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Getting used to hoof stand

From: Debbie

Hi Jessica!

I recently had to move to a new stable and I'm now too far away from my wonderful farrier that I've had for 12 years.

A friend at the new stable suggested I try her farrier and I've had him trim my horses twice so far. He does a very good job but he uses a hoof stand, which my horses have never had experience with. He found it strange that my old farrier didn't use a hoof stand, but I actually find it strange that he does use one. It just seems more trouble than it's worth. My gelding adjusted well to it and my mare will allow three feet to be put on it but when he goes to put her right hind foot on it, she always pulls it off again. He's not very patient with her and got mad at her when she wouldn't keep her foot in place. It wasn't a big deal, but I think if he'd have just taken his time and let her get used to it she'd have been fine. Is there a way I can teach her to tolerate the hoof stand before he comes out again, even though I don't have one available? Should I put her foot on a box or something to teach her to stand still?

There's another farrier I could use who also doesn't use a hoof stand, so I could switch to him. I just don't know what to do.

Thanks for your great service,

Debbie


Hi Debbie! Most farriers prefer to use a hoof stand. A hoof stand will support the horse's foot while it's being trimmed and shod. Horses quickly learn to trust the hoof stand, because a good, solid hoof stand provides steady, predictable support. Farriers like hoof stands because they allow the farriers to be more precise and more accurate, and enable them to work without putting extra strain on their knees and backs. I say "extra strain" because ALL farriers experience strain on their knees and backs - it's an occupational hazard. A hoof stand also makes it possible for the farrier to do a better job. And the better the quality of your horse's hooves, the more your farrier will need that hoof stand. Soft, weak hooves can be trimmed without much effort, but if you've ever watched a farrier trimming solid, hard hooves, you'll probably have seen him use BOTH hands on the hoof nippers. Trimming hard hooves is hard work!

A good hoof stand is adjustable - the farrier will be able to set it higher for taller or more experienced, calm horses, and lower for horses that are young and nervous or old, stiff, and arthritic.

Horses are very good at getting used to all sorts of apparatus. Think about it: When we bring a horse out for the farrier, we're already asking it to stand quietly whilst someone clips and rasps and snips at its hooves. There are sounds (tools clanking) and sensations (hooves being tapped and trimmed) that the horse learns to accept. Standing with a foot resting on a hoof stand is just one more thing for a horse to learn, and they usually learn it very easily. A hoof stand is a good and useful thing, not a bad thing.

I would worry more about the fact that the farrier was impatient with your mare. Good farriers are typically VERY patient with horses that are learning something new, whether it's a young foal getting its first trim or an older horse being introduced to the hoof stand for the first time. Good farriers also understand that older horses may have some physical problems due to injury or stiffness, and are tyipically understanding and willing to allow a stiff or sore horse to take a break, put its foot down for a moment or two. I've been fortunate enough to know many good farriers, and I can assure you that anger and impatience with horses are NOT signs of a good farrier. A frightened farrier who becomes angry with a horse is not going to help the horse feel more secure about the equipment or the experience. You may need to tell him, in so many words, that you want him to stay quiet and calm when he's handling your horses. That's a very reasonable request. Just be sure that your horses are under your control at all times, so that the farrier never feels that he is in danger... or that he needs to discipline the horses for you. A horse that shifts because it's uncomfortable should not frighten the farrier or cause him to react with anger, but a bad-mannered horse that is kicking, jumping, or attempting to tap-dance on the farrier's head WILL cause both fear and anger, and even if the anger would be better directed at the owner or handler who hasn't taught the horse to stand quietly, it's the HORSE that is most likely to be shouted at or hit.

When you clean your mare's hooves, you can practice just by holding them in the position and at the height they will be when they're on the stand - you don't need to put them ON anything. If there's an old hoof stand lying around in a corner of the barn, you could practice with that (but only if it's a nice solid one, not a flimsy tripod-style model!). You can also help her in other ways, by doing exercises with her that improve her balance, her focus on you, and her comfort with having her legs manipulated, moved, and held in different positions for increasing lengths of time (start with just a few seconds, and as she becomes more relaxed, increase the time until you can hold her foot in a particular position for two full minutes. TIME YOURSELF! Two minutes is quite a long time if you're holding a horse's foot in the air. (This will also give you some sympathy for the farrier, who not only holds the hoof but works on it.)

When the farrier is due to arrive, be sure that you've given your mare a chance to get some exercise first. Not only will this help her be more relaxed and calm, it will also provide a warmup that may make her much more comfortable physically - which will help her be more relaxed and calm.

Your mare should quickly become unconcerned about being asked to lift and hold her right hind hoof on the stand. If she continues to worry about it, check her carefully, looking for soreness or stiffness in her right fetlock, hock, stifle, and hip. By lifting and holding your mare's feet at different heights, you can accustom her to the process and simultaneously evaluate her reaction to having her foot held higher, lower, or more to the side. When a horse that isn't actually afraid or worried about a hoof stand shows reluctance to put one particular foot on the stand, it's generally a sign that there is some soreness somewhere in that leg. If this is the case, find out BEFORE the farrier arrives. He will have to deal with the results of the problem, of course, but the problem itself is something you'll want to discuss with your veterinarian.

Since you were on good terms with your old farrier, you might want to give him a call and just ask his advice - if your mare has any chronic stiffness, he'll certainly know about it, and he may be able to give you some useful suggestions. It's even possible that he could tell you which of the two farriers he would recommend. Meanwhile, as long as you feel that your current farrier is doing a good job trimming and balancing your horses' hooves, ask him to be patient whilst your mare adjusts to the idea of the hoof stand - and (this is ALWAYS a good idea in any case) be there whenever your mare's hooves are being trimmed. It's possible that he was having a very bad day when you last saw him, and that

Jessica

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