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.

Horse Training and Baseball

The other day I was thinking back to when I was a little kid, and every Saturday watching baseball on television. Back in those days there were only a few channels, and usually only one game on a week. I’ll never forget the announcers, Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese. Dizzy was the color guy and even as a kid I really got a kick out of his stories. One thing he said really struck a note with me– that baseball is one of the few sports we play in this country where time doesn’t matter. There’s no time clock. You play nine innings whether it takes you two hours or four hours.

So, you may ask, what’s that got to do with horse training? Well think about it. If you’re lucky enough to work with horses without having to meet a time constraint, it doesn’t get any better than that. Think about it for a minute. If you are a professional who trains horses for a living, you are forced to push horses maybe quicker than you should. But, if you are a weekend warrior like most horse owners, you can let the horse dictate how fast they learn, and have a whole lot more fun and rewarding experience. Our program allows you to progress your horse in baby steps, and enjoy the ride.

Play Ball!

House Calls with Randy

Randy’s horse won’t let him handle her feet. Horse Trainer Dave Rossiter coaches Randy through the process of teaching her to allow her feet to be picked up.

Natural Horsemanship

The other day while making a rare appearance in a grocery store, I couldn’t help but notice that almost everything carries a “Natural” label these days. I went to the dictionary to look up the definition of Natural, and there is a whole slew of definitions. I guess with all these definitions, food distributors and the like can find one to justify their label of “All Natural”, or made from “Natural Sources”, or whatever.

That kind of got me thinking that the term “Natural Horsemanship” maybe is just as misused in the horse industry as “Natural” is maybe misused in the food industry. Level One of our Training and Riding Pyramid talks about Tom and Bill Dorrance, and Ray Hunt as the early pioneers of “Natural Horsemanship”. Our training program incorporates many of the teaching methods of these early pioneers. And our definition of “Natural Horsemanship” is really pretty simple: Applying the appropriate pressures on horses in a non threatening, non predatory fashion, to get them to take the shapes we desire. It’s a lot easier said than done, since this approach does not come “Natural” for most people. We think that learning the language of the horse is the best way to become a “Natural”, which is what our whole program focuses on: Horse Sensible Horsemanship

Keep It Natural

House Calls with Mike

Mike contacted us to come out and help him with his big paint mare. He explained that the saddle had fallen under her and she had a major wreck running into the fence. She now is terrified of both the saddle blanket and saddle.

This video shows how we helped Mike in the first session, and gave him some exercises to get started on. Stay tuned for updates from Mike as he keeps us posted with his progress.

Week 1:

Dave: Any progress with your mare?
Mike: No, I have been busy and unable to work with her

Week 2

Dave: Any progress with your mare?
Mike: Worked with her and can now get the blanket on her without a problem

Week 3

Dave: Sounds like your making progress. How did this week go
Mike: I am making good progress. I tried the saddle and can’t get near her
Dave: Don’t get discouraged
Mike: OK sounds good, I’m not getting discouraged cause I can see the progress and can see in her eyes that she is trying

Week 4

Dave: How did this week go?
Mike: My brother-in-law and sister-in-law were here for the past week and they are both horse trainers and we were never able to get her saddled.  We all actually spent 5 hours yesterday trying to get her saddled.  She fought us the entire time. They have both trained many horses over their time and both came to the conclusion that Dee Dee just does not think like other horses.  They used many methods on her so we came to the conclusion she just is so afraid of the saddle she just won’t let it happen.  We could tranquilize her and saddle her many times, but we don’t want think that’s what we want to do.  I think I am going to sell her to someone that just wants a pet.  I very much appreciate your time, and it was a real pleasure meeting you.


On our first and only visit with Mike and his horse Dee Dee, it was obvious that this was not going to be a quick fix.  I laid out a sequence of baby steps for Mike, and he was making progress.  After just a couple of weeks he was able to get the blanket on.  Then it appears that his brother- and sister-in-law used their methods during the week they stayed with Mike and were unsuccessful.  Now Mike is discouraged and is giving up on her.

The main takeaways from this House Call are as follows:

  1. This horse had a bad experience and is truly scared.  The only way to fix the problem is to work on gaining her trust and gradually build her confidence back up.  It can take a long time to do that.
  2. Like most things these days, we want a quick fix.  With horses, a lot of times that is not possible.  It is unfortunate that Mike has given up, and hopefully he can find his horse a good home.

Some Things Never Change

As I read through my December issue of “Western Horseman” I am still taken back by the Christmas scenes on the cover and throughout the magazine. This year’s cover shows Santa on his horse standing on a hill overlooking a snow covered ranch house. No matter what the scene, they all depict not only the Christmas spirit, but more importantly a way of life that includes a strong relationship with family and horses.

I think back to December 1962 when I received my first issue of Western Horseman for my birthday. It was the Christmas issue and even though the Christmas scenes were different back then, they were really the same, and every year since then. Reminders of how thankful we should be for having family, and being blessed with a relationship with horses.
Merry Christmas

For Better and For Worse

I have never seen the statistics, but I am pretty sure that a large percentage of horse owners out there are women.  Seems like a lot of young girls dream of owning a horse someday.  In a lot of cases that dream comes true when a gal gets married and at some point buys a horse or horses.  In all my years of buying and selling horses, as well as putting on clinics, I would guess that somewhere between  70% to 80% of my clients were female.  Not a real scientific measure, but probably pretty accurate.

So what’s the big deal about women owning horses, you may be asking yourself.  I only mention it because of how it really seems to test a marriage when the spouse is not a horse person. My experience has been that the non horseperson husband feels compelled to help his wife with everything from hauling hay to cleaning stalls, to hitching up the trailer.  He will spend countless hours waiting for his wife to work her horse at the stable, or support her at a weekend show.  Being macho and staying on the little lady’s good side during all of these endeavors is not hard as long as the guy perseveres long and hard enough.

The real test comes when behavioral issues arise with the horse.  If the gal requests assistance from the husband, depending on the situation, it can be a real losing experience for him.  If the guy is not afraid of horses, to prove he is macho, he will usually use too much force on the horse, and the spouse/girlfriend will get mad at him.  On the other hand, if he is afraid of horses, and wants no part of the deal, he will be viewed by her as a wimp.  So the message to you non-horse guys out there, in a relationship with a female horse owner: Educate yourself on becoming a better horseman, it will really pay off in more ways than you can imagine.

Till Death Do You Part

It’s a Lifestyle

It’s kind of interesting how people value certain things in life.  Maybe it’s living in a big fancy house, driving an expensive car, or working out at the local club showing off your six pack abs.  I certainly don’t have any of those three things, but what I do have is a lifestyle that I treasure, and almost feel guilty for having at times.

My day starts out early feeding and watering horses.  Horses are always happy to see you, especially when they know you are going to feed them.  No hidden agenda with horses, they all have their own unique personalities, but they are all the same as far as no hidden agendas or motives.  Can’t say that’s the case with society in this day and age.  As I progress through the day taking horses through my training program, I find great pleasure in what I continue to learn from horses.  The day ends when I do the barn check at night, and I remind myself how lucky I really him, and how much I value my relationship with horses.