MEET KEN CRAFT
THE CLYDESDALE IMPRINTER, WORKS WITH GENTLE GIANTS
Written by: Kym Rouse Holzwart
Clydesdales, draft horses known as gentle giants, are Ken Craft’s passion.
He has been a trainer, driver, rider, showman and educator for years in Florida and throughout the U.S. For 19 years, Ken’s Whispering Pines Clydesdales has operated in Bonita Springs and North Fort Myers. The facility had provided therapeutic experiences to those with special needs.
Ken also transported his Clydesdales and carriages, carts and wagons to locations where visitors got rides and learned about Clydesdales. To help keep the facility running, he provided cart, carriage and wagon rides at select events.
In addition, Ken is an expert at imprinting Clydesdale foals—his process is described below—and he offers to help you.
While imprinting is good for any breed of horse, the process is more common with draft horses that have a future public life or become working horses. Imprinting is intense, specific handling of a foal immediately after birth and up to 6 months. Timing is everything, since horses are born ready to stand and eat and learn rapidly.
After a foal’s birth, the first hours shape their behavior; immediate positive contact with humans sets a foal up for a lifetime of partnership and success. Imprinting prepares the horse for future training and ensures it’s much easier, faster and safer. Imprinting ensures that the foal bonds with humans and establishes a relationship of trust and security, is de-sensitized/sensitized to many things, accepts and submits to humans.
Once a strong and healthy delivery of the foal is confirmed—the mare is fine and the foal has received its initial colostrum from nursing—the foal is pinned to the ground for 20-30 minutes on each side. A halter is placed on the foal and is always on when doing imprinting training in the stall or in an open area (for safety, never leave a halter on an unattended foal). The mare has unrestrained access to the foal.
After working 20-30 minutes on each side of the foal, allow it up to nurse and to spend time with the mare, then repeat the process. Whenever the foal attempts to get up, it must be dominated and pinned back down—it can only get up when you allow it.
While on each side, the entire body of the foal is rubbed with a soft brush for five minutes. After that, the entire body is rubbed with a paper bag and then a plastic bag. That includes the face, ears, legs, genital area and anus.
Softly and gently, the face and in and out of the ears, nose, anus and genital area are rubbed with your fingers (save the anus and genital area for last and clean and disinfect your hands after). As you rub the foal, a natural taming response is triggered and the
Ken Craft’s Whispering Pines Clydesdales has operated for 19 years in Bonita Springs and
North Fort Myers. The facility had provided therapeutic experiences to those with special needs.
To get them used to the sound and vibration, clippers are
gently run over the entire body, as well as the ears, chin and
mouth. Next come the feet: pick up each hoof and tap the
bottom 40-50 times with your hand or the sold part of the
brush. Over time, slowly work up to applying more pressure.
For the first couple of weeks, if time allows, repeat this
process for 4-6 hours a day. For maximum results, slowly
start decreasing the period you work with the foal after
that over many weeks.
Make sure you are persistent at each step, and don’t quit
before acceptance is achieved. Take your time—don’t move
on to the next step until the foal is completely relaxed. Keep
in mind that you are establishing yourself as the leader. The
foal should respect both you and your space, and do not
allow the foal to bite, kick or run into you.
Ken uses CDs from SpookLess to get foals used to
many types of sounds. He prefers the Mounted Horse
Patrol Edition that has 60 sounds commonly heard
around the farm, in public, at horse shows and at
If possible, play these CDs 8-16 hours a day for the
first 30 days, then 4-8 hours a day for the next four
months. After the age four months, play them periodically. FCM