We start our own ponies with general handling and showing them "monsters" as soon as possible. Tarps, flags, umbrellas and big balls being bounced around are some of the things we expose them to at an early age.
We do the "approach and retreat" games to help them instill confidence and make this time fun for them. We like a lot of what those "Horse Whisperers" do, but we dont follow any one of them entirely, we take a little from each and combine them to do our own thing that suits us and the pony.
We handle our ponies with compassion but firmness and we set boundaries from an early age so when they are older and stronger they will not already have bad habits such as pulling back when tied up and kicking instead of yielding when asked to move over.
A couple of sessions in a pen with a pony that doesn't want to be caught soon has them willing to follow and join up so making catching time become a fun and easy time - not a "chase the pony down" time (if you even have the time to do so and how frustrating is that?) I hate it so I nip it in the bud quickly and quietly.
Our most favourite trainer has to be Pat Stauffer of Thinking Horses. From the initial handling of foals and youngstock up to backing and riding out the three year olds, Pat has been here to help us out. Pat also helps us out when we have more than we can comfortably handle such as TB mares that we have bought over the years.
Not only has Pat helped us with our ponies to become nice(r) citizens, he has also helped me personally in learning how much or how little to ask any pony, so not to overwhelm them.
Pat on his OTTB bareback
Having safe and sound minded stock is important to us as then we can feel confident that when we sell that pony to you that he/she is with you for a long happy life as your truly "can be trusted" family partner.