“Horses don’t naturally pick up their feet for a handler, so training is required.”
Inexperienced horse owners don’t realize how awkward it is for a horse to have its feet picked up, said Martin Black.
“The next time you see a horse standing still with a hind leg cocked,” Black urged. “Walk behind the horse and make note of how that leg hangs down under the hip. It’s straight down, not angled out from the body.”
According to the horse clinician, “Such an observation is key to helping a horse learn to accept holding up a foot. That’s especially true with young or untrained horses.”
It is the easy place natural place for a horse to hang the foot. “So that’s where I try to hold it, and where I try to do my work,” Black clarified. “The lower the better on a green horse.”
It’s easier for the person to hold the leg out, at an angle. “But that makes it more difficult for the horse to balance,” Black pointed out.
“That’s all right, if your horse is tolerant of it,” Black said. “But on a young horse, I would keep my knees bent, more underneath, closer to where the foot naturally hangs.”
Over time a horse will learn to accept having its foot being held up and at an angle, the clinician added.
“If I’m trimming broodmares or yearlings, I try to keep the foot barely off the ground,” Black explained. “They’ll accept it a lot faster than if I insist on picking their leg up high where I can stand up straighter.”
Helping the horse stay balanced lessens the chances a horse leans on a handler while the foot is held. “I try to work from where the horse is balanced.” Black emphasized.
“If I don’t ever give the horse an opportunity to lean on me, he’ll never learn that habit,” Black continued. “A little shift in balance can help when teaching a horse to accept having its foot held. It’s a little bit of a yoga move, using thigh muscles you’re not used to using. But it’ll pay off.”