Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dawn Gets Up and Farrier Visit

Yesterday, my farrier came to do Dawn and Pie.  When I went to get Dawn from turnout, she was sleeping in hay next to the round bale, out of the wind.  She was all curled up - I always think it's amazing how horses' legs fold up when they're lying down - and had very sleepy eyes.  She noticed my approach, but was happy to stay there dozing while I stroked her face and neck.  But we couldn't keep the farrier waiting, so I slipped her halter on and asked her to get up - poor thing having her nap interrupted.  It took a few asks, but then she slowly extended her front legs out, heaved herself up and shook herself off, and came with me to the barn.

Dawn's still in her shoes with borium spots on toes and heels, and wears full snow pads.  Both my horses were very good for the farrier.  This was Pie's second professional trim, and he couldn't have been more perfect.  He did give one or two "Pie faces" but didn't move a muscle.  The farrier commented on his beautiful feet, including his broad heels and solid hoof substance.

Drifter is terrible about having his feet handled.  Pie wasn't great when I got him, but mostly about picking them up due to lack of handling, and the issue cleared up within days.  Drifter is more resistant - he picks them up but then wants to pull them away, or even cow kick in the case of the hinds.  His owner is planning to have him trimmed before he comes to me, so that'll give me a number of weeks to work with him before the next farrier visit.  Since he's so motivated by positive reinforcement, and I have no intention of wrestling with him - he's a big horse - I think I may try using clicker to help him learn how fun and interesting it is to hold up his feet for as long as necessary.  I'll be interested to see how quickly he picks up what I'm asking - I'm guessing he'll be right on it.

* * * * * *
We've been having a stretch of cold and windy weather, so no riding has been happening.  The next few days wind chills are going to be in the single digits F during the day and around or slightly below zero at night.  Thursday night wind chills are going to drop into the range of -20F, and I'll bring Pie inside for the night.  Friday the horses may not get much turnout as things aren't going to warm up much during the day and the winds are supposed to be fierce.  I'm just hoping the very cold snap is a short one!


  1. Dawn sleeping in the hay is too cute. I just love it when they are curled up in little sleeping balls.

    I am thinking seriously about learning some clicker training. I think it will help me fine tune some of the impatience I see in both my horses. Feet cleaning is a perfect example - similar to Drifter, Pie doesn't like to hold his feet up any longer than necessary. I would like to make it fun.

    Stay warm! That sounds very cold. Your weather seems to end up here somehow. I don't look forward to a cold snap.

  2. Kate -just got back from the bus stop with Maizie and was thinking about clicker training the whole way - wanted to ask - are there any cons? Have you found an element of this type of training that you don't like or think is unkind in any way psychologically? Thanks!

  3. Dawn sounds so cute lying in the hay for a nap. Pie is always perfect. I'm sure when you start working with Drifter he'll pick thinks up quickly. Clicker training sounds like a good idea.

    This Jan. has turned into a miserable month for everyone. This morning we've got black ice and are in for a temperature change for the colder too. Stay warm.

  4. I think your cold is headed our way, once it's done with you. I pray it's short too.

  5. That weather sounds awful! Stay warm and I hope the winds don't cause any damage.

    I like the idea of using clicker to teach Drifter to hold his feet up. I'll be interested to here how it goes.

    I love when horses feel confident enough for us to approach them while they are laying down. It is so fun to love on them while they're resting. :)

  6. juliette - I'm far from experienced with clicker - I've only done a bit of it. From my experience, it's important to first teach the horse not to mug you if you're using treats (once the horse knows what you're up to other rewards than food can be used). And then it's very important to break the task down into very small increments and not ask for too much at once - for example with Drifter and his feet, I would probably first ask for him just to take his weight off the foot, as if he were going to lift it, when I touch his leg and build from there. Clicker also requires very close attention so that your reward (the click, reinforced by the treat) can be correctly timed to the try you're trying to reward. I think clicker can be a really good relationship builder, and can help the horse be more willing to try and experiment with solutions to asks. I've found good advice in some of Alexandra Kurland's book.

    Those of you with more experience with clicker, please chime in.

  7. I hope you get a short cold snap too, cause it's heading straight my way after it hits you!

    I look forward to reading how well Drifter responds to clicker training. He should get over those little quirks about his feet very quickly.

  8. That's great that Pie's feet are so good. Just another validation about what a special horse he is.

    My horses are the same way with sleeping in the hay pile. It's really sweet.

    It'll be interesting to see how Drifter comes along with the feet once you use the clicker method.

  9. I always hate to get them up when they are lying down napping. But it is always an honor if they don't get up at my approach. That trust is precious.

    Glad everyone was good for the farrier. I'm sure you will get Drifter to cooperate in short order.

  10. It's always good when our horses cooperate with vets and farriers and they usually do pretty well. It's the same feeling we had when our two boys were still home. They were typical boys but almost always showed their best side when others were around.


  11. One of the perks of getting an OTTB, they are very good about their feet, as a rule. I can clean both fronts and hinds standing on one side of my guy, and the shoer often comments on what a wonderful "client" he has in my horse.

    I'm sure Drifter will "get with the program" after a few sessions with you. Your farrier will appreciate your efforts as well. ;o)

  12. I've used clicker training very successfully to teach some of our colts to let us handle their feet, as well as to reteach horses that had "issues" with having their feet handled.

    I start small, reinforcing weight shifts, then letting me pick the foot up just a bit, then gradually building where I can hold the foot up for a second. After that, it's just duration.

    I try to work at a duration where I know the horse can succeed (even if this is 1 second at first) and then gradually build the duration.

    I don't try and fight the horse--if they want to struggle, paw or shake the leg, I just put it down, and no treat. Most of the horses learn pretty quickly that they only get treats if they hold their foot calmly and relaxed for whatever duration we're working on.

    Picking up feet is definitely something where it's Much better to take extra time at the beginning to do it correctly, rather than rushing and then having to try and troubleshoot problems later. (Then again, most things with horses are like this!)

    The clicker is nice as well for reinforcing relaxation. I had one who would pick up his feet fine, but you could really tell that he was tense and bracing. I could wait until I felt him relaxing a bit, then click, and put the foot down. This really helped him out with having his feet handled.


  13. Thanks Kate and others for the clicker info - and thanks Kate also for the clicker info in your next post. I did order the Alexandra Kurland book.

  14. I have Kurland's book and clearly need to go back and read some things but a question about clicker/treat:

    I have been working with a biting issue with my 4 y.o. OTTB. It seems to have gone but I'm afraid if I start during clicker backed by a treat that he'll get nippy again.

    Kate, you mentioned how you make yours take a step back before you'll give them the treat. This makes sense to me. I'd like to improve mine's manners for the farrier but I don't know how to combine asking for task (eg picking up foot and holding for a time), clicker / back up / treat. (I hope that made sense...)

  15. Jana - I left a reply over on the most recent post, with some links.


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