September 25, 2012
Horse training from the ground up: Asking politely for your horse's feet.
From AQHA's “Fundamentals of Horsemanship”
If you’ve messed with very many horses’ hooves, most likely you’ve come across the type of horse who anticipates the request to lift a hoof, raising up his foot just as you run your hand down his leg. That’s well and good, unless you’re trying to doctor or wrap that leg.
You’ve also likely encountered horses who resist, either by pulling their legs away or leaning heavily on the person holding the hoof. That is also well and good, unless you want to take care of your back or your farrier.
The solution is to give the horse a specific cue that means: “I’d like you to give me your foot.” From Step 1 of AQHA’s “Fundamentals of Horsemanship,” here’s how to do it:
First, make sure you are able to rub each leg. Begin on a foreleg by standing in close to the horse’s shoulder, with the lead rope draped over the arm closest to the horse and held in the opposite hand. Slide the closest hand down the horse’s leg and begin rubbing his leg.
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If the horse picks up his leg and offers it to you, don’t take it. Just keep rubbing the leg until it’s still. You don’t want the horse to anticipate because one day when you need to treat an injury or put on a bandage or protective boot, the horse will be lifting his leg when you don’t want him to.
Once the leg stays still as you rub it, slide your hand down to the chestnut. Start pinching the chestnut very softly between your thumb and forefinger, and gradually increase the pressure until the horse lifts up his foot.
At first, release the chestnut as soon as the horse lifts his hoof. Then slide your hand down and take the hoof when he lifts it. Tap on the hoof with your hand to simulate farrier work.
Soon, a light pressure on the chestnut will be enough for the horse to lift his hoof, and this will be your “switch” to clearly tell him what you’d like and avoid having to pull his hoof up.
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On back legs, it’s much the same. Keep the horse’s head turned slightly toward you and stand with your shoulder next to his, holding the rope as described above. Stay in close to the horse for your safety.
Keep rubbing a back leg until it’s still, then pinch the cap of the horse’s hock. Very gradually, increase the pressure, and when the horse offers you his leg, take it and simulate farrier work.
Remember, it’s not your farrier’s job to train your horse; that’s your job.
If the horse moves, continue rubbing his leg as if you were painting it and do not stop until he stops moving, then start again. You can not prevent him from moving, but you can make it less comfortable for him to do so.