Horse handling for new horse owners

Even in today's economy (or maybe because of it), new horse owners pop up every day. An inexperienced client will often purchase an inexperienced horse. It can be a challenge to teach both owner and horse techniques that ensure the safety and cooperation for everyone involved, but also very rewarding to be able to start with a "fresh" owner and essentially create the perfect client/professional relationship.

Did you know that farriers interact with more horses than veterinarians, and even horse trainers? Due to the cyclical nature of hoof care, and horses' impeccable memories, it is beneficial for me as a hoof care professional to form trusting relationships with my clients' horses. Horses remember positive and negative experiences, and negative experiences can never be completely erased. This is one reason it is imperative that horse owners choose their hoof care professionals carefully.

I've put together a list of basic horse handling techniques below, with a focus on holding a horse for a farrier or trimmer. Many of the techniques also apply to holding your horse for the veterinarian or other equine professionals. These techniques are based on logic, common sense, and my own experiences as a hoof care professional.

It is my hope that these tips will help prevent some foreseeable accidents and possibly save some lives.

Use appropriate and properly fitted tack. 
I prefer a rope halter with at least a 12 foot lead. A longer lead may be necessary for a young or green horse, because it can be used to move the horse around should groundwork training come into play. A rope halter is gentle, but uncomfortable if a horse leans into it, unlike standard wide nylon or leather halters. Rope halters are especially effective when working with pushy horses.

Ask your horse to focus on the task at hand.
Encourage him to relax by petting him softly (but not with a brush in the middle of shedding season!). Do not distract your horse with treats or hay, because he may forget that someone is handling his hooves. Feeding horses also causes body weight to shift a lot (especially if they are reaching for a treat), which makes it difficult for your farrier to balance under him. Treats are okay as rewards for good behavior, but the timing must be right.

If a horse misbehaves, correct it, but give warning to your farrier beforehand. 
One of the most effective maneuvers for correcting a horse is backing him up - with energy. This does not mean pushing him back with all of your strength, but asking/insisting that the horse back up with your body language. Pushy, dominant, or spoiled horses can be taken down a notch or two by using this technique. It also redirects the horse's focus back to you and your farrier.

When working on front feet, stand on the opposite side of the horse's head, facing your farrier and horse at a 45-degree angle. 
If you stand facing your horse, your farrier may have difficulty maneuvering around you, or you could be struck by an overly exuberant horse. Stand in a position where you are able to observe your horse's body language and warn your farrier of behavior that may indicate a dangerous situation. Be aware of the surroundings, and keep children and pets away from the work area.

When working on hind feet, stand on the same side of the horse as your farrier. 
Keep the horse's head slightly tilted towards you so that he can see you and your farrier easily. Keep your horse from turning his head the opposite direction as this will shift his weight onto the hind foot that is off the ground. Your farrier's back will thank you for this!

When walking or trotting out your horse for gait analysis, keep your horse on a loose lead. 
Avoid pulling on your horse's head as it affects his weight distribution and gait. Give your horse at least 3 feet of lead rope. Teach your horse to trot with you as the trot is a common gait used for identifying lameness and gait abnormalities. A flat, smooth surface where the horse can be walked or trotted in a straight line or circle is desirable in these situations.

I hope this information will prove beneficial for horse owners and equine health professionals. Please feel free to post additional tips as comments, and share/print this article as long as it is credited/linked back to this site.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello there,

I have a question for the webmaster/admin here at thehealthyhoof.blogspot.com.

Can I use part of the information from your blog post right above if I provide a link back to your website?

Thanks,
Mark

Rebecca Wyatt, PBHT II said...

Sure!

Anonymous said...

Hi - I am really happy to discover this. Good job!

Abbotts Creek Paint Horses said...

I never cease to be amazed by Rebecca's knowledge, patience and persistence. We appreciate her professionalism and recommend her to you for your horses hoof care. Please feel free to contact us with any questions about her work with our horses.

Marci/David Brown

David said...

Some good advice. I have always used the backing as a form of correction with greats success.