Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Good and the Bad

Drifter was not very good for the farrier this morning.  He snatched his front feet away and slammed them down - or hopped, using the farrier as a "leg".  He snatched his hind feet away and cow-kicked.  We got the job done but it wasn't pretty - I'm not very tolerant of this sort of behavior.  The farrier and I agree that the primary issue was his impatience - he's fine now for my picking his feet but that doesn't take very long, and when you ask him to hold his feet up longer, he becomes petulant and fussy and acts up - just like a toddler.  He's also out with the herd now and there's some separation stuff going on.  We're going to do lots of work with feet and legs, including leading by the legs and also him holding his legs up for longer - I may use a soft rope to help with his.  Any ideas and suggestions are welcome.

Drifter and I had a work session this afternoon.  There was some "I'm away from my friends and I can't stand it", but we worked through it.  His concentration and attention were intermittent, but it was windy and cold and we need to be able to work more days in a row.  But the leading, lungeing (changes of gait and direction as I asked, not as he pleased) and ride were pretty good and he did everything I asked.  I tied him for a few minutes as an experiment - as I expected there was a lot of moving around and pawing but he didn't try to pull back.  We're going to do more of that to work on his patience - I wish I had a way to rig up a high line where he could spend time tied and fret and fidget to his heart's content until he figured out that it was a waste of time and energy.

Pie and I had a lovely 40 minutes or so trail ride.  It was getting progressively colder and windier, but he did great (he was also very good for the farrier, although I got a lot of "Pie faces").  Dawn was good for the farrier too, although she's been clearly uncomfortable for the last couple of sessions - perhaps some arthritis in her knees or shoulders.

Tomorrow we're expecting more rain - :(.


  1. The only suggestion I have for Drifter holding up his feet longer is the tried and true - make it uncomfortable when he doesn't. Is there more of a problem with the front or rear? If so, hold one of those feet up and, as soon as he pulls it down, circle him around for several laps or back him up - whichever works better. Keep it up until he holds that foot up for the length of time the farrier would need.

    Knowing you, I'm sure you'll find a solution.


  2. I think its just patince also on your part as in lots of work with the legs...when I was working with my young foal if he was naughty with his legs I used to get a towel and slap(not really hard or anything) it all over his legs so it was flicking all round the sides of his legs then I would try to pick them up again, if he was nughty again, as in trying to pull leg away then I would get the rope, it doesn't hurt them as long as like you ssay its a soft rope, I tie it round there neck then pick up the back foot and hold it for 10 secs then release then do it longer until he was happt to just stand there for as long as I wanted to hold it, and he is sweet to do his feet..its just perserverance, and end of the day they need to be good, those back legs are very powerful things and so horses need to repect you and anyone else around them..I got cow kicked a couple of weeks ago and my leg is still sore...

  3. Bad Drifter! Only advice I have is plenty of patience and lots of practice! Pretty much what I did with my filly. I am sure Drifter will be a pro before you know it!

  4. I think leading Drifter by the legs sounds like a great idea. I know I've used that before with horses intolerant of messing with their legs. I think that kind of work gets into their little brains and changes their perception of control. It's good work and not used nearly often enough if you ask me.

  5. Get out your clicker. Make having his foot in your hand the MOST desirable thing ever. Let him have his foot back BEFORE he slams it down.

    And think about balance and pain issues. Why can't he hold the foot up that long?? Is he out of balance? Is he just worried? If he's having a toddler tantrum, it's because "developmentally" he's a toddler, unable to communicate his worry or discomfort. Not because he thinks he's going to "get away" with behaving like a toddler.

  6. i have to agree with dan, and good on you for helping your farrier out by working on it :)

  7. So, the farrier has the patience that Drifter doesn't have?!

    I don't have any magic secrets. My guys weren't great, but time and practice have made a difference.

