Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hoof Handling Success

Mrs. Mom has some good hoof handling tips over at Oh HorseFeathers & Related Twisted "Tails". I tried some of them out and they work like a charm. My 3-year-old filly Gabbrielle has always been the absolute sweetest, most affectionate horse I've ever known, but when it comes to hoof handling, she can be a handful. At the time I brought her home, her hooves were a bit overgrown. Her breeder had injured his back and hadn't been able to trim any of his horses' hooves for a few weeks. The first time that my farrier worked with Gabbrielle as a yearling, we had to line her up beside a railing since she was moving her body every which way to avoid having her hooves picked up. Once she couldn't move from side-to-side, she evaded the task by rearing up. My farrier was very patient, and with each visit my horse settled down a little more. After seeing her behavior during that first hoof trim that I participated in, I wondered if she was the cause of her breeder injuring his back.

In between farrier visits, I rubbed Gabbrielle's legs and picked up her feet, but once they were up, she kicked them in all directions, often times kicking out to the side where she could have snapped my tibia in half or taken out my kneecap. At my age and with my brittle bones, I don't bounce back from injuries very well, so I often kept the hoof handling times short, picking out a moving target the best I could, and ending by rubbing her legs.

Today I took Mrs. Mom's advice of working with the horse on other tasks before asking for her hooves. Normally, I would lunge Gabbrielle in the round pen to get her into schooling mode, but it's still too muddy from our slew of storms. Instead, I worked on leading her at a walk by merely draping the lead rope over my shoulder and expecting her to walk beside me. With the exception of a few times when she got a little too far ahead of me, and I had to put pressure on the rope, she stayed the perfect distance beside me and turned in each direction in sync with me. We had a nice, relaxing walk, and then I tied her to a post for a hoof cleaning.

Starting with a front hoof, I ran my hand down the length of her leg, and she snapped her hoof right up, gently resting it in the cup of my hand. She held still the entire time I picked out the hoof, and then I gently guided her hoof back to the ground. Sometimes when I do that, my horse rests on the tip of the hoof that I just cleaned, instead of putting her full weight on it. So, I put pressure on her shoulders and hips to get her into a position where she is standing equally on all four hooves before asking to pick up the next hoof.

The first hind hoof that I asked for was a struggle. Since she tends to pull forward, I tend to pull back. I've seen farriers pull the hind hooves back and out to the side, but Mrs. Mom said to keep the hoof low to the ground in a natural position where the horse can maintain its balance. Once I put Gabbrielle's hind hoof in that position, she relaxed and let me pick it out. By the time I was ready for the second hind hoof, she was already lifting it for me. What a difference! Thanks, Mrs. Mom.

1 comment:

Mrs Mom said...

You are most welcome!

One word of caution- when a horse "snaps" a hoof up, it is generally a response that you want to be careful with. The "Ideal": the horse relaxes the knee down to the pastern to the hoof, and rocks the heels off the ground. When they relax like that, it is time to ease the hoof off the ground. Snapping the hoof up can be a problem in time- when you have your hand in the wrong spot, or heaven forbid your nose, and you can break something valuable.

Keep up the good work with Miss Gabbrielle, and please keep us posted on how she continues there! Just let me know if we can be of any other help to you all!