Kicking/foot handling issues ... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 05-20-2013, 12:33 AM Thread Starter
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Kicking/foot handling issues ...

Hi, I'm looking for pointers on a horse that has some issues with allowing people to touch her feet. She's more or less refusing to allow handling on her feet, and kicks if you persist.

It's a recent development, she's had sore feet and didn't like being treated. She's become very defensive of her legs.

To give the story so far:

We've recently acquired her, she's a 6yo thoroughbred, trained but never raced, then left as a paddock mate only for 3 years. In that time she was more or less only handled to trim her feet, and intermittently saddled and lunged.

When we veiwed her at her last home, we picked up and cleaned all her feet, no problems. We observed there was some thrush present, clearly because her feet hadn't been picked out for several weeks, they were really packed. She was a little wincy about walking on the gravel drive.

She was more or less indifferent to people, fully handled but no idea that people could be nice friends.

We got her home, left her to settle in her new paddock for the night. It rained ... and rained ... buckets. By the time the rain let up, her thrush was a lot worse, she was noticeably lame in one foot, and also on heat and very marish indeed.

We picked up the foot, she wasn't near as good as she had been before, it was sore and she was on heat. We picked it out and packed it with copper. Hindsight, a bad idea, it stung something horrible.

After that she was very touchy about having her feet handled, we got the sore one up again, and used borax this time as it doesn't sting, and it worked well, thrush no longer a problem after 4 treatments in 7 days.

We thought that she'd return to her normal behavior once they no longer hurt, but she hasn't. She's basically forbidden handling of her feet. We need to get to them as the other three hooves need seeing to too, but she's put her foot down so to speak.

The front feet, she'll just yank them back and jump away. Maybe try and nip if she's really upset.

The back ones she'll kick out with. She's never hit anyone, and she could have, but golly she lashes out hard and within an inch of my side, and I need to correct this issue before it gets too ingrained.

She's not being nasty, just reacting in fear and defending herself, but whatever the reason its not safe.

I'm at a bit of a loss. We have three mustangs here that we tamed right from wild state, and handling their feet we just brushed and handled down the legs bit by bit until they were comfortable, just gentled them in in their own time. Persist until they accepted it quietly once, then stop, pressure off. Start again.

But Holly has a very definite boundary and reacts badly to any stroking down her legs. Unlike the wild girls, with persistence, she gets upset.

Does anyone have any suggestions to desensitize these legs and feet? She basically has no trust, no idea she can trust.

She hasn't been abused, but she's been abandoned, and doesn't like having people trying to be part of her life again.
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post #2 of 7 Old 05-20-2013, 01:48 AM
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Tough if she gets upset.
This horse has you well and truly taped.

The frog has very little feeling if she is lame it is probably because she is thin soled which has been softened by the rain, and bruised the sole.

She is being nasty because she is kicking, biting and getting 'upset' when you persist.

Personally with the experience I have. I would just go in and pick her foot up. When she snatched the leg away she would get me being very cross. This is not a pretty sight. I do not beat the horse up but it will sure know that I am not going to take any nonsense - I own the air they breathe.

Get a 4' thin pole, stuff an old glove and tape it to the end of the pole. Use that to feel up and down her legs. If she starts to mess around keep the hand on her legs.
Place a rope around her hind leg and use that to pull her foot up and hold it. If she kicks, keep a hold on the rope standing by her shoulder out of range. Keep pulling the leg up and down until she stops her nonsense.

Stop making excuses for her bad behaviour and get tough with her. She is testing and expanding the boundaries. Correct every bit of bad behaviour whether it is to do with her feet or not.
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post #3 of 7 Old 05-20-2013, 07:21 AM
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post #4 of 7 Old 05-20-2013, 08:17 AM
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Hi. Welcome to the Horse Forum. I am sorry you are having problems.

What I see is that the inmate is running the asylum. I have never let a horse 'forbid' me from doing anything -- ever. She is in charge here and she knows it. She does not need for you to be her friend. As a herd animal, she needs you to be a firm but fair leader that does not ask for her input or opinion on anything.

Is she trained to tie solidly? If not, that is where I would start.

