The Horse Physio - Delivering care with expertise since 1992

10.11.2021 How To Fix Fear Of The Farrier

How To… Fix Fear Of The Farrier… In 10 Easy Steps

Chapter 5: Just a second…

Holding his foot in the air is, from the horse’s point of view, removing his option to flee.  The option to flee may, as far as his instincts are aware, be the only thing that keeps him alive, should the need arise.  Viewed this way, it’s no wonder a horse, particularly a fearful one, doesn’t want us to pick his foot up.  Of course, not all horses who are reluctant to pick their foot up are fearful.  Other common causes of reluctance are discomfort, lack of balance, or simply a lack of respect causing them to ignore your signals.  

If your horse is fearful of holding his foot up, make sure you’re not asking too much of him.  To begin with, simply lifting his heel and resting on his toe for a second may be all he can cope with. Gradually you can increase the amount of time he rests on his toe, and then over time you can ask him to lift his foot just a few millimetres off the ground, and so on.  To prepare your horse for the farrier (or trimmer), he needs to allow you to hold his foot up for at least a couple of minutes.  Make sure your horse is comfortable enough to do this when you are practising, as well as when the farrier is actually there.  A horse with arthritic changes in his knee, for example, may be quite sore after holding his knee bent for a couple of minutes (see the chapter ‘Keep him comfortable’ for more info).  As long as comfort is not a concern, spend time practising holding each leg up for a prolonged period of time (two to three minutes), so that your horse is relaxed about this before the farrier arrives, rather than the farrier being the first one to ask this of him.

It’s also worth practising holding the leg up in different positions, for example the leg (front or back) pulled forward, the front leg pulled out to the side, and the hind leg stretched backwards a little.  Again, fear or discomfort can have an effect on your horse’s willingness to do as asked.

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion