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Dr. Miller & Imprint Training Of The Newborn Foal

Imprint Trained Athletes in the News

Storm in May, a Thoroughbred owned by Kent Hersman was imprint trained at birth using Dr. Miller's methods ran in the 2007 Kentucky Derby.

Buckistpat, a Standardbred owned by Ron Fuller DVM was "Three Year Old Trotting Filly of The Year" in 2006 and has set record for 2007 and 2008.


Have an Imprint Trained Champion?  Let us know


See the impact of imprint training - Video of imprinted foal at 20 days


Dr. Miller is one of the leading advocates and educators on the concept of imprint training of foals. 
An overview of this technique is provided below.   

Imprint Training - An Overview

Imprint training offers a singular opportunity to permanently mould a horse's personality. For a short time, the new born foal is programmed to imprint stimuli. The right procedures at the right time yield dramatic results. There is no time a horse will learn faster.


Imprint training can help ease handling, enhance later training efforts and reduce injuries. It shapes behavior in the following ways:

1) Bonding with the imprint trainer. Immediately postpartum, the foal bonds simultaneously with its dam and with one or more persons handling it. Such foals see humans, not as predators, but as fellow horses.

2) Submission, but not fear. During imprint training, the foal cannot escape (its natural method of survival) exposure to frightening stimuli. As a result, it becomes dependent and submissive in its attitude. The foal sees the trainer as a dominant horse or herd leader. Psychologically, this is the ideal relationship between horse and human. We must have submissiveness in a horse if he is to work for us. But, the submissiveness should be created not by fear (a predatory role) but by dependence (a dominant leader role).

3) Desensitization to most sensory stimuli (visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory). Most parts of the body, including all body openings, are desensitized. Rapid, repetitious stimuli (flooding) are used until the foal is habituated, i.e. permanently non responsive to those stimuli. Loud noises, fluttering objects or being touched anywhere on the body will thereafter be calmly tolerated.

4) Sensitizing to performance related stimuli. Specifically, the foal can be taught to respond (rather than habituated) to head and flank pressure. The responsiveness allows control over the fore and hind quarters. The foal will lead where directed, and will move its hind end laterally in response to the touch of a finger in the flank region. This is best taught on the day after birth, after the foal is on its feet.

Some believe that early bonding between the foal and humans will produce a "pet" foal. They believe that early foal-human bonding will produce a spoiled horse, indifferent to stimuli, which will lack the flightiness "necessary" to race or perform well. This is nonsense. Imprint training, properly performed, will enhance a horse's relationship with humans. It will teach it "good manners" and increase its responsiveness to stimuli that will later improve its performance.

The only "disadvantage" of imprint training is that, since it is best started immediately post-partum, the mare must be brought in for foaling. This is actually desirable, because it allows rapid identification of any obstetrical problems. It also requires that the Broodmare be gentle and well mannered. If she is not, it is better to correct before the mare foals, or, better, before she is bred. One should not expect to turn out docile, well mannered foals if one doesn't have a well mannered mare. Yet, some people seem to take pride in owning untrained, ill mannered broodmares. To me, poor manners indicate ownership by an inept horseman.

An enhanced relationship

I first became aware that neonatal foals can be trained and their behavior indelibly shaped, about 30 years ago. Subsequently, a behavior shaping routine evolved which I call "imprint training". I have no illusions that the training of new born foals is a new idea. In fact, there is no doubt that human beings have done this for thousands of years. All I have done is ritualized the procedure, given it a name, attempted to scientifically explain why it is so effective, and publicly promoted and encouraged its use because it enhances the relationship between horse and human, and, from a veterinarian standpoint, greatly facilitates the practitioner's job.

Ill mannered horses are the bane of the horse industry. If you can imprint train your foals, this problem will be minimized.
Imprint training is now commonly used all over the world. Since imprint trained horses are more manageable, far fewer injuries occur to horses and people. It has made life easier for both horse and horse handler.

This process is explained in depth with step by step instructions and pictures in Dr. Miller's book, Imprint Training or Early Learning Video Click titles to order

What the experts are saying about imprint training:

Imprint Training is the greatest advance in horse training in the 20th Century and possibly the greatest of all time - Don Burke in his Australian TV show Burke's Backyard

 "I found out these young ones [foals] learn just as fast, or maybe faster, than the older ones.  It's surprising how quick these little ones catch on and how lasting it is."
    - legendary horseman Tom Dorrance in his 1987 book True Unity.

"Relatively a few short years ago, the first pioneer in the field of 'imprinting' established a path to follow and most enlightened mare owners have their own versions of the process.  It is an opportunity, like few others, to meaningfully experience and guide the awakening of a new life.  You see horses as a species are born 'ready to learn' and there is a logical method to begin the actual training of a horse just a few hours and/or days old"  - Clinician Allen Pogue

This was the first time I used the method and the colt, "Storm in May" ended up in the Kentucky Derby.  The trainer, Bill Kaplan at has nothing but good to say about Storm in May's early training.        Kent D. Hersman - Flying H Enterprises

What horse owners are saying:

I wanted to write to you and tell you how impressed I am with your foal imprint training. I am a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and long time horsewoman who has always been interested in Natural Horsemanship techniques. The idea of relating to the horse based on his psychology just made sense. A good friend of mind, also a child and adolescent psychiatrist, used your book and video techniques for imprinting with her Hanoverian foal. I was NEVER expecting to use these techniques myself until my 23 year old saddlebred rescue mare unexpectedly gave birth to a filly months after I adopted her. I watched the video, worked with the baby, watched the video worked with the baby etc. I want to tell you that this little filly is now two months old. I have never met such a sweet, curious happy little foal. Not only is she acclimated to her feet being handled, fly spray, halters, leading, standing etc, she seems to actually enjoy and seek out work and experiences with people. I am extremely impressed and wanted to let you know. I am aware of some recent studies which questioned the utility of imprinting. While I only have a clinical trial of one, I would guess that those individuals did not carry out the procedures correctly. There were some techniques which I could not do correctly due to having limited help from others. When I realized I was potentially doing something incorrectly, I transitioned away from the procedure to something successful and did not attempt it again till I had reviewed the video with a helper. I want to encourage you to keep up the fabulous work. You are making life much better for many horses. - Michelle Saidel

I admire Dr. Miller very much.  I have used his imprinting on my foals, (4 of which I still have, oldest is 21) and they are people horses. They run to the gate to be taken out, you can touch them anywhere without a problem, and they are so affectionate. Loving, respecting and working to understand horses has been one of the two highlights of my life, thanks to Dr. Miller's philosophy. - Joanna H. - imprinting foals for over 2 decades.

I bought this book when it first came out several years ago. It set the dye for my venture into breeding. The experience has left me with some of the most wonderful memories of my life. The imprinting experience let me taste the miracle of birth, a special bonding of my own, and all the blessings that follow through to the saddle. The effect it has is not just a one way least not for me. Riding horses that you imprint is a 3-D Technicolor deal. - Shery J.

Book - Imprint Training
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Book - Imprint Training
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Foaling Fundamentals

Response to French Foal Study - By Dr. Miller
Response to French Foal Study - By Dr. Miller

Imprint Training Articles
Imprint Training Articles