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Home > Articles & Interviews > Response to university study of early handling of foals

Dr. Miller responds to university studies of Imprint Training

We have received a few inquiries for Dr. Miller's response to a recent French study; "Hands Off: New Research on Impact of Human Intervention on Foal Behavior"  that claims imprinting resulted in harm to foals.   Dr. Miller reviewed this study and offers the following response:

This is not the first academic study to discourage the handling of foals during their imprinting period.  I have the following comments:

  1. The handling was not done as I recommend
  2. Horse training procedures - at any age - if not done correctly cannot be expected to yield good results.
  3. May of 2010 will mark the 51st year since I began training newborn foals.  My experience involves thousands of foals.  I have never personally had a failure
  4. Hundreds of thousands of foals worldwide have been successfully trained as newborns.  Many of them have excelled in a wide variety of performance disciplines.  If most people obtain excellent results and a few get unsatisfactory results, what conclusion does one come to about the methods of the few?

In one previous academic study claiming that imprinting was ineffective, the handling of the foals was done by convicts in a state prison.  In another the handling was done by untrained students. 

In contrast, another study performed at University of California at Davis reported good results.  This time the foal handling was, not surprisingly, done by competent, experienced people. 

I always advise that if the handling is not going to be done by people who have studied my method and who understand it, then it is better not to do it at all.

Learning is so fast and so lasting in the equine neonatal period that it is essential to do the process correctly.  Undesirable behavior can be established as rapidly as desirable behavior. 

Also read Dr. Miller's article on Improper Imprinting that explains common mistakes and how to avoid them.

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