I have dealt with some grumpy farriers over the years and really, I can’t blame them. They travel around, especially at this time of year, trimming horses that, like mine, have spent the winter gorging themselves on free-choice hay and now resemble the roundness of the bales they have been pigging out on. My horse is not only fat, but he’s a little sassy. Standing around to have his hooves trimmed is not on his priority list and his patience never goes to great lengths--which is a recipe for disaster. I am grateful for the service my farriers provide and the great job they do. I have found, however, that there are a few tips and tricks for preparing my horses so they stand better for their spring trim. This is in no way meant to be a professional trainer’s opinion and I give no guarantee that this will work in every situation, so use these tips at your own risk. This is simply something that has worked for me.
No, I don’t go out and ride my horse for hours with feet that need to be trimmed, but a bit of a warm-up on a long line just to take his nervous edge off seems to do wonders for my four-legged bundles of energy. Once my horse is relaxed, licking his lips and looking like he is ready to pay attention, he is much less likely to throw a fit when the farrier pulls out the rasp, nippers or start the shoeing process. I like to start working with him a day or two before the farrier is scheduled to arrive because it gives him a little more chance to settle into the routine. For some horses, I’m sure it works to pull them out of the pasture and go straight to work without a hiccup, but others need a little time to switch gears from hay-bale mode to listen-up mode. If you think your horse might be one that takes a little time, it never hurts to give him that. Otherwise, you might be putting him at a disadvantage before you ever start.
Get a Checkup
As a certified equine therapist, when my horses are not standing very good for the farrier, I often ask them to hold up a minute for me to make a quick check. Often, I have found that my pudgy horse has a few issues and problems picking up his feet that are not really behavior issues, but an issue of discomfort. Now, I must stress that at times I like to think that behavior problems are not my fault and I assume it must be an issue with discomfort. Sometimes it is difficult to make that distinction, so if you’re suspicious there might be a problem or your horse is acting strange, getting an equine therapist to have a look is probably not a bad idea. I have been asked by several farriers, after they have seen the difference in my horses, if they can refer people to me or if I would be interested in traveling around with them.
Test the Waters
I try to leave my horse barefoot if at all possible, but if I do plan on having him shod, I try picking up his feet and slapping the palm of my hand on his cleaned hoof just to get him used to the sound and a similar feel to a hammer. Chances are that if he won’t stand still for me slapping the bottom of his hoof, he’s not going to stand still for a farrier and needs a little more time. He might need a slight change to what he’s doing, but I can always come back to picking up his feet. For my horse, tossing the end of a long lead rope around his legs is a great way to calm his nerves about having his feet handled, but I try to be sure that I’m giving him the option of moving around, checking his responses when he does move to see if he leaves a standstill smoothly and with a relaxed expression.
Wishing you all the best this spring season!
Photo Courtesy of Flickr Photo Sharing by: Tuchodi, Pedicure
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