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5.11.2021 How To Fix Fear Of The Farrier

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

Chapter 4: Keep him comfortable

I suspect we all know how it feels to struggle to move as well as we’d like to, and our horses are no different, particularly if they’ve stood in the stable all night.  The position that the farrier needs the horse to put his leg in for trimming or shoeing is quite heavily flexed, and these positions are often held for a prolonged period of time. The concussion when the farrier hammers the shoes on, or even when he rasps the foot, travels up the leg and will be felt in any sensitive joint or muscle.  There are a few things you can do to help your horse to be more physically comfortable when the farrier is there.

One of the most effective is to work him just before the farrier is due, whether that’s riding or working in hand.  Twenty minutes in walk, trot and canter, if that’s an appropriate level of work for your horse, will ensure that stiff joints are warmed up, and will also cause an endorphin release which will act as a natural pain killer.  Stiff joints create pain when they are flexed (I think most of us can relate to this!), and can often have restricted movement (meaning that they don’t bend as far as they should).  Holding a stiff joint in a flexed position for more than a few seconds can sometimes increase the level of discomfort, and then understandably the horse will try to pull his leg away.  Telling him off or punishing him for this ‘bad’ behaviour will unfortunately not take away the pain, and the body (horse or human) is hard wired to avoid pain.

Depending on the level of difficulty your horse has in balancing comfortably, accepting the work being done, or holding his leg in a bent position for the farrier, you could talk to your vet about pain relief.  Some older horses have medication such as ‘Bute’ around when the farrier is due, as not having feet trimmed can potentially become a welfare issue (depending on the horse and the ground he lives on).  For some horses a herbal supplement is enough, or simply the distraction of having carrots to snack on.

You can also discuss with your Chartered Physiotherapist ( or Registered Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioner ( whether there are any exercises you can do to make it easier for your horse to comfortably accept the farrier.  These might for example be exercises related to improving balance, comfort or range of movement. 

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion