Early training at walk, trot and over a jump is vital
Correct foal handling and early education and training are the beginning of sales preparation for the future. It is as important as correct health management, nutrition and foot care.
The first occasion to handle the young foal will possibly be moving it from the stable to the paddock. From day one, the handler should allow the foal to gain trust by rubbing them all over with their hands and getting the foal accustomed to having arms around them.
There should be at least two handlers. The mare can be led ahead slowly by one person with the other handler cradling the foal in their arms, one arm behind its hindquarters and the other around its chest, and encourage it to follow its mother. Some foals find this easier than others so allow the foal time to figure out what is being asked of it. The mare handler should not go too far ahead as this will lead to a more stressful situation.
Remember that a young foal should never be pulled from the head by means of a headcollar as this may seriously damage its head and neck.
By all means fit a headcollar as this will prove useful to catch the foal. Leather is recommended as this will break under strain. However, be aware that the young foal's head is growing and the headcollar must be checked daily for tightness.
Preparation is the key to success when presenting your foal or young horse for sale.
A proper training programme needs to be in place in order for the horse to show itself at its best come the time of sale.
Allow four to six weeks preparation time prior to sale, during which time you should get the farrier in, worm, and check the teeth. The next step is to ensure the horse can lead properly.
With a horse that has received little training, the work begins in the stable. Allow the horse to gain trust and familiarity by catching it, rubbing and patting its neck. Fit the headcollar correctly and lead from the stable to a suitable area.
The first step is to encourage the horse to walk in a straight line. It can be of great benefit to have someone a safe distance behind, on the same side as the handler, with a lunge whip to send the horse forward.
When teaching the horse to lead for the first time, I like to work in an arena or small paddock and start by going anti-clockwise -- so that the railing or ditch helps keep the horse straight and prevent it from crowding me.
Allow the horse a good length of rein so as not to cause excess bending in its head and neck, resulting in it swinging its hindquarters out.
The handler should walk at the horse's shoulder, right hand holding the rein around a foot from the bit/headcollar and with the slack of the rein in the left hand. This is a safe position for the handler and, with the use of the right elbow, can keep the horse from crowding and allows you to be in a safer position if the horse rears or strikes out.
The horse must respect the schooling whip, not fear it. Allow the horse to smell it and rub him with it so as he is desensitised. However, it may be needed on occasion and the handler must be quick to use it appropriately.
Throughout the early walking training, ask the horse to halt and stand in a calm and relaxed manner for various amounts of time.
You can also begin to ask the horse to stand in the correct stance, known as the open stance, which allows the client to appraise all four limbs.
This means that on the side nearest the client, the horse's foreleg should be directly underneath it and the opposite foreleg slightly behind it. The hind leg nearest the client should be directly under the horse and the opposite hind leg slightly in front of it.
Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day so 10 to 15-minute sessions are plenty when training the young horse. Be patient and, above all, refrain from losing your temper.
Be quick to reward and reprimand. The horse learns by positive reinforcement.
Once your horse is walking straight in a good active four-beat movement, it is time to proceed to trot.
Again, it is useful to have an assistant behind to send the horse forward. Avoid a very short contact on the lead and be able to run to allow the horse to show off its potential.
Buyers want to see horses move straight and willingly go forward on hard ground, as well as see them over a fence if they are three years old.
Horses with inadequate handling, neglected hoof care, nutrition and worming will achieve a poor price. If the basic conformation, paces and jump are below par, horses will never sell well. Pedigree is significant but conformation, athleticism and temperament will be decisive for buyers.
It is essential to have a three-year-old jumping a fence to attract buyers. Sending an animal to a trainer can be expensive but anyone fit and agile, with appropriate training and education, can lunge/loose school their animal and assess its ability.
Be very careful not to over-jump horses at this age as it encourages them to lose their jump, ie get careless, resentful and sometimes refuse to jump.
Build up your horse's confidence slowly. Horses differ, and it is important to adapt a programme to suit each individual horse's needs.