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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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Chronic Hoof Issues with Horse

Hi Franklin,

First off, let me tell you how wonderful I have found your site to be for a person new to the horse world. I have used it many many times since I bought my first horse, just recently, and even more so since buying my next two!!!

The last two horses I purchased I fell in love with from the start. Sasha, is a sixteen year old Belgian mare, and her daughter Dakota, a 10 year old, half belgian, half anglo arabian. My question is about Dakota. Both of these mares were used at a theraputic horse ranch when we purchased them. We did the normal, feet check, sack out, ride, pre-screening. They told me that Dakota had a chronic foot problem, she was foundered, but could still be ridden, as long as we kept her feet trimmed up, and so we tried to ride her. She didn't favor any feet, or act as though she was in pain. I did notice when riding one, the other followed, which I knew was normal as they have been together for the last 10 years, and because my husband and I would be riding together, it wouldn't cause too much of a problem, and we could work on it.

We decided we couldn't live without them, and brought them home. Sasha, in all her loveliness, will do anything you ask her willingly, her daughter almost the same, except she is more spirited, I was told this was do to the Arabian in her. The first month or so we didn't try to ride, we worked on trust and our relationship with them. Then once comfortable, we rode, everyone did pretty good. They were rusty and wouldn't leave the lot without the other, which has gotten much better. Dakota rode without pain that we could see, however she threw her head a lot.

We had a farrier come out and trim Dakota's hoofs, he said she might be sore for a few days as he had to take a lot off. We waited three weeks before riding her. When we finally did take her out, after about half a mile, she started limping. I jumped off and lead her home. We waited another week, and took her out to ride her in the grass. She didn't limp, but she pawed whenever you stopped, throwing her head around, wanting to go- go- go-. She loves to trot, and if you let her that is all she will do, however I wanted her to take it easy. It was a fight the whole time. I called the vet to come out, and he said she would be fine as soon as her hoof grew out, as there was about two inches of foot that was further than her hoof. We waited a couple more weeks, until her foot had caliced up, and tried to ride her in the grass. Immediately it was violent pawing at the ground and she wanted to trot and or run, I kept a tighter rein to keep her at a walk, and she got so mad she almost reared up on me, which seems crazy as there isn't a mean bone in this horses body!!! What is going on??? Is she just mad because I'm not letting her trot, or is she pawing because she is in pain??? She isn't limping or favoring any feet, but her attitude has gotten to the point that I am scared to ride her, as she doesn't want to listen, just run!!!

Thank you for any help you can give me,


Hi Casey,

Thank you for your kind words. First off, do not feed the horse grain. Only hay and good grass hay mostly. Any grain, other than crimped oats, will pump up the horse's energy level more than needed. Second, develop things to do on the ground with your horses before trying to ride them. Play and dance on the ground either at liberty (round pen) or on a line. You could learn to ground drive your horses as well. When on the ground with your horses, make each and every step significant. Ask for one or two steps, a whoa, back up a step or two, a whoa, then forward a step or two. Do this a lot. Get good at asking for the horse to lower it's head when requested. This will help the horse to settle down and stay calmer. This can be done on the ground or in the saddle. Get good at asking the horse to make small circles around you slowly (on the ground and in the saddle). Get good at asking the horses to do things slowly and precisely. You can always speed things up once you get them good doing things slowly (if you start out too fast, it is very hard to slow things down. Best to start slowly.). It is in doing things slowly that they are focusing and learning (also listening to you as their good dance partner/leader). Too fast is simply that, too fast and all they can focus on is the quick movement (flight). Forget trying to restrain your horses either on the ground or under saddle. Get your connection going through quiet, slow and precise requested movement. Use soft verbal stops. Stop pulling or yanking on the horses in any way (reins or leadrope). When riding and the horse show nervous energy, simply direct the animal's movement into a circle and allow it to keep circling until it shows it is willing to slow on it's own and is ready to stop. Initially this will take a little while. But I promise that, if you can hang in there, eventually it will want to stop moving (any movement is work for a horse and they only want to work as long as they have to or feel they need to). Don't pull on the reins. Better to use intermittent tugs with one rein. Develop your abilities in using your legs and seat. This is criticle to you becomming a better rider. Your riding will be more successful and effective once you get the hang of it. Practice one rein stops. They will save your horse's mouth once perfected. Take a few lessons in centered/balanced riding from someone knowledgable in that specific way of riding.

I know I have mentioned things here that you don't know about. Too much to put in a simple email. Get some training and riding DVD's, go to clinics with other trainers to see what you do and DON'T want to do with your horses, consider having me to your area or coming to mine near Aspen, CO. Good Luck.

Sincerely, Franklin

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