What could be a pleasant experience for your horse and your farrier quickly goes awry if your horse is not trained to stand for a farrier. Horses need shoes or at the very minimum a regular trim to keep them from going lame or developing hoof problems. If you recently adopted a horse or find you need to “refresh” your horse’s memory about how to stand still for the farrier, use this quick guide to help you.
Horse Handling Basics
Before you start with any training exercise, your horse should have a good grasp of basic ground handling basics. She needs to be able to stand still when you approach her, lead quietly with a halter and lead, and is completely relaxed when you touch any part of her body. Your horse should also stand still when tied. If you feel your horse does not have ground manners down, you should review these training concepts before you train your horse to stand for a farrier.
Get the Right Gear
Make the most of your training sessions by using the right gear for your horse. Essentials include:
- A rope training halter
- A 12 ft. handling rope or lead (a longe line works too)
- A 27 inch long riding or training crop
Slip the training halter over your horse’s head, clip on the lead or longe line and lead her out into an enclosed area where you plan to have your farrier work.
Put Your Horse in the Right Frame of Mind
Before the farrier arrives, work out a few of those extra oats by sending your horse out for a few laps in a round pen or small paddock. Work all major muscle groups by trotting you horse in a small, controlled circle several times in both directions. No need to exhaust her, just help her relax for the training session.
Implementing the Exercises
Talk to you farrier beforehand and let him know your training plan. The first few sessions may take longer than a regular session as your horse learns how to stand quietly. Make sure you leave enough room in your schedule to work with your horse instead of trying to force her to “get it.” When you are both on the same page, use these steps to get your horse to learn how to stand still.
Ask your farrier to lay out his tools, stand or anything he needs to get the job done. For the first few sessions, your farrier will need to work directly in the paddock. As your horse gets more comfortable with the farrier process you can move the sessions indoors to a barn or lean to.
Walk your horse up to the farrier and let her smell and get to know the farrier. Allow her to inspect and smell the tools and implements around the farrier. Hold on to the longe line and give the training crop to the farrier. Ask him to first rub the crop on the lower belly/upper-leg area of your horse in a gentle, circular motion. If your horse tenses starts to pull away or threatens to kick, send her out to trot a couple of laps. Keep her moving at a good clip for two or three laps until you feel she is ready to try again.
Repeat the process with the farrier and the riding crop. When she is used to and comfortable with her legs being handled with a crop, switch to physical contact. Your farrier should feel confident and your horse should be relaxed as he touches all parts of her lower body and legs. As soon as she pulls away, send her out again for a couple of laps.
Most horses understand that it’s much better to stand still with a farrier, than to be sent out to “work” running in circles, ovals or other training runs. Don’t get discouraged if you need to send your horse out a few extra times for her to stand still. It’s a matter of being consistent and patient.
NOTES from Joni: I have also found it helpful to cut up some carrots into coin size slices and keep them in a nail pouch around my waist. When my horse is standing still and relaxing for the farrier and has allowed him or her to finish one hoof I make a click sound with my tongue to the roof of my mouth and then hand my horse one or two pieces of carrot. I do this when the farrier is finished with each hoof.
This will help your horse see the farrier’s visit as a good thing and not just a time to be told to stand still while someone handles his or her hooves or trot around on a longe line.
Also please do not rush the introduction of the horse to the farrier specially if the horse is meeting this farrier for the first time. I have the farrier walk in a circle of about 20 feet and I follow behind with the horse on a lead to allow the horse time to get use to the farrier’s scent and motion. I also ask the farrier to carry a couple of his tools with him and clang them together from time to time so the horse will get use to the tool noise too. When my horse is following well and relaxed I click and treat him or her to a piece of carrot. I want the farrier visit to be a positive experience for my horse and one that he or she will look forward to.
Be thoughtful about your farrier too and if you have taken up more of his time than usual to get your horse standing well for the farrier then please tip him some extra money for his troubles. If you have found a good farrier you will want him or her looking forward to your calls too.
Guess Article by David Baker
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