Picking Up Your Horse's Feet

Picking Up Your Horse's Feet

Teach your horse to pick up his feet – so you don't have to.

horse hind foot leg pick up

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Teaching your horse to pick up his feet isn’t only convenient, but it demonstrates a foundation of basic good behavior when interacting with your horse. Be it everyday grooming or a visit from the farrier, a horse that willingly picks up his feet is a matter of safety and efficiency.

All you need for this lesson is a halter and lead rope – and your horse. Before performing this exercise, be sure that your horse is comfortable having each of his legs rubbed, and that desensitizing exercises involving the legs have been successfully completed.

  1. Place the lead rope over your arm nearest to the horse. Stand close to the horse, your shoulder against his, and slide your hand down the inside of his foreleg.
  2. Take the chestnut between thumb and forefinger, and apply pressure to it. Initially, release the chestnut as soon as the horse lifts his hoof, then slide your hand down and under the hoof when he lifts it. 
  3. This will be your "switch" to ask him to pick up his hoof and avoid having to pull. Soon, a light pressure on the chestnut will be enough for the horse to lift his hoof. 

For the hind legs:

  1. Keep the horse's head turned slightly toward you. Standing with your shoulder next to his, and holding the rope as described above, 
  2. Slide your hand down his leg and pinch the cap of his hock, standing with your shoulder next to his, and holding the rope as described above.
  3. Stay close to him for your own security. When he lifts his hoof, slide your hand down his leg and take the hoof.

If the horse moves, continue rubbing his leg as if you were painting it and do not stop until he stops moving. Then, start again. You cannot prevent him from moving, but you can make it less comfortable for him to do so.

Keep in Mind:

  • The "right" answer must be the comfortable one to the horse.
  • Do not feel tempted to prove to the horse that you are stronger than he is; he may discover just the reverse, and he doesn't need to know this.
  • Remember that you are teaching the horse that it is more comfortable for him to give you his hoof and less comfortable if he pulls away.
  • If there is a struggle to hold his hoof, you should let go and start again.
  • Do not hit the horse's legs or pinch his tendons. 
  • In the beginning, do not hold onto his hoof for too long.
  • Do not attempt to grab his leg; he should give it to you.