Use the “foal infinity rope” to move young foals in a safe, pleasant and simple manner
We, veterinarians of Paardenpraktijk Utrecht (Equine Clinic Utrecht), would like to draw attention in this article to the leading of a foal with a “foal infinity rope”. You can safely and responsibly teach young foals to follow the mare and guide in a relaxed manner with the help of a foal infinity rope. It’s a good tool to prepare these often impetuous and vulnerable animals to walk with a headcollar and to get accustomed to being in contact with people.
It’s always a challenge to move very young foals, lead them in the pasture or load into a trailer or truck. They are still very vulnerable, especially the neck, react contradicting to the pulling force of a headcollar and their flight reaction is already strong. It’s very bothersome that they aren’t yet familiar with their own limits and the dangers of their surroundings. Newly born foals don’t consistently follow the mares from the very beginning. A young foal that hasn’t seen much daylight or sun will be blinded if it is suddenly exposed to the bright sun, they no longer have an eye on their mother and walk in the wrong direction.
For example, a mare will follow the young foal and guide him/her immediately in the right direction in nature and when a mare can move freely in the pasture. The mare protects the foal from outside influences and teaches the foal to avoid danger by following the mother. We have to take measures to protect the foal from itself and his/her surroundings if we want to dictate where the mare and foal go.
The leading of mare with a young foal
Moving a newly born foal from their stable is usually impossible without an extra guide, or they suddenly walk away and end up in the ditch, the other side, or ín the fence, in the middle of tools or wheelbarrows or come dangerously close to another horse. Simultaneously, there is the chance of a panicking mare that you might not be able to keep under control. Extra measures need to be taken to prevent accidents and teach the foal that it’s pleasant to walk along a person.
The currently common way to lead young foals in the right direction is by totally embracing the foal while someone else leads the mare. An arm is hereby placed around the neck and the other behind the rear of the foal. This method isn’t very healthy for the back of the guide because he/she continuously has to be bend over and walk. Others use a rope behind the rear and steer the head with a headcollar. This allows the guide to stand up a bit more straight and react more flexibly to movements of the foal.
Another much used method is leading the young foal with a small headcollar from the first day on. A very big problem that comes with this is that foals naturally fight against the pull/push power on their head and flip backwards. A lot of foals have suffered major injuries due to this method, which is why we would like to promote a much safer way of leading. We can safely lead the foal and let them grow accustomed to walking with a headcollar with the help of the so-called “foal infinity rope” in a manner that is ergonomically responsible too.
The use of the “foal infinity rope”
The method of the infinity rope is based on the fact that the foal can learn very quickly that avoiding “pressure” is possible and pleasant. The foal is being limited on all sides by a long, thick and soft eight or infinity shaped rope without buckles or rings that is loosely placed around the torso. It will remain loose as long as the foal walks nicely along the mare and guide.
The rope must be crossed on the withers and a relaxed hand of the guide will hold all the parts of the rope. He/she must continuously strive for a low amount or no tension (“pressure” for the foal) on the rope. The pressure must only be heightened if the foal walks in the wrong direction whereby pressure must only be applied to the side in which the foal is wrongly walking.
It’s useful to start the learning process in the stable with a short session to teach the foal and ourselves the first steps; apply the rope in the correct manner and try to take a few steps forward, backwards, left and right.
The foal won’t understand at the very beginning that it can avoid the pressure and will likely keep pushing. Use the other arm in this case to calmly push back the foal in the right position.
Keep in mind that this learning technique is based on the feeling and the skill of the guide to minimize any necessary pressure. People who are trained in using these skills and/or have a natural talent will be able to walk easily and relaxed with all young foals when using this method.
It will also be possible for one person to safely and pleasantly lead both the mare and foal when the foal has learned to follow in a relaxed manner. A headcollar can be added if the foal can be lead nicely with the foal infinity rope. The foal infinity rope can be fully replaced by the headcollar after a few weeks.
The foal infinity rope is preeminently suitable for young foals of large ponies and horses. The heavier and stronger the foal becomes, the harder it will be to control potential outbursts. Thus, this method isn’t very appropriate to learn large, old foals to walk along a guide. It’s also not well suited for foals of mini ponies because it will be difficult to keep your hand on the shoulder (unless there is a very small guide)