There are basically 2 ways that we use to teach horses to let us handle their feet. If their feet have never been handled, we always use a big, long, soft rope. We 'sack out' the horse with the big rope and the use it to pick up their feet, particularly their hind feet.

If their feet have been handled like your horse has and they have just gotten spoiled, I just use discipline when they do the wrong thing. I usually just put a little 1/8 inch piece of string under the horse's upper lip in a way that I can tighten it to 'discipline' the horse when it jerks its feet or does anything else that is unacceptable. This works very well on a horse that has gotten spoiled on having its front feet handled. You do not jerk the string hard and you never want to lose your temper with it, but a little tug on it immediately when a horse jerks its foot will have about any horse that has been trained, behaving well in about 2 or 3 minutes.

I have found that if I say a sharp "Ah!" whenever I jerk the lip string, very quickly, anything the horse does that is unacceptable, I can just say "Ah!" and it will stop it immediately.

I just went through this with a 12 year old gelding I recently bought to put in our trail string. I knew this horse had been shod most of its life. So, when he started jerking his feet away from the student trying to shoe him at the horse showing school that does our trail horses, I just went to the truck and got a flat web halter and a 'lip string' and he had an instant 'attitude adjustment'. In less than 5 minutes, he gave a big 'sigh', dropped his head about a foot and that was the end of taking his feet away. He actually would not pull his front feet away. He would just suddenly, without warning, stomp them straight down. This is a very big horse and no one was going to 'hold' his foot up. He was smarter than that. [He was also very spoiled to ride and he straightened up after only 3 or 4 rides from husband.] He has turned into a real sweetheart. He meets me at the gate and follows me around when I am in his field. He was not looking for a friend. He was looking for a firm leader.

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post #5 of 7 Old 05-20-2013, 08:37 AM
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The trainer at my barn had a simple solution for my gelding when he had an abscess in his foot and "Refused" to let it be handled:

He looped a rope around his foot and lifted the foot with the rope, and stood well out of range. He would kick and protest, but the MOMENT he stopped, he let him put his foot down (you've got to have some good strength AND A PAIR OF GLOVES to be able to hang on while he is kicking) he would then repeat the process. It took him MAYBE 10 minutes, but he walked over, picked up that foot, and cleaned it with no problem. Horses don't know that you are trying to help them, and as mean is it is, sometimes telling them to just suck it up is the only way to treat them. I haven't had any problems with him since that event.
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post #6 of 7 Old 05-20-2013, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Barnes19 View Post
and also on heat and very marish indeed....................

The front feet, she'll just yank them back and jump away. Maybe try and nip if she's really upset...................

The back ones she'll kick out with. She's never hit anyone, and she could have, but golly she lashes out hard and within an inch of my side, and I need to correct this issue before it gets too ingrained.......................

She's not being nasty, ..............................

She hasn't been abused, but she's been abandoned, and doesn't like having people trying to be part of her life again.

She's got your number and you're making excuses for her bad behaviour.

#1 - being in heat is never an excuse for bad behaviour for a mare.

If one of mine tries to be pissy during a heat cycle I will come down on them twice as hard as I would when they aren't in heat. Unless they have an ovarian cyst that is causing pain, and that's rare indeed, they are never allowed to have a Marish Attitude.

#2 - Trying to nip and kick and she's NOT being Nasty?

I don't want to meet her on a really bad day. The lip string, or a lip chain or a twitch or even a chain through her mouth like a bit, will all work wonders for her attitude. Understand one thing clearly, she is not being NASTY she is being an absolute B*TCH and you need to nip it in the bud right now before she hurts someone badly. You've been given some very good suggestions for calming her attitude down. Stop humanizing (anthropomorphising) her, she's a HORSE and needs a firm leader not a BFF.

#3 - She's not been Abused but she's been Abandoned.

That's the worst excuse for bad behaviour I've ever heard. Then she ought to get on her knees and say Grace before every meal she's so grateful. See what I mean about humanizing? She's a horse and either you're in charge or she is. Right now, she is very firmly in charge.
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post #7 of 7 Old 05-20-2013, 10:39 AM
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Yup. Most horses would prefer abandonment -- especially if there was adequate forage around and another horse or two.
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