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Robert M. Miller - Western Horseman's 2012 Horseman of the YearThis publication has been an important part of my life for over 50 years, and not just because of what I’ve learned from reading it. In 1949, WH launched my career as a professional cartoonist, and I've been sketching ever since.  In 1955, they started my avocation as a journalist, and I’ve written many, many articles for them and other magazines in the intervening years.

In 1987, I became an author for the first time when WH published Health Problems of the Horse (now out of print). Since then, I’ve written 18 books under various publishers. I’ve dedicated my life to making the world a better place for horses, and with this award, I’m deeply indebted to WH and its staff, past and present, for recognizing my contributions.

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After foaling, the mare will require a diet adequate to supply her needs while she’s nursing her foal. Tell your veterinarian what her usual diet is, and ask for his recommendation regarding additional supplementation.

As for the foal, perform imprint training while it’s newborn, and all future handlers such as vets, farriers, and trainers will thank you. Critical to imprinting’s success is doing it properly (see my book, Imprint Training of the Newborn Foal,or DVD, “Early Learning”). Don’t experiment: in order for imprint training to work, it needs to be done exactly as I describe.

With 54 years of experience behind me, I’ve developed a system that’s easy to do, but it must be done correctly, for 100-percent effectiveness. Some traditionalists oppose imprint training, but I’ve never had a failure. I have, however, added some procedures over the years.

I now recommend that while the newborn foal is being imprint trained by one (or more) person(s), another person should collect four to six ounces of colostrum from the mare, after she stands on her own. Don’t rush her. The colostrum should then be given to the foal in a human baby bottle with a nipple. The reason for this isn’t nutritional; a foal is born completely nourished, and there’s no rush for it to nurse. Nor is it for the laxative and antibody properties of the colostrum. Rather, the reason the mare produces this small amount of colostrum so early is because it helps protect the foal against Septic Foal Syndrome, the most common cause of death in young foals.

This condition is caused by soil-borne microorganisms. It’s also a good idea to wash the mare’s udder before the foal’s first nursing. Again, don’t rush the mare to her feet—let her do it on her own: you want all possible blood supply to go into the foal through the umbilical cord after it emerges from the womb. The mare will arise when she’s ready. Then you can lead her to the foal while the handler is working on it, and allow the mare to smell it, clean it, and bond with it.

by Laurel Miller

I’m a regular contributor to American Cowboy magazine, and last fall I pitched them a story on the Northern Nevada Correctional Center’s Stewart Conservation Camp Saddle Horse Training Program. Now in its 12th year, the program takes place on the 1,000-acre prison farm in Carson City, where a small, select group of minimum-security inmates start and train horses for four months using “least-resistance” and other Natural Horsemanship methods before holding a public adoption for the animals. The Saddle Horse Program has received national and international recognition for its work, and been the subject of documentary films, magazine articles, and forthcoming book by Swedish author Willy Klaeson.

Trainer Harry Hamman with his horse, Little Leo

Program director and horse trainer Hank Curry is an old family friend and former neighbor. He’s been in charge of the Carson City program (which originally started at the Warm Springs Correctional Center) for nine years. Hank and ranch manager Tim Bryant invited me to check out the program and attend an adoption, so on behalf of American Cowboy, I flew out to Carson City on February 10th to research a feature on the program, which will run in the July/August issue.

The prison farm includes beef and dairy cattle, a processing plant, and crop production, and is currently home to over 1,100 BLM horses. Every four months, a group of inmates (some of whom have been in the program for over two years) start a horse that has no prior handling experience; most of the animals are on average five years of age. The focus of my article is the human-animal bond, and how this program benefits both man and horse. Three times a year, a public adoption is held for the trained horses and burros and orphaned foals, and all the money goes back to the program, which is entirely self-funded.

While I expected to be moved by the program and watching the men work with their horses, I was unprepared for just how emotional an experience it would be. The positive impact of the program is undeniable. It’s changing the lives of both the men and the animals, instilling self-esteem and skills that enable both to live better lives. For many of the men, it’s the first time they’ve seen a project through start-to-finish, and they’re also learning patience, job skills, responsibility, and gaining a sense of camaraderie. One former inmate is now a clinician in Lancaster. The horses are well-loved, and emerge from this program gentle, well-trained, and versatile: those that don’t sell to recreational riders may on to become roping horses, pack animals, or used for the Border Patrol or Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Program in nearby Bridgeport.

At the adoption, which boasted approximately 150 attendees, each man presented his horse, performed a riding exhibition, and demonstrated any special skills he’d taught his mount. The animals sell on average for $150 (starting bid) to $2,100, and last month, 16 of the 17 horses sold.

The next public adoption will be held on May 19th. For more information, click here.
DONATIONS NEEDED: The program is in need of donations of used or new blue jeans, boots, or tack (snaffles, hackamores, and Western saddles, as well as standard tack and grooming supplies). If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation, please contact Hank Curry or Tim Bryant at (775) 887-9331.

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Q. We began our first imprint training session about 30 minutes after birth and worked for 45 minutes. When finished, the foal wouldn’t nurse, as if he was too tired to do so. Skeptics at our barn said it was because of the imprinting. We ended up milking the mare and the vet administered the colostrum. Consequentially, the mare hadn’t cleaned it either because, we were told, the foal wasn’t nursing. We repeated this a couple of times and finally, after about five or six hours, the foal latched on and began nursing. Then the mare cleaned shortly thereafter. My question is, have you ever encountered a situation like this, where the foal appeared too worn out to nurse?

A. It’s not unusual for a weak foal to be unable to nurse, but imprinting has nothing to do with it. Foals are born fully nourished and thus need not nurse for hours. In 54 years of handling countless foals, I’ve never had the experience you describe. In fact, I’ve found that the newborn foal straining to arise while being handled is stronger once it’s allowed up—probably due to the isometric exercise it experiences. Your weak foal was born this way, as foals sometimes are, and handling it post-partum had nothing to do with its difficulty nursing.

New This Month:

Check out Dr. Miller’s newest DVD, “Lameness: Causes & Prevention,” and “Is It An Emergency?” – A book of dog cartoons by RMM.Order yours today through our online store.

Mark Your Calendars!

Interested in catching one of Dr. Millerís summer or fall lectures?

Robert M. Miller, D.V.M.
  • March 9-11, Road to the Horse
    Murfreesboro, TN: See Dr. Miller accept the prestigious Western Horsman of the Year award, as well as judge this grueling clinician’s competition, and visit us at the Spalding Labs and Rick Lamb booths.

  • May 31-June 1, 5th Annual Light Hands Horsemanship
    Santa Ynez, CA: The all-star clinician line-up includes Dr. Miller, Eitan Beth-Halachmy, Lester Buckley, Richard Winters, Sheila Varian, Jon Ensign, Jack Brainard, and Leslie Desmond. In 2011, over 200 horsemen from over 10 countries attended, and we expect an every larger international audience this year. For details call 530-346-9125 or email

  • June 8-10, Western States Horse Expo
    Sacramento, CA
    For contact details and other dates and locations in 2012, go to

For contact details and other dates and locations in 2012, go to

For information on appearances and other dates and locations in 2012, Click Here

Coming in our June newsletter:

Lameness: causes and prevention for trail-riding season


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