Friendly Foal is what Winnie calls the black filly born on Christmas Eve. Winnie’s spent the last three nights in the barn feeding and watching over the foal. I live in Ohio the same state the series is set in. It is COLD here at that time of year!
Oddly enough, the foal is afraid of Winnie the Horse Gentler. That struck me as peculiar. A bottle-fed, newborn foal would naturally gravitate toward the source of milk. None of that fear was shown at the end of the previous book when Winnie first fed the foal.
Someone loans Winnie a goat named Annie. She hopes to switch the foal over to nurse off of the goat. I was trying to picture whether that was even possible, as the foal was probably twice the height of the goat. Later, Catman has the goat on a bale of hay allowing the foal to nurse, but elsewhere Friendly Foal appears to nurse from the goat without the benefit of the bale, which seems anatomically impossible.
This book has a pretty minimal horse story and introduces several boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. There's not necessarily anything wrong with that of course—at an appropriate age. First is Lizzy’s friend, Geri, who likes a boy named Nathan/Nate. Geri doesn’t show up at Lizzy’s house when she’d been invited because she chose to be with Nate instead. Those three are all eleven and in the sixth grade.
A classmate, Sal, (Nate’s sister) has another training project for Winnie. Her grandmother, Gram Cracker, had gotten Sal a miniature horse for Christmas. The mini, Amigo, is not well-behaved, and Sal really had no interest in horses, anyway.
Sal’s parents are divorced. She and Nate are staying with their grandmother while their parents are off who knows where. Gram Cracker and Sal arrive at Winnie’s home with the pony in the back of their van, both wearing miniskirts (the females, not the pony).
Sal is very disrespectful to her grandmother, teachers, and people in general. She says of her grandmother.
“The woman has the patience of a tadpole.” p. 20
Sal glared at her grandmother. “You didn’t pick that thing out! Raoul did.” She turned to me to explain. “Raoul is her boyfriend.”
“Ex-boyfriend,” Gram corrected. “Never accept the love of an Argentine caballero.” p. 24,25
Amigo, all of 29“ tall, runs off, rears, and tries to bite Winnie, but she finally manages to get him into the barn.
On page 41, Winnie explains to Catman the process of imprinting. Winnie claims to be using imprinting throughout the remainder of the book, even with the five-year-old Amigo. Imprinting is real, but it’s limited to a very narrow window of time, typically considered to be one to two hours after the birth of a foal, when they are highly impressionable. It’s believed bonding to humans can occur at the same time the foal bonds to its mother.
Dr. Robert M. Miller wrote the book on foal imprinting, literally. :)
If done properly within that time frame, imprinting can make later training much easier. If done incorrectly however, it can create lifelong behavioral issues. Horse trainers tend to have divergent opinions on the technique—either strongly in favor or opposing it.
Whatever Winnie was doing, it wasn’t imprinting, more like desensitization, which is still good.
Winnie’s difficulties working with the foal and Amigo in this book are puzzling, since she was portrayed in the first book as able to tame a wild horse in a week. Both of the animals in this book seem as if they would be much easier projects in comparison.
Mr. Willis and Melinda continue to come up with unbelievably foolish inventions. They are at odds with each other through much of the book with Mr. Willis more distracted and irritable than usual. Summer likes Grant. Sal has a boyfriend, Brian, and is worried about being fat.
Summer was psycho about weight gain. Maybe it had rubbed off on Sal.
“I’ll help you lose that extra weight,” Summer offered. “What are friends for? We’ll get it off before school starts. In the meantime don’t wear those jeans when you’re with Brian.” p. 112
Richard Spidell is Summer’s brother. He’s a junior in high school, and just about every girl except me thinks he’s the most handsome guy in school. p. 114
At first, Winnie is not invited to Summer Spidell’s New Year’s Eve party which will have “tons of guys” Then later she is invited. When Winnie learns that Sal has broken up with Brian and won’t be attending the party, Winnie decides she won’t go either. But, then Sal and Brian get back together and go to the party after all, and Winnie is left at home. (yeah that was about as confusing as it sounds)
In the end, Sal and Winnie patch things up as do Mr. Willis and Melinda.
Some people mistakenly think they are imprinting when they apply the imprint technique on foals who are one or more days of age. You can certainly train a foal at any age, and the younger he is, the faster he will learn. You can also obtain bonding from horses at any age, but actual imprinting can only occur right after birth. The younger a foal is when he is handled and trained, the easier it is. So do not hesitate to apply the imprint training techniques in the first few days after a foal’s birth; just do not call it imprint training.
- Dr. Robert M. Miller, DVM
Trailer loading a two-week-old foal that had been imprinted at birth