Horse is absolute trouble when picking up feet!
Hello all. This first week with my new [first] horse has been going rather smoothly, despite a few kinks I have already addressed here. But now he has a bigger problem that I need help with- he hates having his feet handled. My uncle, whom is a farrier, came out to do his feet and told me it isn't Milo [the horse] trying to be aggressive, he simply doesn't know what to do. My uncle is a rough man and could not even begin to work on Milo's back feet- they looked fine, and had to be left alone simply because Milo was bucking and rearing and one of us was about to get knocked out if we kept on trying to restrain him and do the trimming.
Milo is okay with his front feet, not a perfect angel, tries to set them back down a few times before giving it up and letting me work, but all in all he's okay. The back left takes a few more tries, and when I get to working on his back right its like all Hell has broken loose. He kicked out at me the first time, I slapped him on the hindquarters and yelled 'HEY', and then after a several tries he finally let me work on it. Thats the part that scares me terribly- I have never been kicked, and I know one of these days he is going to connect with me and I'm going to end up flat on my ass. This terrifies me. Its interfering with how I interact with him while picking his feet, and with how he's acting right now I've had to buck up and keep my hands from shaking while I work.
What I'm doing now is picking up his feet and picking them, every day. For consistency, and maybe eventually he will learn that it isn't going to hurt, the pick is not a scary monster, and it really isn't that bad if he would just hold the hell still. ;)
Do any of you have any tips for me? Any ideas to calm myself down while working with Milo's feet? For the record he is a four year old QH, 15hh, rather young and still learning but surprisingly calm- when you're not working with his feet, that is. Ugh.
Hi, ShinaKongo! You might benefit from accessing some of the information on this forum and the internet about ground work for horses. In a nutshell, you work with the horse in a small arena or round pen to teach him to move where you ask (sometimes away from you, sometimes to stand still while you're touching him with your hands, ropes, or a training stick). When my colt was younger, we got him used to having his feet handled by desensitizing him to being handled everywhere. Started by touching/patting/picking up where he was comfortable and moved into the 'trouble' areas slowly, with the advance and retreat method. The trick is to reward the firswt 'smallest try' - if he holds still for the first inch of petting/holding in the trouble area, he gets praised. It will get easier after that.
This basic ground work will pay dividends for everything you do with your horse from now on - make him move where you ask him to, using a round pen or small arena - and will establish his respect for you. That hopefully will translate to being more tolerant of touching and so forth. Many trainers/clkinicians will use a rope, lariat or "stick and string" to touch the horse and get him used to ropes and such around his legs and feet (desensitizing). That might help you with this problem so that he better tolerates having his legs handled.
Good luck - you can do this. It may take a while and it will take trust and respect. Horses do not like having their feet restrained because they are programmed to be able to flee from danger and can't do that if they don't have control of their feet. So, he needs to respect you and then trust you, all of which can come from these exercises.
In addition to training, you could consider if he has pain in either hind foot/leg. If he has pain when putting more weight on his left hind, then he's not going to want you to pick up the right. Or, it could be that something in the movement of picking up the right hind is causing pain; or something when you start cleaning his hoof. Run your hands down both back legs all the way around from hip to ground (including the hoof) -- are there any areas that seem warmer? swollen? tender? Watch and feel his body as you move your hands for signs he may give you (tensing, flinching, tail swishing, ears back, head turn).
There are ways of tying that can absolutely prevent a hind kick, but I wouldn't advise trying any of them without lots of experience and eliminating all other options. That said, there are ways you can help protect yourself.
When working with him, stay close to his body. If he does kick out, the worst he can do is push you away; the actual impact from a kick at close range is minimal. Try to maintain as much body contact as possible to also feel if he is shifting weight or tensing muscles. If you feel a kick coming on you can control his weight a great deal if you have a hoof in your hand. If his feet are on the ground, you can remind him firmly to "stand." If he relaxes, praise and move to a new part of his body.
If he ever does kick out, give him bloody hell. What "bloody hell" is depends on the horse. For my Lisa, that means getting verbally angry -- yelling, but not screaming. For my Jade, that means getting in her face and making her move. If Jade is tied when I have to do that, I usually can unsnap her in less then a heartbeat and make her move. She's been good now so it's not an issue anymore, but it used to be, so I was always sure I could unsnap her instantly for training.
Also, do you know any history of the horse? Perhaps he had some trauma with this before? If he's kicking out of fear, you don't want to scare him more. Try to read what he's telling you, but I understand it's hard if you haven't had a chance to get to know the horse yet.
Agree with NM, excellent advice on safety first.
Thanks guys! I do think it could be that I need to earn more of his respect- he has only been mine for a week. but, on the plus side, we are getting there- his behavior is much better with me than when I first got him. I'm working on lunging him in the corral and feeling him up, so to speak- he has no problem with it until I go about picking up his feet, though. The rope idea sounds like a good method- I'll have to try that tomorrow and tell you how it goes.
As for his history, he doesn't sound like he comes from a bad background. The owners were excellent with him, but didn't have the time to work with him the past year. He doesn't seem afraid, simply stubborn. My uncle checked his feet and said there didn't seem to be anything wrong to be causing tenderness.
I don't even try to handle gentle horses' hind feet without a rope anymore, I am getting old and immobile, that I cannot get out of the way of a slow horse, plus my back is bad and hands are so arthritic that if I am not very careful, I can only spoil a horse now. So, I have a 25 foot soft braided cotton 'scotch rope' that I use to get horses used to having their hind feet touched handled.
I made this rope by taking 25 feet of 1 inch cotton rope and 'un-twisting' about 22 feet of it. I braided back a big loop in the part I left twisted so I can put it over a horse's neck. Then I hand braid the rest of the rope so it would be so soft that it could not ever rope burn a horse.
I tie a horse in a safe place (never in cross ties), put the loop over the horse's neck and stand way back behind the horse and get him used to having the soft rope touch every part of his hind legs and rump. I flip and flop and pull the rope up around every part of the horse. It is the best way I know to get a horse gentle about ropes and things around their feet and legs.
When a horse is OK with having the rope touch them all over, then, I let the horse step over the rope with a hind foot and get him used to the rope between his back legs. It is then a very simple matter to pull the rope forwaard picking the hind foot up off of the ground. Once the horse relaxes and does not mind its hind foot being held off of the ground, it is a simple matter pick the hind foot up with your hand and slowly walk it back to where you want it for cleaning or trimming.
By using the soft rope, a horse cannot get spoiled from jerking a foot away or putting it down when you wanted it up. This method also works very good to gentle a kicking horse. The old timers used to tie a horse's hind leg up with a scotch rope. I do not. I just use it by hand and let it take as long as it takes for the horse to get gentle about it.
I had a little trouble following the explanation of the making of the rope. Guess I'm a bit dense. You wouldn't perchance have a photo of such?
You're doing fine for having this young horse only a week. Patience and practice and your horse will eventually stand still and feel totally secure with you handling his feet. Keep in mind that because of where you need to be while working on back feet, you're working on overcoming a very natural horse instinct to kick at anything entering that area.
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