Q&A: Handling youngstock

  • Q: We have a six-month-old filly who misbehaves when we lead her to her field with her dam. She bucks and rears and does her best to escape. I have a control halter, but I’m not sure whether she is too young for it. Do you have any suggestions?

    David Burleigh-Smith, an equine gentling specialist, answers: This soundslike an early onset of the terrible twos! Try not to use a control halter, unless you have to, as a normal headcollar should be adequate for a horse of her age.

    Does the mare ever appear to get fed up with the foal? If so, then it might bean idea to wean the filly, as this will allow you to work on a one-to-one basis.

    • Begin in the stable and get her giving way to finger pressure on her sides and shoulders, moving her hips and shoulders according to your request. For example, use a finger on her chest to get her to go back and the words ‘to me’ as you encourage her to walk towards you.
    • Still in the stable, encourage her to take one step at a time, and follow each step with ‘whoa’. Ideally, you want to reach a point where she will creep along at your side as you walk slowly.
    • Next, get her to stand still. If she won’t, then bring her head towards you and, with a finger on her side, just behind the girth line, push her hipsaway while walking towards them. This will make her do a turn on the forehand, which is hard work. Soon she will ask to stop. Offer the chance, but if she moves, turn her again.
    • Once you have control in the stable, lead her out to the yard. Repeat the exercises and keep your commands the same. If she rears, bump the rope (which should ideally be about five metres long) until she stops. By bumping the line, she has nothing to pull against and will not go over backwardsso easily.

    In all instances, you should only use enough pressure to achieve your goal. And don’t forget to praise her every time she does the right thing.

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