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
Dr. Miller is one of the leading
advocates and educators on the concept of imprint training of foals.
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
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
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,
Click titles to order.
What the experts are saying about imprint
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
the first time I used the method and the colt, "Storm in May" ended up in
Derby. The trainer, Bill Kaplan at
www.kaplanhorseracing.com has nothing but good to say about Storm in
May's early training. Kent D.
Hersman - Flying H Enterprises
What horse owners
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 street...at least
not for me. Riding horses that you imprint is a 3-D Technicolor deal.
- Shery J.