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Problems handling my horse's feet


I purchased a 10 year old draft cross in January. I didn't realize that she does not like her feet to be touched. The farrier has been out three times to work with her as well and she will not lift her feet for him either. She will kick out if its her back feet or stomp if it is her front feet. I keep working with her everyday by touching her legs and trying to get further down (with treat rewards). I have not made much progress. I called the seller and asked how in the world she ever got her feet trimmed and she told me that her farrier did her in stocks do not know any farriers in my area that trim horses in stocks. Do you have any other suggestions or should I just keep working to touch the legs hopefully to eventually gain her trust? Other than her feet...she is a dream!

Thank You,

Hi Tammy,

   Your horse is actually trying to give you its feet. You think it is being resistant. This is a common misconception in situations like yours. Even if your horse lifts the foot and immediately jams it down, it is a try. Any action where the horse lifts a foot when asked and slams it down is a 'try' and should be praised with a Good Boy. This helps the horse to understand it is safe for it to lift its foot. After a few minutes of a lift and praise, no matter if he lets you take the foot in your hand, try touching the foot lightly with a tap just above the fetlock and say "foot". If he tries at all in any way to lift the foot give praise. Your horse is big enough to hold his own foot up. I train horses to hold the foot up on their own first, then to allow a human to hold the foot. This prevents horses from leaning on the human who is handling their feet as they get used to standing of three feet and holding their own foot up. Do this process over and over until the horse holds his own foot up for a little while.

Never try to grab or pull at a horse's foot. Once the foot comes up and the horse holds it up a little while, then you can hold the foot by the toe only and allow the horse to relax a bit. Hold for just a couple of seconds and gently let it down (careful not to drop the foot). Gradually increase the time you hold the foot by the toe. I have trained many horses to allow their feet to be handled. Part of what makes it work is understanding the horse is not being stubborn, but rather afraid to lift its foot when asked. This changes the attitude of the handler to one of appropriate support for feelings of safety rather than diciplin to make the horse give his foot.

You can also use a wand to request the horse lift is foot. You simply tap the horse's foot just above the fetlock until it shifts its weight to the other side and then immediately stop tapping and reward with praise. Then begin again and eventually the horse will start to lift its foot when you tap the leg. You can teach him to count that way as well. You must understand when to release all pressure (at the first sign of a 'try') and give immediate praise and support (much like you would with a child)

These techniques are very difficult to give in an email. I might suggest you allow a telelphone coaching session or two to get you rolling with this useful technique. Telephone horsemanship coaching is easy, convenient, efficient and effective. It cost about what a piano lesson costs and can be purchased via my web site. Let me know if you would like a sesson or two. It would be the quickest and most effective horsemanship coaching your will ever do other than having a trainer next to you (even better than tapes and DVD's).

Good Luck, be careful and let me know how it all goes.

Sincerely, Franklin

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