Wednesday, August 10, 2011


One of the things Starbuck and I really have to work on is her giving me her feet.  I say "giving me her feet" because I can actually pick up her feet by force and hold them for a while, but since horses who are “hoof shy” really tend to get to me I want her to give her feet calmly to me when I ask her to instead of having to shift her weight over with my shoulder and pick them up without knowing if she’ll stay still every time I want to clean her hooves.

Before I started working with her they told me that she had never even had her hooves trimmed because she was so reluctant to pick up her feet the day the farrier came, which if you think about it is completely normal if she’s never been taught to do it.  But the result of not getting normal hoof trims and staying in her paddock for months at a time (which is pretty spacious but not big enough to run around much) is that her hooves have grown to be too long in the front and kind of flattened out at the bottom (her hind hooves are OK, not great but not terrible either).

Now that I’m working with her, a lot of the excess hoof growth she had in the front has broken off which means that they’re less painful for her (I can see the difference in the way she stands—compare the first picture where her legs are beneath her body with the second picture where she’s got a more typical “horsey” stance).  But they’re still far from ideal; I want them trimmed by a farrier (I won’t be shoeing her until I start riding her a fair amount) and I also want to be able to clean them and put ointment on them so they’ll be stronger.
Here she's standing with her legs underneath her, which is a sign of leg or hoof pain.
After the hooves broke off some you can see that she has a more normal stance.

After as always scouring the internet for the methods I like most, I put together a training plan with some bit-by-bit measurable goals, since I think that so far I’ve been moving too fast (the other day she got frustrated and made a move like she was going to bite me) and what I really need to do first is not annoy her into lifting her foot (up until now I was trying the “tap on her leg until she lifts her foot herself” technique) but gain the trust which will allow her to do so willingly and calmly.  So here’s my plan; the idea is that if at any point she rebels I’ll just start again at the previous step:

Step 1: Pet her hooves and shift weight for both front shoulders.  Repeat until she shifts her weight every time I lean slightly on her shoulder.

Step 2: Pet her hooves, shift weight, lift right front hoof for 1 second.  Repeat until I can lift the hoof easily.

Step 3: Pet her hooves, shift weight, lift left front hoof for 1 second.  Repeat until I can lift the hoof easily.

Step 4: Lift both front hooves and maintain for 3 seconds.  Repeat, increasing time period slightly when she’s comfortable with the previous one but trying never to let her take her foot away from me, until I can maintain both front hooves for 30 seconds.

Step 5-8: Repeat with back hooves.

After this I hope that it'll be easy to clean out her hooves with the pick and the hose and put ointment on them, I'll be sure to keep this updated with our progress.  Wish me luck!

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