The better your horse behaves for your farrier, the better job your farrier can do.
Let's face it. No one wants to have to pick out a hoof with a horse that is behaving badly. Neither does your farrier. It's hard enough to keep your own feet out of the way and not get stepped on on a good day, let alone trying to wrestle around with tools, nails, the owner getting nervous and the barn dog trying to grab a snack of hoof all while your perfect angle of a horse bounces from side to side in the cross ties or worse.
The safety of your horse and the safety of you and your farrier depends of the behavior of your horse. We all know that sometimes horses will be horses and misbehave or become afraid and jump around, but the often misbehaved horse needs solutions. Daily handling of your horse and his feet is the best solution to helping your horse behave for the farrier. Try to assess whether your horse is misbehaving due to pain, fear, prior mismanagement, lack of education or some combination. The solutions will depend on what is bothering your horse.
How to determine the difference
1. If your horse stands perfectly for 3 out of 4 feet and the fourth foot is always a problem and it's always the same leg, you may have a pain issue. The leg that is having the trouble may not be the leg that is in pain. Sometimes the foot that has to be down and bear all the weight is the one that is having some issues. In this case it could be a weight bearing issue. On the other hand, if it is a flexion or mobility issue, it could be the leg that you want to pick up that is causing your horse pain. Talking to the vet may be in order.
2. If fear or fear of pain is the issue, you need to try and calm your horse. Both you and your farrier need to have patience. Usually a horse that is patiently handled will re-gain trust in both the handler and the farrier in no time and the problem is solved. As long as the element that was causing the fear is recognized, (is he afraid of the smoke from a hot shoe, did the garbage truck make a huge noise, did a dog scare him in the cross ties??) is avoided the horse should return to his confident self in no time.
3. If your horse had prior mismanagement during shoeing or trimming, he/she should be dealt with like a horse with fear issues. Patience, confidence building and repetition is a must and both the farrier and the owner/handler should have a system, so the horse gains confidence with each lift of the hoof.
4. Lack of education is just that- lack of education. Your horse should not be punished for not having been taught how to behave! It's the owners/handlers responsibility to teach the horse what is expected and how to behave for the farrier. Daily handling, picking up feet, cross tying, and standing still make everyone’s life easier. Do you homework. If you acquire a young horse or a horse that has not had proper handling, make everybody happy and work with the horse before the farrier comes for the first time!
5. Ask your farrier what he prefers. Sometimes your horse may behave better when you are not there. I know from experience that when I am present, my own mare pays more attention to me than to the farrier, which does not make his job easier. Instead of focusing on the farrier, she pays attention to me (usually begging for a treat) which does not let her focus on her job of picking up her feet and standing still for him. I respectfully let him shoe my mare when I am not there, knowing that she will behave and pay proper attention to her job at the moment of behaving for the farrier. On the other hand, if you have a young nervous horse, your farrier might prefer that you are there to help keep the youngster quiet. In either case you farrier should feel comfortable telling you what might work best for him and your horse. It's in your farriers best interest to keep your horse happy and safe. Do what you can for the both of them.
Ruth and Bo Poulsen
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