Horse bad with feet - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 05-13-2012, 12:35 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2011
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Horse bad with feet


I have a 7 year old TB mare who is bad with her feet. When picking them, or when the farrier trims them she fusses and pulls.

I've had her for two years now, and when I first got her, her feet looked quite neglected, and I could barely pick up the rear ones to pick them, she would kick them back and pull them forward constantly, usually pulling them out of my hands at first. I started out by just holding onto her feet as best I could until she relaxed and stopped pulling, and that helped a lot. It was always mostly a problem with her back feet, she is fine with her front feet now, but she still has issues with her back feet, though not near as bad. Now when I pick up her back feet, she will tug them forward. Not hard enough to pull it right out of my hands, but just enough to make holding her feet a real pain. When she is doing this, she does not seem to be irritated or upset at all. She looks completely relaxed, if you were just looking at her front end you would have no idea she was doing anything.

I'm sure it is not a soreness issue, because she never shows signs of being sore or stiff, some days she will not pull at all.

I have tried just holding the foot and not letting go until she stops pulling, but I never saw any results. The problem just got worse. So now I've been giving her a quick tap on the rump with a riding crop everytime she pulls, and this works short term, for instance, she'll be pulling, get a smack, then smarten up and be good, but she just does it all over again next time I pick her feet. I would like to put an end to this so that we don't have to go through this everytime I pick up her feet.

Its as if she is just doing this to be difficult, but that is not at all her personality. She is very pleasant to ride, she is very very rarely "marish". I'm thinking she just got away with being bad with her feet for so long that its become habit, I just dont know what to do to get her over this.

I'm just looking for ideas on what I could do to stop this behavior.

Thanks, and sorry for such a long post.
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post #2 of 4 Old 05-13-2012, 07:14 AM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Orange County, NC
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You're doing the right things. Keep doing it, including the smack when necessary and it will eventually stop, and don't be afraid to make that 'quick tap' on the rump a more meaningful smack with your hand instead. With some young horses like yours, I've seen this behavior with the back legs just go away as they mature if you just continue to be consistent with what you're doing.

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post #3 of 4 Old 05-13-2012, 12:36 PM
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If you have done something over and over and it has not changed the bigger picture, doing it some more is probably not going change it now.

I think you hit the nail on the head that it is a habit; and as we know, horses are 'creatures of habit'.

My favorite way to permanently alter unwanted behavior is a simple 'lip string' or 'lip chain'. I personally favor the little 1/4 inch nylon string placed under a horse's upper lip. It never works if it is jerked or pulled on hard or if the handler loses their temper. But, nothing is more effective at TEACHING a horse what is and is not acceptable behavior.

It is easier to do with two people but can be done with only one. It is what I do 100% of the time if I have a horse that wants to give a farrier a bad time and wants to lean or jerk its feet. This IS NOT how I school a horse that is trying to kick hard or hurt someone. I take a different approach for that extremely dangerous bad habit.

For a horse like this one, the handler keeps the string snug enough that the horse cannot 'spit it out' but not tight enough to inflict pain or discomfort all of the time. You do not want to use it like a 'twitch'. Horses learn absolutely nothing when it is used as a twitch.

If I am holding a horse for a farrier and I have a lip string on it, this is what I do: I let the farrier know that I am going to reprimand the horse for jerking its feet and he can be ready to step away if he has to. Then, I just stand there, not petting or entertaining the horse in any way. The instant he jerks a foot, I say "Ah!" and give a small jerk on the string. The next time he jerks, I do the same thing but may jerk it a little harder this time. One of two jerk is all I do and then leave him alone to see if he has gotten the connection yet. As soon as I am done jerking the string, I just go back to standing quiet and holding the horse. I ALWAYS say "Ah!" when I reprimand any horse in any way. I want the horse to learn that association with negative reinforcement. Years later, I can be doing something by myself and when the horse just thinks about doing something unwanted, I can say "Ah!" and he will straighten right up. It become a 'conditioned response'.

If the horse insists on jerking a foot away, I keep upping the ante until I hit the point where it is no longer worth it to him. When I jerk one a lot harder than a little tug to get the point across, the farrier nearly always has to step back. I bought a gelding a while back and found out later that this 8 year old 'supposedly broke' gelding had to either be twitched or given ACE to shoe him. It took some pretty hard jerks on the string to get through to him. Now he just stands quietly like all of the rest on mine. When horses have been handled, have been shod or trimmed before and just do not stand well, there is not excuse or reason to put up with this kind of behavior.

We keep shoes on about 20 - 25 head at all times. About 5 or 6 are 'green' horses and the rest are solid 'broke' horses. They are all shod by students at the Oklahoma State Horseshoeing School. The instructors shoe horses with pathological problems and use them for instruction purposes. The inept, SLOW students have to have horses that stand good and don't need an experienced farrier. So, this method has withstood the test of time and has produced literally hundreds of horses that stand just like they are supposed to.

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post #4 of 4 Old 05-13-2012, 01:29 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Ontario
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Cherie, I do something along the same lines altho I always give the horse three chances before I increase the pressure, tapping, etc. The first time a mental connection is rarely made. The second time things are kinda coming together. By the third time the horse should have made the connection but the odd one needs a fourth chance. A "trick" I use for horses that pull a hoof away I will chase that horse into a circle and make it hustle for 3 circles. Again, it needs 3 chances to fully make the connection. This worked for a mare who decided to rear when having a front done. She needed only two hasty circles and stood nicely after that. I too use "Ah" preceeding further action and it has worked well for years, or Quit.
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