Help with picking up feet

Discussion in 'Problem Horses' started by serendipity, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. serendipity

    serendipity Well-known Member

    Not sure if this should go in problem or training section.

    Anyway, I am having trouble picking up my new mare's feet.

    I have had her for around 3 - 4 weeks, she was somewhat of a rescue case. We dont know anything for sure about her, but the rumors around the traps is that she was abused.

    A lot of trust issues with this horse, but she is overcoming them and is very smart, learning very quickly.

    She is bad with her feet though. She hasnt been trimmed in over 2 yrs and as a result they are a bit long, flared and multiple vertical cracks. She is not violent with the feet, but she simply walks away when I lift them. Dont get me wrong, we have made some progress. Three weeks ago I couldnt even touch her shoulder. Now I can hold each front foot up for 4 seconds. I managed this using the towel method. We made steady progress from 1 second, 2 seconds etc. but seem to have stalled at 4 seconds. No further progress has been made and she refuses to stand still long enough for any work to be done on her feet.

    I guess I am not quite sure how to correct this. Is it just a confidence/trust issue and I should keep persevering and eventually she will let me? To be honest I have a feeling she is not scared of it anymore and just doing it because she can. Not knowing her history I dont know if she has been taught to tie up, I havent taught her, not sure if this is something I should be doing and then trying to teach the feet while she is tied?

    I know some people will lunge them in a circle if they dont stand still, to make them realise it is better to stand still for the foot trim. Tough love. I am not sure if this might be too heavy handed for her, she absolutely loses the plot if you dont take a very very gentle hand with her. Is it worth trying this method? or stick to what we are already doing to avoid confusing her.

    She absolutely will not let anyone apart from me touch her legs/feet - she had a meltdown the other day when we tried this, with my friend picking up the feet and me holding her.

    One more thing I did think of - is it possible that because the feet are so cracked it actually hurts her to have all her weight shifted to one foot while I hold the other? She doesnt appear lame but I am not good at picking subtle signs of pain in horses.

    Realistically how long would you expect this process to take? When do I bite the bullet and get her sedated and just have them done?

    Any and all thoughts would be welcome. I guess I am just anxious about the state of the feet and had hoped by now we would have at least done an initial trim.
  2. SMW

    SMW New Member

    When i first had my young horse you couldn't touch any part of his legs and everytime i tried to touch his knees he would bend them and try to nip, like colt play.
    Everyday I have slowly ran my hands all over his body, head, neck and worked all the way down to his feet. At first he hated it, but with doing it everyday a little bit at a time he has got use to it. A big thing while doing this I always talk to him.
    Now he is really good I've been able to do his feet without any fuss and I've even washed his legs without trouble.
    Slow and steady with nervous horses I find will always get you results. Also taking to them in a calm voice seems to work with my boy
  3. JustJam

    JustJam Well-known Member

    Maybe I have misunderstood, however does this mean that you are picking up her feet (a horse that is relatively new and has a few issues) and she is not tied up at all? If that is the case, that explains why she is walking off lol

    I can't speak for 'most' horses, however I can say that I would describe my boy as having excellent ground manners, including lifting his feet whenever I ask and for how long I ask - however he is tied up.

    I know full-well (and so does he lol) that he is a horse, and he would probably go for a bit of a wander if he wasn't tied up in some manner (either solid tied or ground tied or held). Yes, that error of judgement on his part would be fixed in no uncertain terms, however why do that to him? Why create the potential for an issue when it is not necessary? It is easier, clearer and safer just to tie him up.

    So, from my understanding of your post, teaching your horse to 'stay-put' when tied definitely sounds like the first step, to me.

    It goes without saying (so of course, because this is Stockies, I'm going to say it anyway lol), if you are having problems get some help - either in the form of a knowledgeable horsey friend (not just a mate who might have half a clue but actually doesn't), or seek professional help.

    If this horse already has issues, then something like this could be the start of a roller-coaster ride to a place you don't want to go.

    Good luck! :)

  4. serendipity

    serendipity Well-known Member

    Thanks jj :)

    My gut instinct was to teach her to tie up, all my previous horses have tied no worries, but i was worried about it because my horsey friend (yeah they are knowledgeable) told me they never tie a horse up :/

    Seems to be a controversial issue.

