Horse Won’t Pick Up Feet (Randy and his Broodmare)

Randy explained that his mare had been professionally trained and was good to ride.  However, at some point in her life, someone had tied up her feet and now she is so bad that you can’t pick her feet up at all, let alone have the farrier trim her feet.

We took the mare in the roundpen and Randy attempted to pick up her front foot.  She attempted to bite him, and would not let him lift her foot.  He then tried to pick up her back foot and she resisted by trying to kick him.

I proceeded by doing some exercises to build her trust and get her relaxed.  I then slipped a drop nose band on her so she would be unable to nip at me.  I then proceeded to rub all of her legs starting at the top and moving down to her fetlock without trying to pick her feet up.  She did not resist or kick at me, so it was apparent that she did not mind being touched on her legs, but rather picking her feet up is the issue.  I also concluded that this was not an attitude deal but fear from a bad past experience.  I also speculated that she was more of a dominant type mare.

I explained to Randy that our approach will be to take baby steps, incorporating pressure and release.  I then took the lead rope and looped it around her front pastern.  I applied pressure, pulling slightly until she started to lift her foot, at which time I released the pressure immediately.  By the end of the session I had her lifting all four feet momentarily with the lead rope.

We ended the session with me explaining to Randy that to fix the problem would take a time commitment on his part to work through a series of pressure and release steps to eventually get her to the point where you could pick up her feet and hold them up.  I left him with the following instructions to get started.

1) Continue getting her to lift her feet momentarily with pressure from the leadrope,     releasing immediately when she begins to lift her foot.

2) Begin holding her foot up longer, only releasing it when she holds it up in a relaxed fashion.  Don’t release at the kick, only when they get soft.  If you release at the kick, or wrong time, you just taught her to kick.  All horses learn from the release of pressure, not the pressure itself.  So giving the release at the wrong time teaches the wrong behavior.

Once she was doing good through step 2 with all four feet, I told Randy I would give him more steps to work on to ultimately get her ready for the farrier to work on.

This is a somewhat easy fix as long as Randy works on his timing of the release, and has the time to work with his mare.

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