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The first thing you do right after the birth and after the mare as naturally ruptured the umbilical cord (see the parturition article, ‘The Beautiful Broodmare’), you need to spray the cord with 7% iodine solution. Drench it.
Then, proceed to imprint your precious new arrival. Rub the foal down with towels to dry, touch the foal everywhere (ears, legs, mouth, girth area, etc.). Once the foal begins to figure out its new legs, wait to see if it begins to suckle. I think it is important to see if this naturally progresses. Most foals will have a little trouble figuring out where exactly their mouth is leading them, often suckling the mare’s legs, tummy, etc. You should help guide the mouth in the right direction. Some mares get irritated with the first suckling (especially in maiden mares) as, if you have borne children yourself, you will know it is quite painful and sometimes it requires nose twitching the mare to accomplish this at first.
Every day after this, it is important to spend a little time with your new foal, petting and rubbing all over its body. Using both arms, “cuddle” the foal by its rear and chest, just spending time loving on it and letting it know you are not a danger. Within a week, you should put the halter on and rub the halter all over its body. Then, let lead training begin. This is the most opportune time to do this as you can “control” this youngster before it gets too strong for you to hold him/her with your arms, and this happens fast! Using a long lead rope, whether attached to the halter or not (I like to attach it – this way, when the foal decides to have a temper tantrum, it doesn’t get away from me and, thus, learning the wrong message), you will make a figure eight around the foal’s body, going from halter, across the back to the opposite side, around the butt, and then back across the back to the chest. Standing on the left side, you will hold onto the lead rope at the chest/neck area with your left hand (careful not to actually put pressure on the halter portion or head) and the figure-eight cross on the back with your right hand, and then proceed to lift/pull with your right hand, putting pressure against the rope portion on the butt of the foal. This encourages the foal to move forward. It is important to know that horses learn to lead from pressure from behind. As soon as the foal begins to move forward, you lessen your pressure. Be assured, your foal will probably throw some good toddler tantrums, throwing itself to the ground, etc., etc. This is normal. Without letting go of the foal (you don’t want them to think this behavior actually works), just let them throw their tantrum and proceed on with your training.
This imprinting time and halter and lead training time done early on goes a long, long way in your future progression and success.