    I can rub all over her leg belly etc. Even pick up the feet the problem is keeping the foot up long enough to do anything with it
  5. taeliesyn

    taeliesyn Well-known Member

    Unless you can do the trimming required, I think you would be best to get her sedated and trimmed ASAP and then work on being able to do them properly, as it could still take months before she will let anyone but you handle her feet.
    Also be wary of tieing up a horse who's history you don't know. If she never learnt to solid tie and freaks out when you're trying to pick feet up it could be a very bad situation.
  6. serendipity

    serendipity Well-known Member

    taeliesyn yes I know how to trim feet I've always trimmed my own horses

    I will obviously be teaching her to tie properly first before picking up feet. Yes simply tying her solid and grabbing her feet would be a bad thing! Obviously I am not going to do that :)
  7. JustJam

    JustJam Well-known Member

    You're welcome - hope it helps :)

    Say what? :blink: Not even ground-tied?

    I could see that being an interesting ummm... 'philosophy' if they go out somewhere like a Show, or out for a trail ride and want to dismount for an hour or so to have a picnic, or need to treat an injury, or maybe even need to trim hooves by themselves! :eek: :lol:

    Teaching a horse to tie-up (solid, by command or otherwise) is a must in my book... otherwise they will just wander off because they don't know any better! I know I would! :D
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2013
  8. serendipity

    serendipity Well-known Member

    I know right?! Seemed strange to me too, especially since I usually find myself doing things on my own.

    But I've been out of horses for a while now, and lots of things seem to have changed. So I guess I was second guessing myself when I shouldnt have been.

    So - this weekend's lesson will be tying up.
  9. Jemima

    Jemima Active Member

    Have you tried giving her a feed bucket when you are picking up her feet? I have a pony mare here who was totally anti having her feet trimmed (she had to be tied and put on the ground once to get a trim done before I got her) and that is how I started with her. Fed her while I got her used to standing with her feet up and it meant she didn't go anywhere, she was too interested in the bucket! For her back feet I started off just having to hang on until she stopped flailing the leg around (not always easy!) and she soon realised that I was not going to hurt her I just wanted her foot and she came good. I have also used the lunge her in a circle method when she was being particularly stubborn/stresshead and it worked for her - even though she was also a very easily upset pony. I found the more pressure I put on her the better she got not worse. My farrier can come and catch her and do a trim without me needing to be here now, pony just stands there patiently until it's over :)
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2013
  10. serendipity

    serendipity Well-known Member

    thanks Jemima, I may try that method too and see what works for us. I havent tried it mainly because I do not hard feed her - she was a bit too fat when I got her after being fed potatoes with a herd of cows twice a week. She is now just on my pasture with a bit of oaten hay once or twice a week for a treat more than anything and she is losing the flab and toning muscle. I could try a bucket of mainly chaff or perhaps a hay bag and see how we go. EDIT to add I dont know if she is a food motivated horse or not (though she does love carrots) but tis not difficult to try
  11. 7notHeaven

    7notHeaven Active Member

    Just quickly ;) I would absolutely try clicker training for this issue. Especially if it is a trust issue (but never for a respect one). There are plenty of good vids on u-tube about how people have clicker trained a horse to accept a previously troublesome issue. I wont give you a blow by blow account of how I would deal with this issue, clicker training is very basic, your timing needs to be good, but this is true of any effective method (especially pressure and release).
    I dont bother with using a proper clicker tool, I just click with my tounge. I dont teach them lots of basic skills first using the clicker if they already know them, I just deal with the issue at hand. And once they have it nailed we leave off the clicking and rewards and I expect it of them as a well learnt behaviour. :))
  12. Deb2

    Deb2 Guest

    I feel you need to have higher expectations from this horse.

    Whether you tie her, or just expect her to stand where you have parked her, letting her walk off is not an option in my books. Why dont you correct her every time she goes to walk off, and then finish the job of picking up her leg until you are ready to let it down. After a month, even with a completely unhandled horse, you should be able to trim the horse all round.

    If you can hold her leg up for four seconds, you should be able to trim her, because from that point on, she should just hold it up for you. Correct her every single time she snatches her leg away.

    Horse are clever at working out the road of least resistance.

    If you cant get past this point, you need a more experienced horse handler to finish the job.

    Good luck with her.:)
  13. serendipity

    serendipity Well-known Member

    Deb could you please explain your method of correcting the behaviour.

    She has not had a huge amount.of work in the month i have had her. She jad a week of half hr work every day but i have been dealing with a foot abcess in another horse so she has only been worked 2 - 3 times a week for 30 - 40 minutes each time. Not ideal i know just thought i would point out it hasnt been a month of solid training.
  14. serendipity

    serendipity Well-known Member

    What do you.mean about if she holds it up for four seconds she shouldcontinue to hold it up? Sorry that has just confused me. Four seconds isnt anywhere near long enough for me to trim, maybe i am slow.

