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Farrier Prep Q&A

My 2 year old gelding (Level 1-2 ground skills, Level 1 Riding Tasks) just will not stand for me when I trim his feet! I can pick up his feet and play the Friendly Game all over, but when I go to his hind feet and put one between my legs to start trimming he’ll stand a while then jerk his leg back as hard as he can. I’ve tried letting his leg go, realizing that it’s probably a lack of confidence/claustrophobic act, but he still persists in the behavior! How can I handle this problem naturally!?

Oh boy, this is a level 3 or 4 thing. But I guess you have to deal with it now! We recommend using an extension of your arm (a 22′ line), put it around his fetlock and then teach him to hold his leg up. Every time it’s up you release the tension, when it goes down you increase the tension, releasing when he moves in the direction you want.

Over the next several sessions you would get to where you could teach the horse to hold his leg out at different angles, like it was his idea because this is where he finds release. IMPORTANT: don’t tie your horse up when you do this. Be in a round pen or something like that and have a 12′ line on him so if anything goes wrong you can bring his head towards you and comfort him with the Friendly Game. The next thing to check is the angle at which you are holding the foot and for how long. Think of the horse’s balance needs and you will find that holding the foot out behind his body and more in line with his hip is going to work better. Start low and teach your horse to gradually be able to handle higher and higher angles. It seems that when we hold it out too far to the side, and too high, the horse starts to get uncomfortable. Same with holding it there too long. Condition your horse to longer and longer periods a little at a time and use lots of massaging in the process. Us humans tend to want it all at once! Get that foot down before it’s his idea and he’ll be grateful that you are sensitive to his needs. Trust these principles and a few techniques will help. Good for you for thinking from the horse’s point of view.

I have a 3-year-old Arabian gelding that I’ve had since birth. I believe he’s a Left-Brain Introvert. I’ve been doing the level 1/2 ground skills and he’s good with the 7 Games. He’s very calm and accepting of everything except handling his feet. The past year I have spent enormous amounts of time playing with him and his feet. He now lets me pick up and clean all four, just standing with the lead and halter on. Now the problem is that he won’t let the blacksmith touch his feet. My blacksmith is very patient and has tried using treats, playing the Friendly Game with the Carrot Stick and just spending time with him in the stall, but obviously he can’t hang out with us for hours. I’ve tried playing with him in the round pen before the blacksmith arrives and he’ll appear to be calm and accepting, but he changes as soon as the blacksmith tries to work with him. I’ve also tried having other people pick up his feet and the same thing happens. I’m the only one he allows to handle his feet. How to I transfer this now to other people?

Pat has a saying that applies here: If you want your horse to be confident with crows, teach him to be confident with eagles. Put another way, if the job is as big as a grain of sand, prepare him for a job that is a big as a basket ball. It is great that you first try to get your horse in the mood to be with the farrier. I would continue to do that. Try to specialize your play to his horsenality. Generally, left brain horses are pretty confident, but they are easily bored so you’ll need to get him interested. You are on the right track by getting other people to pick up his feet. Keep expanding on that. Expand on your Friendly and Porcupine games. Get him leading by a leg. Do extreme Friendly Game things. In comparison, the farrier will seem easy. Overall, You need to continue to progress your relationship with this horse. By the time you and he get to Level 3, these sorts of issues will no longer exist. Remember: it’s not about the farrier. It is about your leadership and your relationship with your horse.

“Know that when a horse gives you his feet he also gives you his life.”

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