a Horse for Shoeing
the Foal for Farrier Work - Sherlock Series
Department in Western Horseman Magazine - "The Fix-It Guy"
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a Horse for Shoeing
excerpt from Maximum
want your farrier to do his best work and look forward to coming back to your
barn, train your horses to be cooperative and relaxed for shoeing. It is
not in your farrier's job description to train your horse. And it is unfair for
you to expect him to take the time and to risk injury by handling an untrained
horse. If you raise young horses, begin early with their training.
To see Sherlock learn how to stand for farrier care, read the continuing adventures
of his training by clicking
horse should be able to do all of the following before a farrier is asked to work
· Stand tied without pulling back.
Stand still while tied unless asked to move.
· Stand tied without
· Pick up all four feet cooperatively.
Stand in balance when any leg is held for two minutes without moving, leaning,
trying to pull his leg away, fidgeting, or nibbling.
· Move sideways
to the left and right on cue one step at a time while tied.
Back up and stepping forward on cue one step at a time while tied.
Allow all four legs to be brought backward.
· Allow all four
legs to be brought forward on a hoof stand or knee for at least thirty seconds.
Many foals require corrective rasping of their hooves
at two months of age or earlier. To prepare the foal for the farrier's first
visit, hold a regular series of hoof handling lessons. They should begin
the first day of the foal's life when you accustom the foal to being caught and
having its body and legs handled. When the foal is a week old, you should
be able to pick up a leg and hold it with a competent handler holding the foal
with a halter alongside the stall wall or a sturdy fence. (It is best to
have the mare tied nearby.) At first just pick the legs up briefly but increase
the amount of time to at least 30 seconds per leg. (An older horse will
be expected to hold a leg up for 2-3 minutes.) This will condition the foal
to stand still long enough for the farrier to trim his hooves. When you
can hold the leg without struggle, gently bend the hoof from side to side and
from front to back. This accustoms the foal to the movements the farrier
will make during trimming.
conditioned foal will likely retain his good manners throughout his life, but
leg-handling lessons should be reviewed to reinforce manners and to decrease the
chance of injury should the horse get caught in rope or wire. All yearlings
and two year olds should receive a formal series of conditioning and restraint
lessons by a competent, experienced trainer.
So that a horse of any age is comfortable having his legs handled and the lessons
proceed safely, follow these guidelines:
1. Work in close to the horse's body. This helps restrain the horse,
gives a horse an added measure of confidence, and is safer for the handler.
the amount of sideways pull you exert on the horse's leg. Try to lift the
leg in the plane it which it normally moves, that is, underneath the horse's body.
With a tiny foal, this may require you to crouch down to the foal's level.
let your horse decide when it is time to put his foot down. You choose the
moment. It should be when the horse is standing quietly, not struggling.
Then place the hoof decisively on the ground (don't let it just drop).
you are picking up a left leg, push the horse's weight over to the horse's right
shoulder or hip with your shoulder or elbow.
5. Don't try to pick up a hoof by force. Rather, take advantage of
the horse's inborn withdrawal reflex. When a wild horse's leg is touched
by a branch or a buzzing fly, the horse's automatic reaction is to pick up his
leg, often very quickly and high. Your domestic horse will still exhibit
this reflex, especially if you touch it in a strategic area. But because you will
also want to be able to groom, bandage, and clip your horse's legs without him
picking them up, you must teach him to differentiate between your command to pick
up a foot and the one that tells him to keep his feet on the ground.
To teach him to pick his foot up, give the voice command, "Foot", and
at the same time, pinch the tendon area above the fetlock. The pinching
will cause your horse to pick up his foot. Be ready to catch his hoof or
he will put it right back down as part of the reflex cycle. With time you
can teach your horse to respond to the voice command alone.
you have grasped the hoof, hold it in a natural position without pulling the leg
outward or over-flexing the joints. If the process is made comfortable for
a horse, especially for a foal, he will be less likely to struggle. If a
horse does try to pull his leg away from you, you will have a better chance of
hanging on if you tip the toe up so the fetlock and pastern are hyperflexed.
This tends to block nerve transmissions and reflexes. With very "thin-skinned"
sensitive horses, it sometimes is better to hold onto the hoof rather than the
leg for the first few lessons.
7. Use generous body-to-body contact to assure the horse that your control
is not tenuous. However, do not allow or encourage your horse to lean on
you. Although it may not be difficult to support part of the body weight
of a 100 pound foal, it won't take long before that foal is a 1200 pound animal.
If he has learned that leaning is OK, he will likely retain the habit for life.
bringing the hind leg of a young or short horse backward, take care not to raise
the leg too high (to accommodate the height of your "lap") as this may
cause the horse discomfort in the joints, especially the stifle. Many times
the reason a horse struggles is because his joints are being stressed due to improper
leg lifting. If you are lifting the hind leg of a young or small horse in
a conscientious fashion and the horse struggles because of impatience or poor
temper, you can sometimes retain a hold of him by using a "hock lock".
Drape your arm nearest the horse over his hock. With your other hand, tip
the toe of the hoof up. This gives you a leverage advantage in the event
the young horse tries to pull away. The competency of the person on the
lead rope will have a big effect on how a horse of any age behaves while having
his legs handled.
