The time you take to help him learn to be confident with people, to help him want to be connected to people and to pay attention to people, is an investment in his future. Can you teach him to be a team player who wants to be on your team?
To take this approach to training foals, where the main goal is to build a trusting relationship with the foal, will in the short term take more time generally than if the main goal is to get the job done of haltering, leading and picking up legs. But the time invested will be repaid over the lifetime of the horse if these first lessons teach him to want to participate with humans.
Trust is the foundation of a good relationship. Trust leads to a sense of safety in a relationship. We want our horses to trust us and ideally to look to us as a secure base to explore the world and a safe haven to come to at times of stress. This view of relationship is informed by attachment theory, and is quite different from the view of relationship informed by the idea that horses are a herd animal and in the relationship we should be the leader of the herd. This idea leads to humans being dominant. This mindset can lead to aggressive behaviour on the human’s part.
To see yourself more as a parent leads to a gentler, trusting relationship. Parents should be bigger, stronger, wiser, and kind. Of course, we are only bigger and stronger than a foal when he is very young, but we can set clear boundaries that make us seem bigger and stronger, without violence, especially if we start when a foal is young.
So how do we do that? Start by trying to be attuned to your foal. Approach him and try to notice when he starts to pay attention to you. Notice when he feels uncomfortable with your proximity and just back off to where he is comfortable. Let him feel safe, not feel threatened by your presence. If he goes to move away, maybe just sit down and wait until his curiosity gets the better of him and he approaches you. You can see what happens if you walk away a bit while he is approaching. Will he follow you? Any time he is uncomfortable with you just move back a little until he looks relaxed. A relaxed foal will lower his head, he may graze, he may chew, he will look soft in the eye.