    Fnny how horses are always teaching you new things. I have dealt with horses that like to kick when having their feet handled but not this lol
  15. blitzen

    blitzen Gold Member

    I think deb means that if the horse can tolerate 4 secs, then it can tolerate 4 minutes or however long u need for a trim.

    If it goes to walk off either a) say No! Firmly and move it back exactly where you started and try again
    B) scratch or tickle another leg/belly that's within reach to distract it
    C) lightly rock/sway the foot u are holding, to give it something else to think about

    But I would be def be correcting the behaviour as this horse appears to be training you! She may have some arthritis or joint issues so holding her hoof high may be painful- try holding it much lower and see if that helps.
  16. serendipity

    serendipity Well-known Member

    thanks blitzen, I have no intentions of letting her train me, been there done that got the bruises and scars to show for it :/

    I quite like your option C and think I will incorporate that into our sessions as well.

    I do agree that she has got over the fear issue and is capabale of standing for more than 4 seconds, but now it is simply a case of 'I dont want to'
  17. JustJam

    JustJam Well-known Member

    What did you do / how did you rectify the kicking issue?

    As long as pain is ruled out, the same principals will apply in this case - kicking is a dominant/avoidance technique used by the horse, exactly the same as walking off, just rather more forceful.

    The 'walking off' could escalate to kicking if you don't get on top of this before your horse figures out that she has it over you ;)

    PS: Just out of curiosity, does she lead correctly with the use of a halter and lead rope?
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2013
  18. serendipity

    serendipity Well-known Member

    JJ mostly the kickers I have had were doing it out of fear. One responded to the flicking of the rope around his legs until he got used to it. One responded well to hosing down her legs with water because she could kick all she wanted but the water kept touching her.

    Another I have dealt with was doing it aggressively and a sharp NO and a smack on the rump/leg with a rope/crop got her behaving nicely.

    I've basically started groundwork from scratch since I dont know her history and I have been happy with the progress she has made. Very intelligent horse. She will lead well, lunge at a walk and slow trot and change direction, back, shoulder and hindquarter yield, as well as yielding the poll. She obviously has had some training in the past and it has come back to her very quickly.

    She leads quite well. I lead from a reasonable distance out in front and she responds to 'walk on' and follows me well. She does have a little trouble pulling up at 'whoa' because she believes she needs to cover the distance and stand next to me. I correct this every time and this is something we work on each session - she understands what I am asking of her and what I expect her to do but I believe she is a little confused about why she is expected to do it. I am wondering if she was previously taught to lead close to the handler or at the shoulder. She never pushes me, walks over the top or tries to get me to back out of her space, in that regard she is very good, she just closes the distance so she stops closer to me. However I correct it mainly because when I say stop I need her to know that it means stop.

    So she is not 100% with it but getting better all the time.
  19. Blackbat

    Blackbat Well-known Member

    How about some standing still training? Like putting her on spot/groundtying? You choose a place for her front feet to be (at a ropes length away if she is a crowder), step her on to it, then put the slack of the rope on the ground, keep hold of the end ('you found it the spot, now I'll leave you alone). When she gets distracted and goes to take a step away, pick up the slack and put her back on the spot, use all the little yields she already knows, try to keep your own feet still while you move hers. You might have to do this dozens of times. But if you are consistent and out-persist her, she should eventually sigh and give up and keep her focus on you and the spot. After a few sessions of training, you should get to the point of noticing when she is distracted, picking up the rope, and she will refocus on you (then replace rope on ground) instead of taking the step away because she knows what's about to happen. Later still, you should be able to leave her a while or walk around and she will stay on her spot, her mind staying with your idea to stay, no matter where you are or what you are doing. Then maybe you could translate this to the hoof issue.
  20. serendipity

    serendipity Well-known Member

    thanks blackbat :) I havent progressed to ground tying but I have been doing a lot of work teaching her to stand still. I back her off me and make her stand still and just wait patiently while I either talk to someone, or I walk in a circle around her, or just stand there. Its been a challenge for her but she is much much better at it now. I havent tried ground tying yet though it is definitely on the list of things to achieve.

    I also just want to say, what a brilliant resource this forum is, so many differing ideas/advice which is fantastic because as we all know there are so many ways to skin a cat and we have to experiment and pick and choose what works for us and for the individual horse. So a big thank you to everyone who has volunteered advice for me!

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