Taking care of your horse’s hooves is a major part of horse care: no feet, no horse! Yet, hoof care should be a pleasant moment, never a fight. This article is written in order to help to teach a horse to pick its hooves. Indeed, horses should behave as partners during this operation, they should help by lifting their feet when you need them, instead of resisting, fighting or kicking.
With all horses, make sure you can touch them all over the body without fuss. Be cautious when you approach horses you do not know: do not expect them to be bad but be ready for any situation. Always place yourself by the side of the leg, your shoulder against the horse and both feet by the horse, never under it. Your safety comes first, as you will not be able to take care of your horse’s hooves with a leg in a plaster.
The purpose of this exercise is to teach your horse to lift its feet when you press a specific location, a “button”, on its legs: the chestnut on the forelegs and the hocks on the hind legs. Process is quite simple, just press the button until the horse lifts the foot. At that very moment, release the button, grab the hoof and pet the horse’s leg. Just keep the hoof a few moments, then bring it down softly and pet your horse. Repeating the process everyday will teach your horse to be relaxed and to become a partner, helping you to clean its hooves. Most of the time, at the beginning, you may have to put extra pressure to help the horse lift its feet. Lean on its shoulder or its hip and push until your horse rearranges its balance and lifts its leg. Then, same process: grab the hoof, pet the leg and put it back down nicely.
What if my horse starts to kick?
Some horses can be pretty touchy down the legs, these are usually the most dominating and disrespectful horses. Of course, you should work all the Fundamentals first with those horses: desensitizing, backing up and lungeing. Even though, some horses might need a little extra work to be nice during hoof care. Work in the arena or the round-pen to be safe, keep the lead rope in hand as you will need it for the firm deal: press the button and wait, leave a few moments to the horse, then untrack its hindquarters over several circles or back it up 10 meters at least _ just pick what is the less comfortable to your horse _ as soon as it kicks. Repeat the process until your horse lifts the leg without trying any silly thing and remember to reward every nice attempt by lots of petting.