April 3, 2015

Picking Up Feet

Gentry already somewhat knew how to pick up his feet, he just didn't do it willingly. I would have to lean into him to push him off balance and them physically pick up his feet after which he would try and pull them out of my hands and stomp them back down. Not cool horse. Not cool.

On the bright side he didn't attempt to cow-kick when asked, Gentry just seemingly acted "stubborn" and didn't want to pick them up. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that he wasn't being stubborn, he'd just never been taught to properly and nicely pick up his feet when asked. Well, it was high time that we addressed that little training "hole" and I decided that picking up feet was going on our April goal list.

It took him ONE day to figure this out. Seriously guys, I know that I sound like an annoying person here, but I LOVE this friggin' horse. Here is a re-cap of what I did.

How To Teach a Horse to Pick Up Feet Politely (and Safely)

1. I put Gentry in the cross ties and stuffed small treats in my pockets, then went about grooming him as normal. You could obviously do this tied to a post or something as well, but since I am also working on not allowing him to paw in the cross-ties...I figured I would kill two birds with one stone!

2. When it came time to do his feet I took a deep patient breath (the kind I take when my almost three year old human child is throwing the fifth tantrum of the day because I asked him if he wanted juice...and he didn't, sigh), pinched his tendon right above the fetlock, and waited. Then waited some more. Eventually he tried to figure out what I was wanting and lifted his foot a little.

3. I immediately rewarded with a pat/"good boy" or a treat, and repeated until he got the picture and instantly picked up his foot when I lightly pinched the tendon. Upon setting the foot down, I was prepared and did not allow him to put his foot down on his own accord, but made him wait for me to place it down gently. Then I moved onto the other legs.

4. Once I got him to lift all four feet pretty good, I gave him a break (the uber reward) and groomed him some more.

5. Then I went back to the legs and asked again, working on getting a more polite response each time and of course always pretending to pick his feet once I picked them up.

6. Gentry became willing and nice about picking up his feet really quickly, so this didn't take long and we called it a day.

The Results

The next day (and all days following this week) I asked him to pick his feet up per our usual routine, while he was eating his breakfast. To my delight, he immediately and politely picked all of his feet up, didn't try to pull them out of my hands, and waited until I set them down where I wanted.

I am not used to a horse that just willingly figures things out and sticks with them. He is a rock star. I love it!


Now, if you have horse that has never been taught to have it's feet handled and does try to cow-kick you, you will need to precede all of this "refined" training with the good ole' rope method. To do that, grab a helmet, long lead rope and read this old post of mine: Hup, Hup, Hup


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