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need help in lifting feet for hoof care
Hi all -

I need some good advice or tricks in getting my horse to cooperate in lifting each foot so I can clean them out. His feet are huge, and my wrists lack strength. It seems like a game to him, when I want him to left, he shifts his weight to THAT particular foot. Oh yes, we've tried all the "do this instead" things, he still wins. UNTIL another person will try to lift his feet, then, of course, he'll do fine. And yes, I DO notice that teeny little smirk on his face that seems to say, "hee hee hee!"

So, in making sure I don't promote injury to my wrists and lower back straining him to lift, please share your experiences and tricks at making this a pleasureable experience instead of a power dominance game. I don't think it will be difficult to teach him how to do it, I'm just not sure quite how to approach this. I want this to be a positive motivation experience for him mostly, not a negative one. What can you share?
Since you are limited by the wrists and back I would teach him to raise his foot when you tap on his leg. First get the foot up and then work on keeping it up.

There are many ways to do this but the easiest on you might be to use a whip at first. Tap on the leg; 1, 2, 3, ... 1, 2, 3,... until he picks the hoof up and then praise him. Repeat that and do this more then once a day.

Once he can raise his foot like that do it with just your hand. You could just use the whip but the more you work on this the better.

Then you can work on holding the hoof up. You could do this with the whip also by keeping the whip on his leg. Start out only asking for a short hold, then say "Down" or "Okay" and take the pressure off. If he puts it down, make him circle or go back and forth the second he puts it down. Ask again. He will get the idea that putting the hoof down before you say = him having to work. Him holding the hoof up = him getting treated like the horsey god he thinks he is.

Then go to you asking and holding with your hand. You may need to reinforce it with the circling and such.

You could do this just by asking for the hoof normally, when he refuses you make him work his tail off. If he leans on you, pulls his foot away, puts it down, anything you don't want him to do you work his tail off. make him want to stand there with his foot up.
The idea I've been taught is basically to irritate him till he lifts his hoof and then stop the irritation when you catch it. For a front hoof you can wiggle his chestnut (just inside the knee), and for a rear hoof grab a fold of skin at the back of the hock and wiggle that.
Originally posted by meadowinds

UNTIL another person will try to lift his feet, then, of course, he'll do fine. And yes, I DO notice that teeny little smirk on his face that seems to say, "hee hee hee!"

If he lifts his feet fine for someone else, but not you, I'd say it is a respect issue. He apparently knows how to do it, but just won't do it for you. I think you need to start back at square one with lots and lots of groundwork to get him to respect you and do what you tell him. Then, like Hoopski said, if you pinch the chestnut or pinch the tendon at the back of his leg he should pick it up. Start out just getting him to lift for a couple of seconds, set it down, and praise him. Work up to longer times for cleaning.
"You learn a thing a day, you store up smart" - Festus Haggen

"A man’s soul can’t be hidden,
From the creatures in his care." -
Hard Candy Cowboy by Debra Meyer

hmeyer and hoopski have given excellent advice, but here's a few things to try and think about, too:

I would watch closely how this other person is lifting your horse's foot as compared to how you are doing it. Are you possibly pulling his foot too far to the side or lifting it at an odd angle that could cause your horse discomfort or pain? When you lift his foot, try to lift it straight up and under his body. Try to refrain from pulling it to the side. This will put less stress on his leg and may make him more cooperative. I would also not lift it very high the first time or two. Just lift it a few inches off the ground and then work on that to raise it higher where it's easier for you to hold it up.

Are you just dropping the foot once you are through with it? This allows the horse to bang his toe on the ground, and this could cause him mild pain. Always place the foot back down if the horse will let you do this.

If it is a dominance issue, use your shoulder and push him over with your body... even to the point of making him stagger a step or two away from you, and then lift his foot once his weight has shifted off the foot you want to lift. If he tries to put his weight back on the foot you are holding, try to catch him before he has achieved this and push him back while still holding the foot. The key here is anticipation. Horses may be big, strong animals, but it usually doesn't take much to throw them off balance if you can catch it at the right time. I'm not very big, and definitely not a weight lifter, but what I've just described has worked well for me.

Something else you could try is having a helper hold your horse while you lift his foot. It will be the helper's job to pull the horse's head away from you and pull his weight off the foot you want to raise in the process. I would still try lifting his foot straight up and keep it under his body if you can when you do this. He will be much more comfortable in this position and should be more willing to lift once he finds out there's no stress on his leg. Once he finds out that you can lift his leg with the helper, it shouldn't be that hard to gradually have the helper do less and you more until you have weaned him off the helper so you can do it alone.

"God forbid that I should go to any heaven in which there are no horses"
--Robert Browning

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
-- Author Unknown
I have not used this method but the book made it sound great.....Clicker Training for Your Horse by Alexandra Kurland. There is a segment in there about teaching your horse to lift its foot and actually hold it up for a length of time -to be determined eventually by you-.

I used clicker training to teach Joe to target on a scrub brush and I have taught 2 of our dogs clicker training from the Dog Scouts of America.

If your horse is letting someone else pick up it's feet then it sounds like he is buffaloing (sp?) you.

Everyone has already offered some good advice. I, like RH shoulder them off balance and then -I- decide when to let the hoof down. At first I will pick it up and put it right back down so it is my decision not theirs, then hold it up longer each time. I praise by rubbing the shoulder or scratching the favorite 'itchy spot' for a few seconds. I don't work a session very long and maybe not even all four feet in a session, but I always end with a positive note. A positive note being when I get what I asked for in any small measure.

Good Luck


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