Training to pick up feet on a spooky/kicky horse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 10-23-2012, 02:20 AM Thread Starter
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Training to pick up feet on a spooky/kicky horse?

Hello, I've been lurking on the forum for a while and finally decided that with my new project horse that I needed some help. My friend was giving a 5 year old Morgan/QH stallion that the people that owned him thought it was cute when he did such things as rearing, biting, striking, etc. That is until he hit 1200lbs and was no longer cute. So for the last 3-4 years he has been sitting in a pasture bored out of his mind. I was deployed this summer when my friend got him and she quickly had him gelded and taught him the very basics on ground manners. After I got back, I got him and between her and me, he is learning not to do all the "cute" things but 1) he is still very spooky of people touching him 2) he has a nervous habit of striking the ground with his back hooves 3)he still is pulling back but now he thinks about it and usually comes back to the hitch.

After about a week of work I got his front feet to be able to hold up and work on but if you get close to his butt/back feet he still wants to haunch up and either plant his feet or starts his nervous kicking. He doesn't read like he's doing it to be mean or a jerk. His back feet are not that bad of shape but I'm hoping that I can get them trimmed before winter hits when it may not be possible for the farrier to get up there for a while. I've never worked with a horse that has never has his feet done that is also kick happy. I do have the goal of trying to do it without getting another hoof shaped scar on my thigh. Any suggestions?
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post #2 of 19 Old 10-23-2012, 06:43 AM
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Grooming. Brush him, run your hands around his back. Work your way to his legs. You need to desensitize him to having his body touched. Every day work your way a little lower. Don't forget to reward him for standing! It's working with my horse. I can get his fronts up now to clean them (for about 30 seconds)-- and I can even get him to partially lift his backs though I haven't tried holding them yet.

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post #3 of 19 Old 10-23-2012, 07:08 AM
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Sounds like you've done a wonderful job so far.

As for the back legs, get a towel or, for more safety, a soft rope (and gloves to prevent some serious rope burn), and some brute strength. You want to loop it around his leg, just below the fetlock, and stand by his shoulder. Pulling on the rope/towel will (hopefully!) Make him lift his hoof off the ground, enough that it looks like he is resting the leg just above the ground. The brute force comes in when he starts kicking. If he manages to pull the towel/rope through your hands, he wins. Once he stops kicking, drop the rope and let him have his leg back. It's a lot like the pressure system - once he behaves, he gets relief. Eventually you can bring the leg up higher or hold it up longer and, with any luck, you can eventually do it with your hands.

I've only use this method on 3 Y/O TB mare who had a habit of kicking her hind feet out of my hand, but it should work the same.
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post #4 of 19 Old 10-23-2012, 08:10 AM
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Forget picking his back feet up until you address the greater problem -- the spookines, the goosiness, the kicking and stomping of his feet, the setting back, the threatening of a handler that demonstrates a lack of basic ground training. He is not ready to pick his feet up.

I used to get in older unbroke and spoiled horses all of the time. I tried many different approaches and the one the worked well for all of them was 'sacking out'. I do not sack a horse out with a sack but with a 25 foot long soft cotton rope. I start out with 25 feet of 1 inch, 3 strand rope. I untwist 20 feet of it and re-braid it in a soft 3 strand braid.

I tie the un-braided part around a horse's neck and use the soft part to get a horse used to having it flipped, flopped and flung all over it. I flip it up over a horse's back, around its hind feet and legs, under its belly, between its hind legs, everywhere. There is not a spot you cannot reach with this long soft rope. I have had horses kick at it for an hour or longer but I outlasted every one of them. I have had mean horses that have hurt people and when I was through, they were just standing there resting a hind foot.

Once a horse quits trying to fight the rope, you can run it inside of and under the back pastern and can easily pull a hind foot forward. You do not need to tie the foot up (referred to as a 'Scotch hobble' or 'Scotching' a horse). You just bring it forward and rub it while it is off of the ground. If the horse has given up fighting the rope, it is really easy to pick up the foot with it, remove it from the rope and handle it. I usually do this for three or four sessions before I start 'walking the foot back' to set it on my knee.

The biggest thing to remember is that this horse got this way because people tried to do something (like touch his back legs), he reacted, the person backed away to stay safe and the horse learned that he could make people 'give ground' to him. That is all it takes to spoil a horse. You do not have to step back from a horse very many times and he decides to make you back up or move away by threatening you. He will decide to accept less and less and will get more reactive as time goes. It works for them every time.