A knowledgeable farrier usually doesn't mind a curious young horse briefly inspecting
him and his tools with polite sniffing. However, dishonest nibbling when
the farrier's back is to the horse (which is 90% of the time) is unacceptable.
To prevent such a habit from forming, as you train your horse, use "farrier
positions" (such as drawing a front leg forward on your knee as if a hoof
stand) to "bait" and test your horse. If your horse sees this
as an opportunity to nibble, either discipline him using a bop on the nose with
the back of your upper arm, a tug on his lead rope or chain, or have an assistant
reprimand the horse.
If a horse is not
sufficiently confident when separated from other horses, he may desperately attempt
to retain communication with or physical proximity to his buddies. The chronic
case is referred to as herd-bound or barn-sour: the insecure horse links comfort,
companionship, and food with the barn, a particular stall, or with certain horses.
What your farrier has to deal with is a horse that screams, paws, swerves sideways,
defecates repeatedly, and in general, pays more attention to where his buddies
are than to the farrier working on him. This is very unsafe (and nerve-wracking)
for your farrier. What may seem to be a "normal" insecurity in
a young or inexperienced horse may evolve into a long-standing and dangerous habit.
Ideally, a horse should be "weaned" from its herdmates
just as it was from its mother but this should be approached as a systematic training
project, not begun the morning of your farrier's visit. If young horses
are routinely kept in separate pens or stalls or periodically tied alone to a
hitching post for several hours at a time, they soon accept separation and begin
developing a healthy self-confidence.
One of the underlying obstacles in getting any horse to stand still is the fact
that horses are born wanderers. When the nomadic tendency is thwarted by
excessive confinement or improperly applied restraint and embellished by excessive
feed and inadequate exercise, vices such as pawing, weaving, and pacing can result.
Regular exercise is essential for the horse's physical and mental well-being.
A fresh horse, even if well-trained, might get antsy when asked to stand still
for shoeing. A very high-strung horse that has inadequate exercise is over-reactive,
often nervous, and generally unsafe.
An exhausted horse is not the answer either. Such a horse will probably
be tuned out, unresponsive, and will likely lean on the farrier. Some horses learn
these lazy habits because a timid owner doesn't know how to encourage the horse
to cooperate. Most horses can be taught in a simple and non-aggressive way
to pick up their feet and hold them up without leaning.
Although most horses defecate unabashedly while being shod, few will urinate,
especially if the shoeing area is a hard floor that splatters back. If a normally
co-operative horse becomes extremely restless, give him the opportunity to relieve
himself in a bedded stall.
of a farrier appointment can affect a horse's behavior. If a particular
horse's time to be shod comes just as his exercise buddies are being turned out,
he may be thinking of running more than standing still. Although a horse should
be expected to cooperate with fair demands any time, anywhere, it might make your
farrier's job less pleasant if he has to shoe your horse when feed buckets are
banging, stall doors are sliding open and closed, traffic in the aisle is bumper
to bumper, or horses are bucking and twisting in a nearby arena or pen.
Be sure to inform your farrier of any traumatic experiences
your horse may have had that could affect his behavior during shoeing. If
your horse flipped over in the cross ties last week when you tried to vacuum him
and has been nervous there ever since and that is where the farrier normally works,
you'd better let him know.
Horseman has New Regular Feature - "The Fix-It Guy"
with the October 2000 issue, Western Horseman has started a new regular feature
by my mate Richard Klimesh, "The Fix-It Guy". You can read about
it in Pat Close's opening editorial on page 12 and see the first installment,
"Keeping Rubber Mats Together" on page 166.
Horseman invites readers of their magazine to send in problems for "The
If you have
a question regarding stable maintenance, send it to:
The Fixit Guy
Colorado Springs CO 80933
Postings on the Roundup Page
Vices and Bad Habits
Fear of Water
Cribbing and Wood Chewing
News and Reviews
Maximum Hoof Power review in October 2000 Quarter Horse Journal on page
Recent Magazine Articles
Here's a roundup
of the most recent magazine articles by the "Klim-Team", Richard
Klimesh and Cherry Hill
Horse & Rider
"Give Him a Peel" (Ergot Removal),
Winning Ways, "Ride Forward with Finesse" Horsemanship Pattern,
"Trailer Shopping Made Easy", p. 68
"Introducing the Fix-It Guy", p.
"The Fix-It Guy - "Keeping Rubber Mats Together", P. 166
October 2000 Horse & Rider
Wash - Flushing the Mouth before Giving Oral Medication", p. 39
- Cleaning a Stall and Manure Management", p. 44
2000 Western Horseman
"Selecting a Barn Site", p.
"The Klim Team", p. 102
2000 Horse & Rider
"Got Bots?", p. 37
on 2 Acres", p. 48
"The Cushion Question" (therapeutic saddle
pads), p. 88
September 2000 Miniature
"Electric Fence - How it Works...How to Troubleshoot
training philosophies, catching a horse, winter riding, more foal training,
and tips on buying and selling horses.
Hill doesn't do endorsements!
I don't accept
payment to recommend or endorse any horse products in my articles, books or this
newsletter. I do, however, mention names of products that I am currently
using and find satisfactory. I do this to give you a starting point or help
narrow the field. Sometimes finding the right product or piece of tack
is the beginning of the answer to a training or horsekeeping problem.
it for this month.
Keep your mind in the middle and
a leg on each side.
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