05 February 2011

I Want The Best

How do I get them? By making sure my horses are trained to accept anything and everything the best have to offer...

"What is she talking about now?" you ask?

Veterinarians, hoof trimmers, equine dentists, message therapists, acupuncturists, et al. I only want the best at my farm. The way to keep the best returning is to present them with horses that stand perfectly still, are completely obedient and happy to comply with their wishes.

Let's talk about the hoof trimmer for this go 'round.

A reliable hoof trimmer/farrier will have more clients than they can handle. It is the nature of the business for them to gravitate to customers who have horses that behave perfectly. A few signs that your farrier is tired of dealing with obstinate horses would be when they refuse to answer phone calls, or continually show up late. Give it some thought. From their perspective, they are in a back breaking business - literally. In order to make a living in this difficult occupation, they must maintain excellent back and leg health and they can't do that when a horse is jerking their leg around, or refusing to stand still, or is leaning on them. If I've heard this once, I've heard this a thousand times - it is not the farrier's job to train a horse to pick up his feet, stand still, hold that foot up, or stop leaning.

Fix these things about your horse and you will have a hoof trimmer who will hurry over to your house whenever you call!

First, handle the feet daily: Teach the horse to pick up the foot that you touch. Do this often enough and pretty soon, that horse will pick up the foot when you stand next to him. Here's what I mean. If I stand next to Ziggy's right front, he shifts his weight onto his two hind and left front legs. If I bend over, he picks his right front up and I catch his hoof in my hand. The same thing happens if I stand next to his left hind. When I bend over, that is his cue to lift his hoof. My job is to gently cradle that hoof in my hand while I work on it.

Second, handle the feet daily: Don't just pick them out. That is a relatively quick job, whereas farrier work requires the foot to be held off the floor for long periods of time. Pick the feet up and hold them between your knees for at least five minutes. Too difficult? No problem. Put the foot on a hoof stand and hold it there. During the five minutes, hammer, pick, poke, pry, yank and crank on that foot. Do this gently, but be sure to mimic what a farrier does and do it on every foot, every day.

Third, handle the feet daily    :-)    Teach your horse to balance on his three remaining legs. Each time you hold a foot and you feel the horse lean on you, drop the leg suddenly. Yes! Drop it! It won't take longer than three times for that foot to crash to the floor before the horse realizes that if they lean (even a little bit) you will refuse to support that weight. Pretty soon, the horse is standing nicely on a tripod, because they are happy NOT to have that foot slam to the ground.

Lastly, here are two more tips that might encourage your hoof trimmer to spend more time at your place:

  1. Horsey, my horsey - Leave the hoof trimmer's pony tail alone; contrary to popular belief - it is not a toy!
  2. Regardless of flies - Keep your tail still. (Yes horses can learn to keep their tails hanging straight down while the farrier is working back there.)

1 comment:

  1. I was thinking about why Maggie and Katiehorse seem a little uncomfortable with moving/stretching their legs for the farrier. They are very willing to do what is needed but it just seems to put them in an awkward position when they are asked to put their legs forward. So I thought well imagine if I only moved/streched in certain directions once every six weeks. I would feel awkward, maybe tight or stiff in the joints or muscles involved. So I thought I would try making them more comfortable by doing the movements with them more often. I never see people moving their horses legs the way a farrier does outside of just to pick the hooves out including myself. I decided on sets of three for each leg. Both horses were a little reluctant to relax initially, but by the third time I could see and feel them loosen up. I tried to help by relaxing myself and exhaling as I stretched their legs out. Maggie squealled at my initial attempt on her hind legs but by the third try also began to relax. Both had long sessions of multiple exagerated eye blinking yawns afterward. I will continue this practice on a regular basis and wait to see how/if our next natural trim session will refllect such practice.