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Teaching the young horse surefooting

Hello Franklin,

I have a 3 year-old gelding who's getting along just fine for his age. In other words, we don't have any "problems," so to speak. Nevertheless, he hasn't perfected the art of paying attention to me and his feet at the same time. He will listen and respond to my aids, but he doesn't translate his reactions into the specifics of careful foot placement. On a recent trail ride, I discovered that his lack of attention to foot placement might endanger him and possibly me as well (occasional stumbling and sore feet from bad placement on even, but natural, terrain). I decided to lunge him free in the round pin to see if he could choose his footing better without any restraint (no rider, no lead line). Not surprisingly, after 10 minutes of trotting and cantering he lost his focus, tripped and flipped himself head over heel. Thank goodness I wasn't on his back for this learning experience! Luckily, he was not injured either... but I would like to establish a safe training program whereby he can learn to watch where he steps. I guess many youngsters learn these lessons on their own by playing in the paddock... but my horse is the easy-going type who won't break a walk unless provoked.

PS: He has no physical problems with balance (well-maintained barefoot hooves and vote of confidence from the vet). He's just young and distracted. Any suggestions for how to safely teach him to focus on where and how he's going?

Thanks in advance for your reply!


Hi Kelly,

Thanks for your question. The majority of young horses I have known that were stumblers had a shoeing problem. Have you consulted your ferrier? That is the first place I would begin. I just had a four year old in training and he stumbled all over the place and his owner thought he was just clumsy and lazy about placing his feet appropriately. Actually it was his shoeing that was the problem. If you really believe in your ferrier and there is no soreness in his feet (you may need a vet to check him as well), some other things to try are to begin to ride the horse over cavaletties (rails on the ground spaced appropriately apart for the size horse it is). Also, you could begin to do more ground games that require him picking up his feet. Things like lunging over low jumps, cavaletties again, etc. will help you horse begin to pick his feet up more. Practice riding figure eights as well. Good stops and backing up will help this too. School this horse, he is green and needs it anyway.

I appreciate you asking for suggestions and I would appreciate hearing how it all goes. Good luck and many Blessings to you.

Sincerely, Franklin

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