Q: In your view, when is the best time to teach a young horse how to load and travel in a float or truck? My mare has just foaled and a friend has suggested I take the foal for a short trip before too long. I have other friends who wait until the young horse is 3 or 4 and ready to be broken in!
In my opinion, there’s no advantage in taking your foal for a ride in a float or truck. What is important however, is to teach your foal to lead, to handle his legs and for him to be confident and relaxed around people. When these lessons are established, teach him to walk into a float or truck.
Your foal will need worming, his feet will need trimming and he may need treatment for an injury, so it’s important to handle him as early as possible. There’s nothing worse than having an injured foal that hasn’t been handled.
Some people say they don’t have time to handle their foals. However, they always seem to find time to wrestle and fight when a foal needs to be wormed or treated for a cut.
A foal can learn just as much as a mature horse, so it’s best to handle your foal as early as possible. You can gain your foal’s confidence and start teaching him to lead in the first few weeks of his life. It’s very important to work one step at a time and to teach your foal in a sequence that he understands.
When your foal is relaxed and confident, teach him to step over some easy obstacles. Work one step at a time and build up to more difficult tasks. If you can’t step your foal over a pole or a mat on the ground, you won’t be able to load him into a float.
Load your foal each day until he’s confident with the process. You don’t need to take him for a ride to ‘get used to’ the float. If he’s confident and relaxed with the float, driving won’t create a problem.
If you need to move a foal that isn’t weaned, it’s best to take the mare along. It’s very important that your float or truck is set up for mares and foals. You need a solid board at the front of the float, so the foal can’t walk underneath the chest rail. I’ve seen foals push under the chest rail and jump out through the front window. You can well imagine the distress and carnage.
Also, make sure there’s a full door at the rear of the float. I’ve seen foals turn around and jump out over the tailboard. It’s not much fun to arrive at your destination and find that your foal isn’t in the trailer.
The most important thing is to have your foal confident and relaxed with humans. When you achieve this, everything you want to do will be easy. And when it comes time to ride him, it’s just another step in his training.
Please remember, if all horses were well handled as foals and started under saddle without bucking and fighting, there’d be no ‘problem’ horses.