  8. Personally I think that most farriers tend to hold the feet up for too long.

    My controversial suggestion is to let the hoof go right before he starts to fidget, give him a second or two, and then pick it up again.

    Mine started out awful, but by giving them breaks every minute or so they got better and better about holding their feet up longer.

  9. Dan - thanks - I do use some of that, although he's not too fazed by having to move his feet - he'd generally prefer to do that anyway - Mr. Fidget is his middle name.

    Mad Dog Ranch - I do always try to rule out any physical issues first - in his case, if you've been following along, he was not handled properly by his prior owner and is very impatient and fussy and distractible in general, and it's a matter of him being used to getting to do whatever he wants whenever he wants - he's basically a baby horse in terms of his manners. I have used clicker with some success already to get him to let me hold his feet long enough to pick them - he's pretty good for that now. The issue now is duration - the farrier needs him to hold his feet up much longer than I do just to pick them, so I'm going to work on duration, and will be using clicker and praise - he's pretty responsive to that - to stretch things out.

    smazourek - I actually think your suggestion is a good one, and that's how I'm going to approach it - if the horse can only do something for 5 seconds, ask for 4 and reward that and then build on it. The problem with the farrier is that he's got time constraints and also frankly doesn't have the finesse or timing to do what you're recommending - and kicking is never, ever acceptable no matter how the horse feels about something. I can and will do what you recommend, but getting it to translate to the farrier work is another matter - but we'll get there in time I think.

  10. There is fidgeting and there is "work." If he will not stand, then you need to make him move--according to your directions, not his. Backing up, circling, moving laterally, always off your aids. Then, expect him to stand again. If he moves, then start "working" him. Sooner or later, he should get the point. (We hope.)

    Tying him up somewhere for long periods is good too. That way, he figures out all by himself that patience is a virtue.

    For the feet.. repetition, repetition, repetition....I like the idea of holding the foot just long enough and then giving him a break.

    Also, some horses do not like having their hoofs held between the farrier's legs, so you need to do that as well as simply holding his foot up. I even take a hammer or tool of some sort, pick up the hoof and rap on it as if I am tapping in a nail. Even for an unshod horse, this gets him used to the farrier's tools and any noises associated with a trim.

    Good Pie. What is it with this weather. Colder here again too...horses back in their sheets...and then rain for the weekend. Not exactly the ideal spring so far. *sigh*

  11. Kate--I have two "high ties" I made by attaching climbing rope to a very solid overhanging branches in oak trees. The rope comes straight down (not too near the trunk of the tree) from well above the horse's head and there is a clip at the end--hanging at the appropriate height. I have tied horses here a lot to learn patience and none has ever gotten hurt. If you have such a tree, you might consider this--it works well for me.

    Since you ask for suggestions, this is how I would teach Drifter patience. I'd saddle him and tie him in such a spot--until he quit fussing. It would probably take several long days. I give the horses water mid day. I have used this system many, many times (and seen it used many, many times). It almost never fails, though you need to be very patient yourself, because some horses take a long time. And I wouldn't do it unless I had a safe spot to tie (like my "tree ties"). After the horse has learned to be patient with this, I find patience in other areas comes much easier.

  12. Laura - we have no suitable trees anywhere near the barn, unfortunately - we're basically treeless and any trees there are either are too small or haven't got the right horizontal sturdy limbs. I might be able to rig a high tie off my trailer like some of the horse camping people do - the arm comes off the top of the trailer and extends out far enough that the horse has room to circle. We also do have several sizable trees that I might be able to rig a high line between - but it's outside all the fenced areas of the barn (e.g. people can walk right up to it) and technically not on our property, so not sure if that works either.

    Any body out there have a source for such a thing that could be rigged off a big trailer?

  13. Like others Kate time and patience are wonderful things. I also ask for the leg and try to have it gently back on the ground before the horse makes the decision....then of course lots of reward.Hope the rain goes soon

  14. That's not how you're supposed to do it, Drifter!


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