The story of Hero and Sha begins long before you see the first pictures of Sharon and Hero together. Like any horse, adult Hero is made up of all of the experiences that baby Hero had. As professional horse trainers I can tell you unequivocally that horses that are handled correctly as foals have a much easier time when it comes time to learn to be a ridable horse. Actually, the luckiest horses don't really have a big "ta-da...your life as a baby horse is over, now you're a grown up" moment. Good horse training is made up of every single moment starting from the moment a foal hits the ground. This doesn't mean that foals are "in training". What it does mean is that every single time you lay a hand on them you ARE training. Just like children a foals first lessons are simple and all designed towards keeping everyone safe when that cute adorable little foal is a 1,000 pound adult.
While the subject of this post covers Hero's introduction to "scary water", Mike's ability to communicate appropriate behavior when faced with, to what Hero thinks is a very sketchy situation, is based upon what Hero learned as a foal and that has to do with responding to pressure. Ultimately a safe riding horse is "pushed forward" from behind. Their engine is behind them. This holds true whether their ultimate job is being a great western pleasure horse, reining horse or a dressage horse. This is why from the very beginning Mike and I have a halter on our foals with a long soft rope, referred to as a "butt rope". There are a couple of variations on the theme, but this one has always got the job done for us. On a very young foal, they wear this just to get used to the feel, and the wrangling is done with more of a "body cradle, an arm across their chest if they get too rambunctious, a hand urging their hind-quarters forward if they get stuck. And, in what might seem like a counter intuitive move, we don't have the foals follow the mare, we have the foal in front of her. First of all, the mare is happier because she can see her baby! Our mares are very well trained and comfortable with us handling their foals and sometimes participate in this part, seeming to know that we're part of the "baby protection brigade". Within a couple of days the foals the foals have this figured out really well. Sometimes you might have to move mare and baby across areas that wouldn't be safe for a curious foal to wander and managing them this way keeps them safe and teaches them valuable lessons that make things much easier as they get bigger and stronger.
In the photo above, the mares and foals have just had a short trailer ride, moving to a gorgeous field that is specially fenced for the babies. You can see that from being taught halter skills from a really young age, Hero already knows to look to his human handler for clues as to how to behave and what to do. The lead is attached to his halter, and the butt rope is on. He's already learning to stay in his own space which is a very important part of becoming a good "equine citizen". Don't step on the little humans!