Feet

My farrier is very ill, and will not be back to work anytime soon. Generally, I have him come every six to eight weeks, and do my own trimming in between. It keeps me from getting too far behind, especially on the horses I’m not riding regularly. But between him getting sick, and my broken elbow, they’ve been getting a little behind this year.

So I got to work trimming Diego’s feet yesterday. He’s very prone to long toes and underrun heels. Over time, if he’s not kept trimmed really regularly the whole foot capsule tends to drift forward. And when it does, he’s quite trippy. He wasn’t actually too bad, since I’m highly motivated to trim him (trippy horses can be a little scary to ride). Even so, his feet look a lot better after a concerted effort to bring the toe back. I’ve beveled it quite strongly, which has brought the entire hoof angle into a better line. The bevel also gives him a better breakover, and he doesn’t trip. I still have to do the hind feet, since my arm gets tired and sore easily. But I will just pick away at it as I can manage.

After trimming though, I realized that I really have to deal with his reluctance to pick up and/or keep up his feet. Prying his feet off the ground is not ideal. And he has one hind that he doesn’t like to keep up in the air for too long (he needs chiro work – he also travels a bit crooked behind and drags hind toes). Today I did some clicker training with him to get him picking up his feet nicely. He sure changed his tune in a hurry. I had to pry each foot up and click/treat. Then pry it up again and click/treat. And then magically… “Here! Have my foot!” It was interesting that it was exactly twice with each foot before he got it that there would be a reward coming along for co-operation.

As always, there are unexpected benefits from this sort of training. Veronica and Anastasija wanted to go for a ride and were getting their two horses ready. I took Diego out and tied him to the trailer (where my tack is stored). He’s herdbound, so he always finds it stressful to be tacked up out of sight of the other horses. This time, he was rather mellow from all the clicker training. And after tying him, I repeated the foot pick-up exercise. He focused and relaxed, not thinking about the other horses at all. And that relaxation stayed with him right through the tacking up and mounting. I haven’t done a huge amount of clicker work with him, since he’s never been overly food-motivated (nothing like King!). But he seems a bit more interested in it lately.

We had a quiet relaxed ride, with no incidents other than the horde of mosquitoes that tried to carry Ana off for lunch. I wasn’t complaining really. They seemed to find her much more tasty than me 🙂