Start Articles, News and Quick Tips Quick Tips 1: The horse that won't let you pick up its feet
Quick Tips 1: The horse that won't let you pick up its feet PDF Print E-mail





No. 1: Picking up an unwilling horse's feet



Understanding the problem from the horse's viewpoint:


- The feet are the horse's means of escape. When we lift a hoof and hold it up, we compromise the horse's ability to flee.


- From the horse's point of view, anything that endangers its feet also endangers its life.


- The horse's eyes are out on the sides of its head, but when we bend over to pick up a hoof, we generally block the horse's view of its own hoof.


- When a horse refuses to pick up its feet, it is not being "stubborn", it is feeling insecure. Trying to force it or frighten it will make things worse, so don't shout at it or prod it around as this will probably make it even less likely to cooperate.


- If there is just one hoof the horse won't lift, it's probably the right hind. The right hind is usually the one the horse is most insecure about.



Overcoming the problem from the human viewpoint:


- Start at the top of the horse - at the shoulder for a front leg, at the hip for a back leg, and stroke all the way down the leg, slowly and rhythmically. This prepares the horse and reassures it. Never grab straight for the hoof or fetlock.


- Give the horse time to adjust its weight over the other 3 legs. You can nudge it over to encourage this, but don't let it lean on you!


- If the horse is stuck, or is learning for the first time, use a rope under the fetlock to encourage the horse to lift the foot. Just lifting off the ground is fine at first. Build it up slowly until it can hold it for longer and longer.

The rope has several advantages. 1) Your head is not down there with a hoof that might kick. 2) You can be a little further away from the horse, so it can see what is happening. 3) It is much easier to keep the request on with the rope, even if it takes a while, as you are standing rather than bending. 4) If the horse tries to kick the rope out of the way, you can just set it up again and the risk of getting hurt is minimised.

Take time to get the horse used to giving to pressure on the rope until you can move the foot in any direction. Very soon it will start shifting its weight as soon as it feels the pressure on the rope.


- If the right hind is stuck, build confidence on the other legs first, even if they seem not to have a problem. Left fore is usually the easiest, so that's normally the best one to start with. Work on the other legs until the lift is light and willing, then try the more difficult one.


- When you first take the hoof in your hand, hold the tip of the toe. From this position it is much harder for the horse to kick.


- Stroke the leg gently and generously all the time the foot is held up. Make giving that foot a comfortable and relaxing thing to do.


There are full explanations and detailed video of how to teach picking up the feet on the Thinking Horse DVD.



If you'd like to discuss this or other problems, get in touch with me at or start a discussion at the Thinking Horse Facebook page!




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