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Good Manners Matter – Handling Your Horse’s Hooves, by Lynn Palm

Lynn slide-12“Good manners matter!”   Your mother may have told you  this countless times and guess  what”¦she was right.   The fact is manners are also important  when it comes to horses.   Our  horses must have the good manners  to allow us to safely and effectively  work with them for daily  grooming and health care maintenance.   Good manners come  through proper training and taking  the time it requires.   With proper ground manners,  routine grooming procedures can  be safe and pleasurable for both  you and your horse.   You should  introduce these lessons to young  horses as part of their basic ground training, and  to older horses whose ground manners may  need some re-schooling.   Introduce these lessons  in a safe, confined area such as the horse’s stall  or barn aisle way.   Your horse should be outfitted  with a well-fitted halter and a longe line or lead  rope.

Picking Up Your Horse’s Feet   A horse must willingly let us pick up each of  his feet for daily hoof care and routine blacksmith  work.   This is a good lesson to introduce in a stall  and it can be easily incorporated into your  basic ground training sessions.   Use the “come to me” command to position  your horse so that his right side is alongside the  stall wall.   This will give you an advantage to keep  him straight and give you an extra measure of  control.   Stand parallel to your horse on his near (left)  side facing his hindquarters.   Hold the longe or  lead in your left hand and maintain a loose contact  throughout the maneuver, but keep his head  straight.   If he swings his head toward you, use  your left hand on the side of his head to gently  push it back into alignment.   Start by stroking your horse’s neck with your  right hand.   As he accepts your touch, extend  your stroke to his shoulder, then down his left  front leg.   Keep your body parallel to your horse  and bend at the waist as you extend your touch.   Your knees should be slightly bent to protect your  back and help you move with your horse.   Gently push your left shoulder into his left  shoulder to help him release the weight off his  foreleg.   Keep your touch on his leg, moving your  hand down his leg.   As he releases his weight,  gently but firmly hold his leg between his pastern  (located just below the fetlock joint which similar  to our ankle) and his coronet band (the top of his  hoof) to support his leg as he lifts his foot.   Your  contact on his shoulder and leg will help him to  balance.   He may be unsteady when you first introduce  this lesson.   If he is, be ready to move with him.   Hold his foot up for only a moment or so, then  gently replace it on the ground.   Keep your touch  on his leg as you relax your support at his shoulder.   Continue stroking him from his lower leg  back up to his shoulder as you praise him.

Picking up the hind leg is a little more challenging  because you still need to keep your  horse straight even though you will be positioned  further away from his head.   Be precise in your  position and aware of his reactions to stay safe in  case he kicks.   Stand facing your horse’s hindquarters with the lead in your left hand.   Make sure you are  positioned parallel to his hind leg.   This is a safe  zone.   If you are too far forward, the horse can  “cow kick” towards you with a forward kick.   If  you are too far back, the horse can get you off  balance or kick backwards.   Keep your eye on the  horse at all times to evaluate his reactions.   Start by stroking him with your right hand  along his back, on his barrel, under his belly, to  his hip.   When he accepts this contact, continue  stroking him over his rump and down the back  of his hind leg to just above his hind fetlock joint.   Be careful not to unknowingly tighten the  tension on the lead or pull his head toward you  as you reach with your right hand to stroke  his hindquarters.   Extend your left hand towards  his head to keep the lead line loose.   Push your left shoulder against his hip to  support him and encourage him to release his  weight off his hind leg.   Extend your touch and  run your hand down his leg and gently, but  firmly grasp it just above the fetlock joint as  your horse lifts his leg.   If your horse reacts by  moving his hind leg more than you’ve asked  for, move with him.   Keep your contact as you  lower his foot back to the ground.   Stroke him  back up his hind leg, to his rump, up to his  back as you praise him.

Repeat the entire lesson on your horse’s off  (right) side.   Remember to change your horse’s  position so his left side is against the stall wall.

These tips will make it easier to teach your horse  to pick up his feet:  

“¢Keep your horse positioned straight so he  can stay balanced

“¢Keep his lifted leg underneath his body

“¢Keep your touch on the horse even if he  pulls away or resists.

This lesson will improve each time  you practice.   A horse who has mastered this lesson will  be well mannered for daily hoof care.   This is  especially important because it teaches the  horse to stay relaxed, which will allow the  blacksmith to do his work.

Teaching your horse basic training lessons  is covered in “Advancing Basic Training”, the  second tape in my 6-part Longevity Video  Series.   Learn how to build a partnership with your  horse from the ground up with Palm  Partnership Training.   Ground training is  covered in detail in my Longevity Training  Series, and each maneuver is demonstrated  with several young horses.

Published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 3, Issue 5.

 

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