Teach him to accept the long soft cotton rope and all of the other problems will just go away. You do not have to go after one aggressively, just flip and flop the rope around on one spot until he quits reacting. The instant he accepts that spot, you stop and 'retreat'. Then, go after another spot. Stop as soon as he quits fighting that spot. When he quits fighting the rope, use it to 'pull his hip over'. Teach him that HE needs to give ground to you when you ask him to. The whole time, you are in a safe place where you cannot lose and you never have to give ground to him.
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post #5 of 19 Old 10-23-2012, 08:37 AM
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Thank you for your service time

Forget picking his back feet up until you address the greater problem -- the spookines, the goosiness, the kicking and stomping of his feet, the setting back, the threatening of a handler that demonstrates a lack of basic ground training. He is not ready to pick his feet up

^^^This, unless his hooves are so bad he absolutely has to be trimmed; which that doesn't seem to be the case right now.

Work with him every day, if you can. Also, if it's possible I would get him out several times in a day but for short lessons. Whether it's you by yourself, your friend, or both of you, work him several times a day.

As soon as he complies with a request, stop the lessons, do something fun with him that you know he likes, then put him back to pasture or whereever he's kept through the day.

When it's time to mess with his back hooves, this may be up for debate but, for my part, I wouldn't tie him. I would put him someplace safe, like a round pen, big alley way, or anywhere that is sort of confining in case he would get away from you.

I have custom lead ropes that are around 15' long - that gives me plenty of rope to hang the horse or myself (JK. Really, it gives me enough rope to hold onto it while picking up a back hoof with the other hand, if there's nobody to help.

If the horse wants to dance, I'd let them dance but they did it on three legs; I'm only 5'2" but I wasn't letting go of that hoof until they stopped their Two-Steppin' around. The horse did have some manners by this time and I was reasonably sure it wasn't going to land on top of me.

You sound to be fairly experienced with horses or I wouldn't eeeeeeven mention that method --- it's not something an inexperienced horse owner wants to try as there's a lot of human instinct involved in knowing when to let go or keep holding the leg near the fetlock joint.

I'm glad your friend bought the horse - it sounds like the horse was "kindly abused", if that makes any sense
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post #6 of 19 Old 10-23-2012, 09:01 AM
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I've had good luck with this method of either you cooperate or you work. Have your lunge line on him and your whip and the moment he spooks or gets goosey, send him out to lunge like you plan on killing him. Do 3 (no more, no less) circles at a brisk trot (no canter). Stand him where he was and start again. Again send him out if you have to. It often takes 2-4 times for the horse to make the mental connection. Since horses like to conserve energy for the fast get-away, they soon opt to stand quietly.
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post #7 of 19 Old 10-23-2012, 09:09 AM
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I agree with the last 3, also.

When I do have to get close to those back feet, even after I've gotten everything else ironed out, I use my "stupid on a stick."

It's a glove, filled with plastic bags until it's firm. Has a broom handle stuck up the middle, to which it is taped securely. I let this unfortunate piece of equipment go in first. It works well, and after the horse is giving his hoof to the glove, I go in as others described.
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post #8 of 19 Old 10-23-2012, 03:29 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the responses, looks like I'll be picking up a longer rope today. I've been making him stand normal and disengage his hind end when he starts hunching up to do his kicking/pulling. He is slowly picking up the idea that doing the idiot things is just making him go through yet more stuff and that when he relaxes and stands quiet he gets rewarded. The hard part for me is trying to get up to her house to work with him more as she has enough projects on her own and I live a hour away. I'm keeping him up there at this point because of money issues that just popped up and that I may be deploying some time this winter.
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post #9 of 19 Old 10-23-2012, 07:37 PM
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Agree with most of the above. Agree fully with Cherie, although I have a feeling I approach things a bit differently and I would do the 'sacking out' using 'approach & retreat' techniques, to keep the horse's fear & reactivity to a minimum. I would ensure he was truly comfortable - not just putting up with it - about being touched all over & down his legs before attempting to ask him to pick them up.

Disagree with the 'you cooperate or you work' approach, as it sounds like the horse is afraid and so needs to get over that first at least, not just be forced into it despite his fear - I feel that's asking for 'accidents'.
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post #10 of 19 Old 10-24-2012, 12:58 AM
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How many farriers screw around with all this stuff and still get their work done? Maybe it's just me, but I've noticed that good ones don't seem to get bothered by anything that a horse does. They don't get afraid when the horse acts up, they don't get frustrated and hit the horse with their rasp, they just calmly, patiently and persistently go about their work until the work is done. If the horse takes his foot away, let him. Don't do anything about it. Pretend it never happened. Pet him and try to make him comfortable, then start again. Next time try to give it back before he has to take it. If he won't stand due to having too much energy, you'll have a lot easier of a time if you do something to get some of that out of his system before fooling with his feet.

It's really just common sense stuff, but for some reason we seem to think that we need to do all these training exercises before we can deal with the feet. But it's not the case.
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