Teaching to stand still and pick up feet. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 03-01-2009, 04:28 PM Thread Starter
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Teaching to stand still and pick up feet.

My 8 month old has been doing wonderfully with learning to pick up his feet. However, I've come across something I think needs attention before I continue. Now, it may or may not, you please be the judge. This is my very first baby of my own, so the first time I'm doing all of this with a baby.

I am teaching him to be tied. I have done it several times now, and what I do is take his leadline and just loop it around a bar of the fence, and I hold onto the other end. This way, I can hold onto it so he he can't pull any, but if he really freaks out I can give a little so he doesn't scare himself. I want it to be learned, but I don't want him to have to scare himself into anything. I see videos of training horses to tie and all they do is literally tie them for several minutes until they give in to being tied. Is this really the way to do it? I feel bad doing that to him.

So he has been doing great with obeying the line and not testing it now. But now we've come up with another issue. He prances in place, or gets skittish and will move back and forth ever so slightly, but its almost like he's nervous. I pat him and talk to him soothingly, and he'll stand then for maybe a few seconds. Then starts again.

He does this when I ask him to pick up his feet. He will skitter around a little, and move sideways away from me. So if I put him next to a wall or the gate, he will go back & forth again. When I ask for him hoof, he picks up his leg nicely. But he doesn't hold it long enough for me to actually hold his little hoof. He will stomp it back down to the ground then act nervous again.

I was trying to figure out why, and realized he doesn't like his legs touched. I know the only way to get him over that is to keep doing it and make it a pleasant experience. I have been trying to. I will stand there, with him "tied" and just place my hand on the top of his leg, and rub gently and talk to him. But he prances in place again.

How do I get him to relax? I have never been anything but soft and soothing with him. The lady I got him from was the same way. He leads excellent, never tests you and follows you everywhere. Never tries to run off. He backs up without even having to touch him, just jingling the lead a little and he knows. He stops when you say "Whoa", and he knows how to lunge. He is a an amazing little guy, and very smart. He is so willing to please and so level-headed. I don't understand why this leg thing is becoming an issue.

Help, please.
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post #2 of 7 Old 03-01-2009, 04:41 PM
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I do the tying lessons the same way basically. I used to do it as the Cherry Hill states with and inner tube but I got some blocker ties and they work better at least for me. Here are a couple of pages for you to look at Cherry Hill Horsekeeping Newsletter, August 2000
Tying a Young Horse Cherry Hill's Newborn Foal
As far as picking up the feet, start by throwing the lead rope around his feet until he will stand still while you toss the rope. You need to desensitize his legs so he's used to them being touched. The hardest thing to do is hang onto the foot and its also the most important. Once you have committed to picking up the foot, you have to hand onto it no matter how much dancing around you have to do.

Heres a Cherry Hill page on that too. They make it look much easier than it is Horse Care:Foal Hoof Care
edt- I used a lot of little Sherlocks pages when my kids were tiny. They were very helpful hope they will be to you too.

"Until one has loved an animal, part of one's soul remains unawakened..."
- Anatole France

Last edited by Vidaloco; 03-01-2009 at 04:44 PM.
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post #3 of 7 Old 03-01-2009, 07:55 PM
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Forget about picking up his hooves until he has learned to relax and be at peace with you. When he is already having a hard time being relaxed, trying to pick up his feet when he is in that state of mind will only worsen his anxiety.
You can help him rid his stress by a few things. The first thing I would do is put him in his place to be tied, and the moment he acts nervous simply remove him and walk him around until he is relaxed. Then return to tie him. Repeat this until he decides that nothing scary is going to happen in that place. Try tying him in different areas, not just in one spot.
Another thing is that sometimes with these type horses instead of responding to his every concern it can actually cause them to be more afraid. To have him look to you as his comfort, you need to be brave and not respond to his anxiety with a concerned, soothing type energy. Instead, act like it's not happening. Continue your work as though you don't notice he is fidgety. Play with his mane, find an itchy spot, brush his neck, but remain calm and quiet like you do not notice he is upset. He will pick up your nonchalant attitude and begin to settle. When you notice he does settle a bit, remove him and put him away.
To work on desensitizing him to the touch on his legs, do it in an area he is comfortable in. Like his pen, or wherever he is kept. He sounds light and willing, but you have to take your time with these kinds or sometimes you'll end up going backwards rather than forwards. :)

In riding, a horse's energy is like a river- guided by the banks but not stopped by them.
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post #4 of 7 Old 03-02-2009, 11:21 PM
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Actually, picking up the hooves can make the horse more comfortable with you!

When I adopted 2 mustangs from the BLM in 2003, I used a rope to desensitize them as they went around me in the roundpen, and was able to pick up and move their feet with a rope before they were halter broke.
Horses that have respect/fear problems can benefit from having their feet worked with and being able to hobble them in different ways. A gentle horse isn't gentle if he won't give you his feet. Just an intresting note, as I don't always train horses that way, it was just easier to touch their legs with a rope from a distance than it was to get a halter on them since they were pretty wild. There are many different ways to train. But you don't have to hold off working on the legs in favor of anything else, you can briefly include it in your sessions with everything else.In fact, it is beneficial to work on several things briefly with a baby, and just look for some slight improvement, then go on to the next thing. They have short attention spans and moving on is a reward of sorts.
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post #5 of 7 Old 03-03-2009, 02:23 PM
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I train foals to tie the same way you do! It works great. As far as the feet go, all the foals I've worked with have been imprinted and don't know anything different than picking up their feet and holding them for twenty minutes if need be. But I did work with some yearlings and two year olds that had not been trained to be good with their feet.

Definately get your foal desensitized to having his legs touched by your hands, ropes and stuff and then you can work on actually getting him to lift them. When he's ready for this stage run your hand down his leg and say "foot" or whatever command you use. When he lifts it - even half an inch put it down immediately and praise him. Then do it again. Increase the time and how much he lifts it each time and remember to praise him lots. Soon he'll hold it for however long you need.

If you make him lift his foot the first time and not let it go he will panic and try to pull it. But if you do it in small steps he'll realize, "hey, thats not so bad," and forget to be nervous. Definately work on a close bond with him so he trusts you explicitly too. This makes a huge difference as well. Good luck!
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post #6 of 7 Old 03-03-2009, 02:34 PM
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This sounds like a typical young horse. Young horses dont like to have their feet up in the air for long periods of time because they are not as balanced as a full grown horse. You will just have to work with him and keep his hoof in the air a few seconds longer each time you pick his feet up. With a young horse, it takes a while for them to hold their hooves up for long amounts of time. As for him being a little skittish, desensitizing will work wonders. Walk him over obstacles, throw blankets on his back, and just do things to him that are going to make him be skittish and he will get used to it and not be so afraid. Just remember that the #1 key to working with young horses is consistancy. Horses dont think, they remember. So if you work with him often on these things, he will soon remember that these things will not hurt him. Ive trained many young horses and this is what has worked for me, hope it works with you!
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post #7 of 7 Old 03-03-2009, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by bilyeuamber View Post
This sounds like a typical young horse. Young horses dont like to have their feet up in the air for long periods of time because they are not as balanced as a full grown horse. You will just have to work with him and keep his hoof in the air a few seconds longer each time you pick his feet up. With a young horse, it takes a while for them to hold their hooves up for long amounts of time.


You pick up a leg, you take away the balance. As fight or flight animals, it is un nerving for them.

As for his fussing while tied - time. The attention span at that age is very short. We work with them for 10-15 minutes at that age.
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