Foaling and Halter Breaking

At my college, there are many courses dedicated to training horses. While I never took the riding classes, I did spend time with the foaling and halter breaking classes.  Needless to say, they are a definite must among horse lovers! Not only do you get to spend hours each day with cute foals and their trusting mothers, but you get to see them grow and mature, and you learn a lot about the horse industry.

If you want to know more about each of these experiences, scroll along and read below! After a full year of these activities, there is more than enough to say about my favorite classes.

First off, let me start by saying both of these classes are VERY time consuming! Foaling kept me up until the wee hours of the morning running on nothing but 2 hours of sleep and maple bacon donuts (which are very necessary when you need a sugar fix). Halter breaking was only a 3 unit class for me but I had to spend at least 6 hours a week with my foal and 2 more hours a week outside of class feeding the other horses at the barn and taking care of my weanling. That was a lot of time devoted to only one class! So when I say that these experiences are worth it, these experiences are worth every second of lost sleep, staying in on a Friday, not going to dinner with your friends because you can’t get up from the couch…everything that can take away from the ‘traditional’ college experience.

With that said, these classes are also very rewarding! I loved experiencing  the whole process of pre-, during, and post-parturition. As a horse person, I feel like you are obligated to know what meconium is, when the placenta can be considered retained, and how to care for a newborn foal. There is so much to know about foaling and raising a foal. What better way to learn than first-hand!

What is great about my school is that the students get to do everything. There is a breeding enterprise, a foaling enterprise, a halter breaking enterprise, and a colt starting enterprise, where you start the 2 and 3 year olds and sell them at the end of the quarter. Being apart of this process is so rewarding and fun! It also replicates a real-life horse farm, so that you can get real world experience in the comfort of your 4 year college.

Now, onto foaling. The foaling enterprise was a 2 quarter (or a four month long) endeavor where we cared for the mares and (eventually) the foals. Here, we did a daily and nightly foal watch to look for pre-parturition signs of when a mare might start foaling, cleaned, groomed, and fed all the horses involved in the enterprise, and started basic training on the foals. The night shifts were loonnnggg and the day shifts seemed to pass in a blink of an eye, but they were all so rewarding when you get to see a real life birth.

Now, I didn’t get to learn everything about equine reproduction in this enterprise (thankfully there is also a class for that), but I did learn hands on things about running a breeding farm. There are some things that makes sense, like ‘wet’ mares, or mares that are nursing, should not be out in pasture with ‘dry’ mares. But then I also learned that foaling should take place on straw, NOT on shavings or dirt or anything else like that because you don’t want anything getting stuck in a place that it shouldn’t be. Or different breeds can have certain foaling problems that are, most likely, just due to their genetics. And the actual stage of parturition only takes like 20-45 mins, depending if they’re a maiden mare. There are so many things you can learn doing hands on activities like these that almost NEVER come up in a classroom because no one ever thinks of teaching it. You just have to experience it.


The people on watch and in the enterprise with you will become some of your closest friends. Not only will you see each other nearly everyday, but you get to spend almost 6 hours together at least 2-3 times a week while you wait for something to happen.

Foaling is definitely an unforgettable experience. To be able to see a birth and see how a mare suddenly knows what to do and how to take care of their foal is truly unbelievable. Plus, being able to pet the babies all day, everyday, is surely the icing on the cake.

Now, onto halter breaking! I did halter breaking the following year I was in foaling. The cool thing about this was that I actually was assigned to the foal I took care of in foaling. Seeing my baby change into the 3 year old he is today was so much fun! I would definitely recommend taking foaling and halter breaking together so that you can watch your baby grow.
Halter breaking was also a one-of-a-kind experience. Growing up, I trained my pony and my horse basically everything they know today. I am really proud of my experience with them but nothing, however, prepares you for weanlings ready to go on a wild bucking spree for no logical reason. These things behave like toddlers, I swear. Except it will hurt if you get stepped on or kicked during one of their tantrums. But I did love spending time with my baby and watching it ‘click’ in his tiny brain when I asked him to do something.

Halter breaking taught me that I love being around young horses and training them, because I love to see progress from all my hard work, but it also taught me patience. A young horse only has such a big attention span, so it’s hard to see an immediate result. But when that baby finally got that it needed to lunge in a circle around me, not towards me, I could not stop smiling! Patience definitely won, as I got to see my weanling transform, and that was the best, most rewarding thing about this class.

Another awesome part about halter breaking, and even foaling for that matter, is that I learned different ways to care and train horses. Because my school is so agriculture-oriented, and thousands of students, faculty, and professors have an extensive and different backgrounds, you always learn something new from someone! It’s always great to take in more knowledge so that you can be wiser around horses.

So, not only are horse classes available at college, but I think you should definitely take them! They will make you so happy that you get to take a breath of fresh air and play with horses, and get credit for it!!!! You also learn valuable life lesson. Like, you need to take things one at a time, you CAN take a midterm on 4 hours of sleep and still ace it, your life will be so much better with baby horses, and that taking advice from different people may pay off in the long run. Plus, you could potentially wake up to this cutie face everyday!


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