Farrier Training: Getting Your Horse to Stand

Farrier Training Your Horse

There are many horses that fidget, lean, snatch their feet away or worse still, kick when the farrier is attempting to trim their feet or shoe them.

This can be frustrating for both the owner and the farrier and could potentially cause a breakdown in the relationship between yourself, the farrier and your horse.

Training Your Horse to Stand for the Farrier.

One of the most important aspects of horse care is looking after your horses feet.

We all hope that this is an easy part of horse ownership, but unfortunately this is not always the case.

Finding a good farrier is a job in itself.

Without risking that they may refuse to come back and shoe your horse because it has just taken hours to pick up your horse’s hoof.

Your farrier can see many horses during the course of a day and is usually very busy.
Training Your Horse for the Farrier

There is also the possibility that you or the farrier could get hurt if your horse is frightened.

And the situation can deteriorate if you and your horse become ever more anxious and upset about a visit from your farrier.

This can create a circle of frustration for all concerned.

The answer for a lot of horse owners is to sedate the horse, and in an emergency situation this can be an acceptable short term solution. However sedating should not be a long-term solution.

It is you, the horse owners, responsibility for farrier training; to train the horse to willingly lift his feet and allow the farrier to work on them.

This can be accomplished fairly quickly by not asking to much of the horse too soon and this even applies to young and older remedial horses.

So, Where to start on farrier training …

Firstly we need to look at the reasons why horses can be difficult when handling their feet.

  • A horses first line of defence is to run away, this is difficult if you have hold of its foot. The horse will feel vulnerable.
  • The horse has never been properly taught how to lift its feet.
  • The horse may have been mishandled in the past while having its feet lifted.
  • There may be a physical problem making it painful for the horse to lift the foot you are working on, or put his weight on the other three feet.

Bearing the above points in mind lets click through to page (1) and try to see things from your horses point of view, to help it through the problem rather than blame it for it.

Training your Horse for the Farrier.

When training a horse to have his feet worked on, we need to break the training down into small bite-size chunks.

Farrier training - picking out horse feet

So although ultimately we want the horse to stand quietly when having his feet held up and worked on, this is unlikely to happen during the first training session, just as you wouldn’t expect a recently started four year old to do a perfect dressage test.

We need to look for small improvements and end a training session on a good note, rather than ask for more than the horse can understand and risk confusing it.

  • All horses are individuals, so it’s difficult to say how long a training session should last, but anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes twice a day.
  • If you don’t have time for two sessions a day then once a day will also get results, but it will take a little longer to end up with a calm well-behaved horse.

Initially, you should work with your horse in a safe enclosed area, this can be a small area of field sectioned off with electric fencing (turned off), a menage or a round pen.

This is to make sure that, if the horse somehow gets away from you while you are working, it can’t get into a dangerous situation and you don’t have to walk far to catch it again.

Don’t work with your horse tied up at first, this can cause your horse to panic if he feels that he can’t get away from something he thinks may be a danger.localriding.com

In addition to a safe area it’s a good idea to have a bamboo cane or walking stick, about 1 metre long with some padding on one end, or you can even make it into a false arm using an old glove to look like a hand.

Start your farrier training with your horses front legs …
  • To begin with stroke your horse’s neck and slowly make your way down to the shoulder
  • Iif the horse is happy and hasn’t moved away, stop and take your hand away.
  • Then gradually work your way down the front leg, taking your hand away each time you go a little further.
  • Reward him by giving him a nice stroke.

Working like this you will soon be able to touch all the way down the leg to the hoof, with the horse remaining relaxed.

If you find that you can only get to the knee during the initial sessions, that’s fine, finish on a good note and attempt to get further down the leg in the next session.

Now working on the back legs …
  • use the same technique, but use the false arm.
  • If the horse kicks out or steps away, try to keep the arm on, or at least near, the leg.
  • As soon as the horse stops, take the arm away to reward the horse for doing the right thing (in this case stopping kicking or moving away).
  • Whilst doing this work keep yourself calm and relaxed, as this will also help the horse.
  • As with the front legs it will not be long before you are able to touch all the way down the back legs and around the fetlock area with the false arm.

Once you are happy with how the horse is reacting to this you can try to touch down the leg with your own hand.

  • Do alternate between legs during a training session to keep things a little more interesting for the horse (and you).
  • This will also help to get the horse happy having all his feet lifted.
  • There are a lot of horses that are really good having their nearside front leg lifted, and gradually get worse as you work your way round.
  • There is no rule that states what order the horses feet need to be lifted in.

Okay, your horse now lets you touch all his legs whilst standing calmly. Now you now need to be able to pick up his feet.
For the front legs …,
  • run your hand down to just behind the knee and, whilst standing a little to the side, gently pull forward.
  • As soon as the horse lifts his leg put it down and give him a stroke.
  • Continue like this, holding it up a little longer each time.
  • Once again do not ask for too much too soon, it’s best to do too little than risk upsetting the horse and undoing all the previous good work.
  • When you are able to lift and hold the leg up by pulling it forward, gently try getting it into the more usual position by bringing the hoof back and under as if you were about to pick it out.
  • Again reward the horse by putting the foot down, and go to the other side to do the same with that foot.
  • Now try gently picking the front feet up in the normal way.
  • If the horse finds it difficult, go back a step, lift the legs forward again and repeat the above, he will soon get the idea.

Continue training with the horse’s back legs …
  • Using the padded walking stick, stroke down the leg and hook the curved handle around the fetlock.
  • Gently pull forward, when the horse lifts his foot immediately put it down and remove the walking stick.
  • Repeat this several times, gradually increasing the time you have the foot lifted.
  • Again when you are happy with how the horse is coping with this, lift his foot with your hand, but do, at this stage, lift it by pulling forward as you did with the walking stick.
Based on an Original Articleby Garry Bosworth

Once the horse is happy having his feet lifted and held up you can start to get him used to having them held as the farrier would hold them. So do take note of the positions that the farrier uses.

NOTE: If your horse is to be shod regularly, get him used to having his feet tapped and the sound of hot metal in water.

Maybe have him around when another horse on the yard is being hot shod.

Let him see and smell the smoke and experience the noise (obviously ask the owners of the other horse first).

Finally, keep practicing
And try to make farrier training a regular part of your horse’s routine. This will reassure your horse that having its feet worked on is a completely normal part of life; and will reinforce all your efforts.