I have spent many years refining the best techniques to teach a horse to stand for the horseshoer. I am a horseshoer and have taught many many horses to stand quietly for me. My own horse is trimmed and shod while standing quietly with no halter or lead rope. She knows when I pick her feet she is supposed to stand quietly and relaxed.
Okay when I first started shoeing horses I got some rough horses. They were horses that other farriers refused to do. Yes that is the most common horses new horseshoers get to do. The well established shoers do the horses they want to while new shoers have to do any horse in order to make some money.
Well I wanted to make money but also get these rough horses to be better. In horseshoeing school they taught us medieval ways to get a horse to stand. Yes that includes using physical restraints or brutal abuse. I figured there was a better way. It was simple, I would use Natural Horsemanship techniques. I didn’t need twitches, drugs, ropes or abuse to get horses to stand quietly.
Horses are very protective of their legs and underbelly. If a predator gets a hold of these vulnerable spots he could be fatally injured. Let me ask you this question. If you were standing on a street corner and a stranger grabbed leg and started putting on a new shoe what would you do? You would jerk it back and maybe kick him in the shin.
So why would a horse be any different? I spend time with the horse so that they understand I am a friend. I gently pet vulnerable spots and I look to see if the horse is relaxing or not. As a rule of thumb young horses usually are only fearful. Older (2 years and up) horses may have some ego thrown in. They may need discipline. Yes I am not all soft and easy.
If a horse gives me problems due to a negative attitude I do one thing. I force him to back up. Backing a horse up shows him that I am in charge.
Sometimes some horses have very big egos and this can take a while.
Young horses are usually very easy because I take my time to calm their fears of me. I gently rub their back’s and belly’s watching for them to relax. I stop once they relax. The whole deal is get the horse to relax and reward him when he does. I know that when I pick up a horse’s foot and he fights me if I give it back while he is fighting me he will always want to fight. If I give the horse’s foot back when he relaxes then he will want to relax. Then later on when I’m not giving his foot back he will think he is not relaxing enough.
Yes this technique can take lots of time. It is an investment I always make time because I want the horse to get better each time I handle his feet. Don’t forget that the horse has a responsibility to stand quietly. The more you try to force the horse to stand the more you are working against him standing quietly. Hitting a horse NEVER works, I don’t care the circumstance, unless perhaps if your life is in danger. Hitting a horse causes you to lose respect and trust form the horse. I am taking about belly kicks and rasps here, not training methods involving horsemen’s sticks. I define abuse as doing something that does not lead to a productive end that makes the horse better.
The take message is this. Most horseshoers don’t train horses, they shoe horses. If you want your horseshoer to train your horse to stand quietly then don’t complain. But if you want to be a real horseman you need to take the time to properly train your horse. Handle your horse’s feet routinely and work to get him to stand more quietly each time. Make sure he has no physical problems that are causing him pain which in turn causes him to react negatively to having his feet handled. Every horse will stand quietly with the proper training.
Using gentler and smarter techniques I have never had to use drugs or restraints in the last seven years. I have been able to trim or shoe horses that many other horseshoers could not. Take the time to do it right and in no time they will be doing it right all the time.