a stall trying to halter, trim, hose it down for bathing and so on?

These are my suggestions and what I include in my kit as far as imprinting goes:
  • I will include two spray bottles. One I put deluted iodine for the cord stump. The other bottle once the first stages of birth start I fill with warm water to be used like a fly spray for the noise and sudden spray of water to coat.

  • Next, I turn on a pair of clippers. Portable are the best (as you may not have electricity where you end up birthing) but if not available make sure to include an extra long extension cord. The clippers are used upside down as you don't actually clip. It is used for noise and vibration against face, nose, around eyes, ears, and briddle bath.

  • Halter(foal size)introduction. Always remove before leaving the mare and foal alone.

  • Newspaper and/or plastic bag. This is to rub all over the foal to sack them out. It is also used for the noise and sudden movements that occur in the pasture.

  • Plastic gloves(2Pair) One to stimulate nasal passage and one to stimulate rectal area. This imprints for vet "well and sick" exams.

  • Two extra large towels. For drying foal at birth and after spraying with water.

These are things I include in my kit but you might think of more. Anything you wish to instill in the foal or that will allow the foal to overcome fear during its life time.
This is the time to introduce it.