Imprint Training Produces Cooperative Horses

Properly performed techniques after birth result in equids that accept trimming and nailing, California vet says of his controversial training

Pictured Above: Tapping on the bottom of a foot of a 1-day-old foal imprints hammering so it will be comfortable while nailing on shoes when it’s older. Photos: Robert Miller

Imagine horses trained to fully cooperate with farriers from day one. Horses that display no fear or stubbornness, move into position with a gentle nudge, give their feet without hesitation, and accept trimming and nailing with no pullback.

Such horses are out there as a result of imprint training. The technique bonds newborn foals to humans and takes advantage of that bond to make human touch natural and teach the foals behaviors that assist with hoof care.

Imprint training is used in some corners of the United States and is widespread elsewhere in the world, due in large part to the work of Robert Miller, a longtime veterinarian in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

He has been studying imprint training since graduating from Colorado State University in 1956, when he settled in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and founded the 12-doctor Conejo Valley Veterinary Clinic. He retired from his practice in 1987 to devote his time to the teaching of equine behavior and has authored several books and videos on the subject, including imprint training.

Farrier Takeaways

  • Imprint training is based on survival traits and takes advantage
    of the foal’s instinct to bond and take behavioral cues from the
    animals around them.
  • Successful imprint…
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Ron perszewski

Ron Perszewski

Ron Perszewski is a freelance writer and former associate editor of Ameri­can Farriers Journal.

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