While I'm on my journey with Cookie, we are working on those tedious little issues that apparently were not covered in her foundation training, or something such as a bad experience happened along the way to cause problems.
We are working on picking those feet up. She does alright, just not great at it. I would prefer she pick her foot up on a voice cue rather than my having to shift her weight to pick her foot up. She's not fond of having her hind feet bothered with for whatever reason and tends to jerk her foot away if she feels you've had it too long. Which sometimes is just after you've picked it up.
Starting at the beginning with her will be helpful because I'll know just where the problem is or where it begins.
If your horse has issues with picking their feet up, this is something you need to work on every day. The more those feet are handled in a proper way, the less trouble they will cause for your farrier. You certainly want to keep your farrier happy and returning! A horse without a hoof doesn't have a foundation to stand on. I don't mind stating the obvious, and even overstating the obvious. I've seen many people brush their horse, saddle up, jump on and take off without ever picking the feet out. One argument I received was the horse is barefoot and whatever gunk that is in there will get knocked out on the road or trail. Well, not to be obstinent here but that gunk can actually get packed in rather than knocked out so pick those feet. Picking the feet out will alert you to any problems with the hoof and catching it early is the recipe for successful treatment.
I'm starting this process by having Cookie stand square first. If one leg is forward or backwards and not square, your horse will have to step to square up and that can mean they put the pressure on the leg you are holding and lean on you. Get them squared first. Now Cookie isn't great at squaring up. This will kill 2 birds with one stone by teaching her to square and then the cue to pick her foot up. If you are a verbal command type person, you can use the word "square" to help your horse know what is coming and "leg" to pick up the foot. So, we square first, then I'll run my hand down the back of the knee to the middle of the cannon bone area and give a little squeeze then say "leg". I do this a couple of times, then I'll lean on her just a little to throw her off balance so she has to pick that foot up. Hold the foot up, pick it out and then gently replace it to the ground. If she starts to lean on me, I'll drop the foot and step back a bit at the same time. I want her to figure out that she cannot lean on me to put her foot down or to move around. You don't want 1000 lbs leaning on you for support. I have had that happen and it's not pleasant when their foot comes crashing down on top of yours because they're leaning on you and you can't hold them up. Lesson learned for me and the next time they leaned, I dropped that foot which caused them to catch themselves. After a few times of dropping that foot on the ground and stepping back out of the way, they soon learned it wasn't pleasant for them.
Nothing I do or suggest here is going to hurt the horse. It may make them uncomfortable, but it's not painful and I'm not being mean. Realizing these animals are heavy, huge, powerful and can hurt you in the blink of an eye will keep YOU safe.
Repeat this process for all for feet. You can do it a couple of times for each foot, but don't go overboard or your horse will get bored and stand firm on all fours rendering the lesson useless.
If you have a young horse that is just learning this process, you may have to go slower with them. Meaning you might only get them to pick their foot up for a very short period and then put it back on the ground. Fighting them to keep that leg up isn't worth the energy you will express in the process and it will cause them to have a bad experience. When they pick their foot up, hold it a bit longer each time until you are able to hold it for an extended period of time to clean the hoof out thoroughly.
Eventually Cookie will pick her foot up with a verbal cue. That is the ultimate goal for this lesson. We'll work on it every day until we are there 100%. Today is learning the first steps: Squaring up and "leg" cue.
Don't get discouraged if you've tried this 20 times and your horse still isn't getting it. Some horses grasp what you're asking faster than others. Still others may not grasp doing it this way at all. You have to find what works for you and your horse, this just happens to be the way I'm doing it.
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