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behaviorists, because it was untraditional.  Ironically, I recently learned that several Plains Indians tribes imprint trained, including the Cherokee, Kiowa, and Comanche, as well as several Canadian Native American tribes.   Today, many species of animals are being imprint trained, as featured below.

With foaling season underway, I recommend Video Velocity’s excellent DVD, Foaling Fundamentals, if you are a novice. The same company produced my Early Learning DVD. Of course, I strongly recommend you do this training as soon as the foal is born, during its imprinting period. Done correctly, it will guarantee a calm, respectful, well-mannered horse that genuinely likes human company.

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In addition to receiving skepticism from academics, imprinting had other detractors. The racing industry, in particular, feared that imprint trained foals, because they are so calm and relaxed, would not race well. To the contrary, it enhances performance. Imprint trained foals have raced in the Kentucky Derby.

Bucki Saint Pat, an imprint-trained Standardbred owned by a colleague of mine, Dr. Ron Fuller of Newark, Ohio, has won over two million dollars. At two days of age the filly was pulling a little goat cart while following her dam.

Zoo animals of precocial species (those that are neurologically mature at birth, have all of their senses functional, and have their peak learning periods soon after birth) are now being imprint trained via the same methods outlined in my foal training book. These include camels, elephants, rhinoceros, and deer.

Gary and Kari Johnson are the owners of Have Trunk Will Travel, an elephant training and conservation center in Perris, California. They imprint train their newborn elephants with great results.

Dr. and Debby Miller with an imprinted rhinoceros in Kenya.
It was handled at birth by the guard assigned to protect the mother against poachers, and loves people. This photo was taken in the wild.

Dr. Miller with Tami Semler and Dr. Miller at Saddlerock Ranch.

The first video Dr. Miller made, back in 1984, was “Influencing the Horse’s Mind.” Using actual problem horses, he showed how, using scientifically correct methods, equine misbehavior could be modified or shaped in only a few minutes.

The videographer came with Dr. Miller on his farm and ranch calls for a week, filming the more challenging patients. Included in the video are a green, spooky colt, a severely head-shy horse, a “goosey” horse that would not allow its temperature to be taken, and an aggressive horse. 

 “Influencing the Horse’s Mind” also contains the first demonstration of imprint training of newborn foals [click on the link below for a clip], a radical concept at the time. Order your copy today right here

Understanding Horses is the 1999 companion to “Influencing.”  In this DVD, Dr. Miller explains ten, genetically-encoded precocial traits in horses, and how they can be used to shape and modify their behavior. Below, a clip from the DVD of Dr. Miller demonstrating how his three-week-old imprinted mule ties, leads, turns, and reacts to various stimuli. She had only one hour of handling immediately after birth, and a 45-minute follow-up session the next day.

Click to Watch a clip from Understanding the Horse’s Mind

Light Hands Horsemanship is almost here!  Join us for three full days of clinics at scenic Intrepid Farms in Santa Ynez, California, May 19-22, 2011.  Dr. Miller and clinicians Eitan Beth-Halachmy, Jack Brainard, Lester Buckley, Jon Ensign, and special guest Richard Winters, Ernie Morris, and Sheila Varian will conduct clinics and seminars on this year’s theme, “Equine Learning: From Birth to Maturity.”  Reservations are limited, so don’t miss out!

For details, go to, or call 1-530-346-2715.

The Amgen Bike Tour will be in Santa Ynez the same  weekend as LHH. They will be in competition for hotel rooms so book your rooms NOW!!!  Rooms will be at a premium. Do not delay!!


Have a question for Dr. Miller?
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We apologize that due to volume, we can’t guarantee Dr. Miller can respond to all emails, but we are building a more comprehensive FAQ page on our website to address your needs. All questions may be edited for clarity and space.

Q. Some trainers encourage food treats, and some abhor them. What is your opinion?

A. Food rewards (not treats) are the most powerful way of reinforcing behavior positively. But—they must be used correctly or they can encourage behavior problems. Be sure you use food rewards appropriately. The Spanish Riding School uses them, as do most circus trainers.

Shawna Karrasch, a former dolphin trainer, has a DVD available on the subject, On Target™ Training.  Allen Pogue, a great trick horse trainer from Dripping Springs, Texas, also has a DVD, Using Treats as a Training Tool.

Q. Which of your books on horse behavior and how to handle horses do you recommend for beginners?

A. Well, they are all different, but for a starter volume, I suggest Understanding the Ancient Secrets of the Horse’s Mind, available for order here.

Dr. Miller’s newest books, Handling Equine Patients: A Handbook for Veterinary Students and Veterinary Technicians, has just been adopted for use by two universities as a text book.   This comprehensive volume is also a must-have for horse owners, as it provides tips on performing routine preventative health procedures.

Equine practitioner Dr. Marcia Thibeault’s charming memoir, I Make Horse Calls, is now available through our online store, along with her follow-up, More Horse Calls: A Dream Fulfilled.

Don't miss the February issue of Equus, featuring Dr. Miller's article, "The Power of Imprint Training."

Mark Your Calendars!

Interested in catching one of Dr. Miller’s winter or spring lectures?

Robert M. Miller, D.V.M.
  • February 25-27:  Dr. Miller is again judging Road To The Horse and will have a booth for book and video sales

  • May 19-22:  Dr. Miller’s 5th annual Light Hands Horsemanship clinic will be held in Santa Ynez, CA.   For details, go to

  • July 16-19:  AVMA Convention - Symposium on the Art & Science of Handling Horses.  For the first time AVMA will include a 2 day symposium on equine behavior.  All Students planning to do equine practice, and all veterinarians who see equine patients cannot afford to miss this rare opportunity.  The speakers include experienced private practitioners and people from academia and the insurance industry who will explore the many aspects of the subject. Click Here for details.

For information on appearances and other dates and locations in 2011, Click Here

Coming in our April newsletter: The Head-shy horse.

Interested in booking Dr. Miller for a lecture, demonstration, or book signing?

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