With my mare, I like to give her lots of warnings that I'm about to pick up her hooves. I do the same routine of things every time when I pick out her hooves and I pick out her hooves in the same order every time so now she often starts picking the "first" hoof up at the first "warning".
So here's my list:
1. Let her sniff the hoof pick
2. Cluck once and poke her shoulder (this is what she picks her hooves up for now)
3. If she doesn't pick her hoof up for that, the next step is squeezing the fetlock.
4. If that doesn't work, I try shoving her in the shoulder with my shoulder to get her to shift her weight over (so it's easier for her to pick up the hoof), then I squeeze the fetlock again.
5. If fetlock squeezing+shoving doesn't work, I whack her with the pick end of the hoof pick, in the pastern area.
I would use extreme caution doing that to her back hooves but I've found that once you get the fronts up, the backs are pretty easy.
The whack gets her to pick up her feet, no more goosing around. I use the whack as a "last resort" type measure. I give her enough opportunities to pick up her hooves before the whack comes into play that whacking is very rarely engaged.
I've used it on all manner of horses and usually, after one whack, they're picking their feet up really nicely from then on.
Another thing that seems to often go unnoticed when people are trying to pick up feet, is how the horse's weight is distributed. If a horse is resting a back foot, it's going to be very difficult for them to comfortable lift and hold up a front hoof. Or, if one front leg is really under the horse and the back two are in varying places out behind the horse, the one front foot that seems "square" is going to be impossible to pick up because all the horse's weight is going to be on it.
That's the reason I let my mare sniff the pick before I use it. Often, I see her rearrange herself after that sniff so that her feet are relatively square vs being all over the place.
Good luck! :)
ETA (I missed your question about braiding)- I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "braid it so it looks natural" but my favorite "fancy" braids to use are a running braid for the mane (which is basically a one sided french braid), and to tightly french braid the hair on her tail bone, leaving the longest hair to "poof" out the bottom of the braid.
Fabio - 13 year old Arab/QH gelding
Hazel - 14 year old Angora goat
Atticus - 4 year old LaMancha/Alpine cross goat
Rest peacefully, Lacey.
Last edited by Wallaby; 01-19-2012 at 04:49 PM.