Types of Imprinting

One of the most important actions you will take wit your equine friend is imprinting. This is any conditioned response taught to your horse.

Done correctly this can be a sucessful way to condition your horse to other "surprise" influences that will be the foundation of your horse's reactions and temperment. Done incorrectly this can by your worst nightmare!

Some thoughts to remember: horses are flight animals, do not know right from wrong, do not know reason, and they never forget what they've been taught, regardless of correction or incorrection.

Here are some types of imprinting:

1. Foal imprinting, Caressing on the legs, ears, face, hip, belly, muzzle, neck, hooves, etc. so the foal will learn to trust human touch in areas that will later be used for equipment and care.

2. Sacking out, Controlled situation where a burlap bag or such is rubbed all over your horse to get him used to any artical that is like the sack in touch the horse's body in the future. This is a desensitizing procedure.

When you do this, be sure to do it with calm and slow motions. Fast frightening motions will be perceived as a threat instead of a peaceful object.

3. Comfort Zone, This is a place the horse feels safe or comfortable.

Comfort Zone Imprinting=The comfort zone represents a place of comfort or peace where the horse is safe.

Every time we work with our horses we create comfort zones. These zones are where the horse has achieved obedience and is left to feel peaceful with his new learned actions. These zones also create a bond of trust between you two. Rewards for a job well done are a must so your horse knows it has done well.

Yearling to Saddle

Now is the time where you prepare you young horse for the day he will carry a rider. With the proper imprinting it will be a safe receptive partner.


*1. The horse should have already been completly touch imprinted all over.

*2. Imprinting should have progressed to having each hoof/leg worked with and has had it's hooves trimmed.

*3. Now is the time to imprint to clipper trimming. Rub the clippers along the horses neck and body, down the legs, across the back, and around it's ears and head. First do it with the clippers off. Having them on may cause a negative reaction in the horse so allow the horse time to become accustomed to the sound of the clippers.

Once you have the horse comfortable with the sound of the clippers repeat the above step with the clippers on. With patience repetition and calming words this will be successful and you can clip.

{*Please note: In over reactive horses I use a stud chin chain to remind the horse that he needs to stand still while being worked with. Do not over do the chin chain reminder. It is just to get the horses attention and control}

*4. Long line or round pen training is also taught during this time. Voice commands are taught during this training. {Woah, forward in clockwise and counterclockwise balance, back, right and left leads are established. Respect and obedience to the trainer/owner is achieved while not yet on the horse's back.

{*Please note: This is a time to imprint not abuse the animal. Make careful analysis as to how the animal is responding to your schooling so the imprinting is successful and creates a comfort zone for the horse where the horse has learned well.}

*5. Stud chin chain training. This helps with the acceptance of the chin chain so that later when a bit and chin curb chain is used the horse will not over react. The comfort zone in this is when the pressure of the chain is not needed and voice commands achieve the desired response.

*6. Driving lines. The wither and girth girdle is used with a snaffle bit, cabason, and driving lines in a round pen to teach/imprint the horse to giving to the bit, turning from presser on the mouth, trotting on command, woahing on command, and backing on command from presser on the mouth. Always use voice commands not just physical force with the driving lines so that the animal learns the voice commands. It is nice to have this training/imprinting taught by the time you are ready to mount this horse in a year or two.

*7. Voice command training. Voice commands are much more desireable as an end result than physical force in achieving desired responses.

*8. Saddle training. Use a bareback pad first to accustome the horse to having something on it's back and being cinched. Once this is achived and if the horse is able, use a saddle. First allow the horse to familiarize it's self with the saddle. Allow the horse to smell it and then rub the saddle over it's neck and body. Then slowly place the saddle on the horse's back. Don't be surprised if it get's bucked off. Just try again.

*9. Cinch training. When cinching down the saddle do not reach under the horse's belly so as to have your head underneath the animal. Use a wire hook to catch the girth and then pull it to you. Do not pull the cinch too tight to begin with. Give the horse a chance to get use to the new pressure around his girth. Once they have accustomed themselves to the idea of having presser around their girth section they soon will easily handle being saddled.

*10. Accepting the snaffle bit and bridle. If you have successfully imprinted the horse to having it's head area touched then this will be a snap. Place the top of the bridle in your right hand craddled in your thumb. Raise the bridle to the top of the horse's head in front of it's face while opening the bit part of the bridle to enter the horse's mouth with your left hand.

A tickle finger works great to tickle the tongue of the horse with your left hand which causes the horse to open it's mouth and you can place the bit inside. With steady pressure on the top of the bridle pulling it upward the bit is in place and the top of the bridle can now be put on the horse's head.

This is only a few suggestions for training/imprinting your horse during the yearling to saddle years. Do all you can to help prepare your horse for it's future under saddle in a controlled positive training/imprinting/comfort zone environment. First and foremost though, ensure that your horse knows your it's friend and will not harm it.

Let's Ride As always with a horse, total trust is the ket to a succesful riding experience. This procedure will be accepted more readily if you are a companion. At this stage I have found that it is best to be in a round pen. It is mandatory to have two trainers working together. One person works at the horse's head keeping the horse calm and controlled. He must reasure the horse that the new rider is not a threat. He must keep the horse standing quietly allowing the rider to slowly board to lay over the horse's back. The second person will carefully mount the horse laying over it's back to give the horse a chance to accept the feel and weight. The trainer at the horse's head begins moving the horse in a circular direction, (not in a straight line). This allows the horse to see the rider on it's back and helps keep the horse from charging forward. After three or four revolutions stop and allow the rider to completely mount the horse. The rider should remain in a low profile position as many horses fear objects above their heads. The trainer at the horse's head once again moves the horse in a circular direction until the horse becomes accepting of the rider on it's back. If you view this from the horses' point of view it might be easier for you to understand. Horses are flight animals. You could very easily be considered a predator in the mind of the horse. His natural instinct is to get you off his back. This is where the trust between trainer and horse is imparitive. Your training should not take on the imprint of being a predator. Being calm and quiet will help your young horse trust the ride and soon he will follow your commands. Use this method the first 4 or 5 times. You don't want any negative imprinting to happen so using two handlers is best. Riding your horse for the first time can be a rewarding experience for you and your horse. Remember that horses want to be our companions. It's up to us to provide that companship for them.

Everything you do from this point on will imprint your horse to be the best riding mount you could ever wish for. Do be careful with the horse's mouth. Use steady, easy, light reining with very little pressure. Don't be heavy handed. Horses are meant to have soft mouths, not just as young horses but their whole lives.