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My horse kicked the farrier

Dear Franklin,

My cob is so special to me, I can see that she has become more comfortable with herself and has learnt to be a horse again whilst being with me. She was kept on her own before at a farm and now she is kept at a stables where there are 40 horses. This was a shock to her in the beginning, I mean she'd not seen another horse for 18 months! , but after a few months of she began to settle. She spooked at a lot of things in the beginning ( young horses, tractors starting up, cars, buses..) I guessed it was because she hadn't been introduced to them before. I wanted her to feel as safe as possible and that her new home wasn't full of things that she was scared of so I showed her the tractor when it was at rest and the engine off. Let her walk around it and have a good old sniff and see it from all angles. We managed not to canter past the young horses by starting to turn that canter to trot and then walk. She's now fine with them. She has her little group of small grey ponies she seems to care for in the herd ( she used to be a broodmare, I think she thinks they are kind of like her foals!)

But today I was a bit stunned: when I brought her in for the farrier as usual I picked out her feet and she was fine with it (this took a while to happen when I first got her) and she was even moving her weight to help me pick up her feet and I gave her legs a quick sponge as they were a little poo stained! When the farrier came I could see she was a little worried but this was usual for her so I stroked her letting her know I wasn't going to let this man hurt her. He managed to trim her front left hoof and the back left hoof but when he came to back right hoof she kicked out. It happened so fast and I was shocked. One moment she was standing still and the next she was almost jogging on the spot with a really high head. I was holding unto her and I thought she was going to knock me off and run straight over me but she didn't. I could see she wanted to run away as fast as she could but she didn't run me over. She had properly kicked the farrier (he took a small flight) and winded him.

I chucked her in her stable to let her calm herself down and see to him. He received medical attention and went to just check nothing was wrong internally, his bones were fine. I went to go check she had calmed down and she came to the front of the stable and kept putting her head towards me. I was so angry at the time because I didn't understand why she had done it. She kept trying to lick me and give me a quick nibble but I was having none of it. I could see she was sorry but I was annoyed that this had happened after all the progress we had made, she had never threatened to kick me or anyone and she is so good with the dentist. I brought her out to put her bed down and she tried to pull me to the field but I pulled her back and told her to behave and tied her up. I think she understood she'd pissed me off because when I said 'Back up' She did. She looked at her over the door as I did the bed. Looking back on it now I think she may have tried to let her hoof down but he kept it up and she wasn't having any of it. I know she didn't mean it.

She's a good honest horse. I love her with all my heart and even though we are no where near what some of the other horses on the yard are like I would not trade her for the world. When I got home though I couldn't stop crying, I was worried because she didn't have a full set of shoes on and is walking round like Cinderella and I worry why she kicked out. Any thoughts you have on this would be great.

Thank you for reading

Hello CS,

First off, never take anything personally a horse does. It is not trying to piss you off (its your choice to get angry or not) or disappoint you. It is not being bad, disobedient, or any such thing. It is merely a horse telling you that something really scared it enough for it to kick out like it did. We humans expect horses to be obedient. But they are horses and horses are not wired up to be obedient like dogs or slaves. Something prompted this behavior. Something you are overlooking. Perhaps the farrier had the leg too high for too long. Perhaps his energy scared her. You both ignored the signs that the horse was saying to give it a break. Farriers are notorious for being insensitive to horse’s discomfort as they often have many horses to do and cannot be too patient or take too long with any one horse. Also, it is good to walk the horse around a bit between trimming each foot. this gives a little break. If the farrier doesn’t like it, well, its your horse and not his. You need to pay attention to your horse and what it is trying to tell you. By putting the horse in the stable after the incident to calm down, you rewarded the behavior. It would have been better to keep the horse moving either in circles or backing up. This gives the message that if you do this, you go to work. This philosophy and technique can assist with many unwanted behaviors. But by putting the horse away, it is being rewarded for its behavior. By putting its feet to work, it is receiving an appropriate consequence it can learn from. Anyway, she kicked out because of fear, plain and simple. What she was afraid of I can only guess. But I am certain the farrier had something to do with it and your inability to spot things getting fearful for the horse and doing something about it immediately, were in the mix.

If the animal is now getting very difficult with its hind feet, I have techniques that are gentle that can help. Let me know. You might consider that rather than looking for your horse to behave like a child would behave for a parent, you might look for trust and respect to be developed as one would do for a great leader. After all it is great leadership the horse is looking for not a mommy who wants to sooth it over. Being mommy for a horse does not develop trust and respect. Leadership does. Not a mother who is merely trying to sooth it as a mother would her child. Trust and respect are earned and developed via leadership that is appropriate, patient, precise, quietly strong and without fluff (fawning). These are horses and not children. Set and keep boundaries always. This is one aspect of good leadership with horses. Provide consequences of movement for unwanted behavior and never punishment. You might consider learning more about the psychology of horses. This is a life-long learning process. I am 50 years a horse professional and I am still learning. Good Luck! Obviously you love your horse and that is super!!!!! You will earn the trust of the horse not by soothing it, but by leading it properly every moment you are with it. Great leadership is the key.

Sincerely, Franklin

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