Training Your Horse for Hoof Trimming

Training your horse to have its hooves trimmed is very much like halter training them, with a few twists and turns. The horse should be willing to stand completely still, lift its feet when commanded to do so, and let you work on that foot until you put down.

You would be surprised how many horses simply don’t stand still, this is a sure sign of incomplete halter training. You will want your horse to be able to move backward, forward, left or right, move the front quarters, move the back quarters, all on your command signal. The command signals that you choose to use, may be moving the lead rope, applying pressure with your hand on the part you want move, or on a more advanced level just using your energy to move the horse. Once you’ve taught your horse to move on your signal, you then teach them not to move until you give them the signal to do so.

It is much easier to get the horse to lift its foot if it is standing in a balanced position, don’t ask him to pick up his foot if most of his weight is on that foot, it’s just not going to happen. You want the horse to be able pickup it’s foot without falling on top of you, so be very aware if your horse is standing balanced or not.

How to signal your horse to pick up his foot is completely up to you, here is what I do, first of all before I ever touched the foot, I make sure I can touch my horse all over the body before ever running my hand down the leg. I then run my hand down below the hock or the knee, I kiss to the horse as I do this, so horse knows I want them to do something. If the horse still won’t pick up it’s leg, I apply some pressure to the leg. Applying pressure can be done in a number of different ways, squeezing the tendon behind the cannon bone, squeezing the chestnut, digging in the fingernail to the side of that cannon bone, or gently tapping the cannon bone with your hand or the wooden part of your hoof knife. You do whatever you have to do to get them to lift the leg.

If the horse lifts it’s leg ever so slightly, maybe just taking the weight off from it, I release the leg, and stand up rub their body a bit and tell them they did a good job. You want to reward the horse for any try whatsoever when lifting their legs, this will create better communications with your horse and reward them for listening to you. You will want to increase the time of the leg being off the ground until is long enough that you could actually trim the horse, by doing it without your tools for a while, when the time arrives to actually trim your horse it will be a breeze.

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