Getting a horse to stand still for the Farrier

I’m looking for some tips to make my horses better for the farrier. My farrier of 8 years recently retired so I had a new one this last go round. Only one of my horses somewhat “behaved” - they were all fidgety and didn’t want to stand. I understand some of this is likely due to the new farrier just being new - he does things a little differently than the old farrier and tends to hold legs up longer than they were previously used to. But even my typically really good mare who has been worked on by a couple of different farriers over the last few years was pretty bad - moving around and yanking her feet away. My two young horses (2 yrs and 4 yrs) are always a little fidgety and the 2 yr old occasionally cops an attitude and yanks her feet away.

I have one specific mare who has always been a huge challenge though now she will at least stand for a trim. She gets sedated for shoes. Because of her, I have spent a significant of time working with everyone on holding still with their feet and having manners about it. The real issue is they are fine with me and a several of the people I routinely ride with don’t have problems either. I can pick up and hold feet for as long as I need to, bang on them, move the leg around without dropping it, stretch legs out etc - both tied and not tied, in the barn and loose in the pasture with all the other horses.

They all know as soon as I reach down to pick up a foot, they are expected to stand still and let me do what I need to do. Everyone has been hobble trained, I can slip a rope around a foot and they will give to pressure (FYI great to teach as one of the horses somehow managed to get herself tangled in her lead rope this summer - to the point she knocked herself down (still haven’t figured that one out) but she went still when it wrapped around her foot and I was able to get her loose without any damage).

I just don’t understand why this doesn’t translate to better behavior for the farrier. They always have full bellies. Exercising before has never made much of a difference and makes my bad mare even worse. My old farrier was very good with everyone and was pretty patient with the young one. The new one seems to be too and I’m very happy with him. Good farriers are really hard to find in my area and I want to be the client they look forward to seeing with well-behaved horses and not the one they fire because of ill-behaved horses. Plus I would be horrified if my horses ever hurt the farrier.

This may not be a popular answer, but it may be the farrier. I have had horses a long time and used a lot of farriers over the years and on 2 occasions I had farriers where my horses just did not like them from the first visit.

I don’t know if it was the way that held the feet or if it bothered their legs but from the first visit they were bad and it went on for a year. He did nothing that I could see and he did all the horses at the barn I worked part time at and they were fine.

After that year we moved and on the first visit with the new farrier I warned him they hadn’t been good ( moving, snatching feet , kicking etc) and from the minute he picked up a foot they were good as gold. I was floored!

The second farrier they were bad for just took so long they all became neurotic upon hearing his truck arrive. So did I ! He did the most thorough job I have ever seen but we could not handle it mentally.

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I think a lot of this will just get better with time. My farrier always complements me on my young horse’s manners but I tell him it’s a reflection on him as much as it is on me. My young horse was a terror when he started working on her as a 2YO and now she’s 4 and she practically falls asleep. She knows the drill, and knows even if she does act like a jerk, nobody will smack her with a rasp, or kick her in the belly. She also knows her feet aren’t going to hurt from whatever he’s doing to them. She now knows when the farrier comes, she doesn’t have very much to worry about.

For me, when I have one that’s fidgety I don’t really “punish” I just kind of redirect their movement. I’ll take a moment to back them up, ask them to come forward, side pass that way, side pass the other way, yield the forehand, yield the hind end, etc. Then, when they do stand quietly and relaxed, I’ll give lots of praises, and even some treats. Eventually they learn that standing quietly is more rewarding than dancing around. It also helps to ease the anxiety around getting their feet worked on because they know it will be a rewarding experience. If you’re constantly yanking on the lead, smacking them, etc, they’ll just have more anxiety over getting worked on because they’ll associate all that getting their feet done.

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Do they like the farrier? How does s/he approach the horse? The horse will read someone even as the human just walks towards them.

Thank you for the replies.

This farrier has only been out once so I can’t actually say if they like him or not. They did like the previous farrier but they have very different techniques. My old farrier always did things in a very certain order and he rarely held up legs for a long period of time. He would do a little (like trim the excess hoof wall) then put the foot down. Pick it up again to rasp then let it drop again so he could evaluate it, bring the foot forward, drop it to evaluate it. He also rarely took off a lot of sole or frog.

The new one holds up the foot for a long time really cleans out the frog and sole. He did come highly recommended and I was impressed with his response to my horses less than stellar behavior. We also changed locations in the barn where they are usually trimmed though that is where they are usually groomed and messed with. I’m hoping once they get used to him, they will settle or at least go back to their previous level.

I don’t yank on anyone especially when the farrier is under them since that tends to make everyone more anxious. I might try to quietly redirect feet (especially the baby because she tends to unbalance herself).

There certainly is a possibility that my anxiety transferred to my horses. I was really nervous about the new farrier and how my horses would behave. It’s just frustrating to put so much time into feet handling and then not see it transfer to the situation you need it the most in

I’ve been fortunate that both my former long-time farrier (of like, almost 30 years!) and my new barefoot trimmer both do my horses (now just singular horse) without me needing to be there. I’ve been present every so often, of course, and I immediately remind myself to stay the heck away from the horse if he’s starting to get fidgety. The farrier will make the necessary correction needed. I know they do it when I’m not around, and I allow them to do it when I am. If I intervene, it only confuses the situation.

Your horses will get used to the new farrier’s routine. Stand back and allow the farrier to deal with any wiggling. The horses will learn what he expects and where the boundaries are and soon have it all figured out.

ETA: It might also be beneficial to watch how the farrier handles the horses and their feet and try to mimic that with them between visits so that they get used to it more quickly. Not just how he picks up and holds their feet, but also how he moves them around and adjusts their positioning, and how he generally interacts with them.

I think you may be on to something here. It sounds like you’ve done great homework with your horses. Which actually might have made this worse in the moment. Instead of passing it off, thinking, “oh she’s always fussy”, or “babies, shrug”, etc etc…what was likely going through your mind is something like “OMG he’s going to think you are feral beasts and never come back!” Plus, once one horse has a rough time, your anxiety increases, you go get the next horse…

The good news is it doesn’t sound like he was completely put off or got angry with the horses. So take a deep breath and give it a couple more tries (if you like the actual work, of course!). Yes, it could just possibly be something about him. But you owe that theory more tests without the adjustments to his style, and without your nerves. If after a few cycles they are as bad or worse, then sure, you might be back on the hunt.

Until then, keep up the good practice, breathe, and know he probably sees worse… often.

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I agree that the issue is likely you and the horses adjusting to the new farrier. There may be nothing wrong with this farrier, it’s just a new energy that the horses need time to adapt to. I suggest you let the farrier know that you noticed your horses were fidgety last time and that they are generally quite quiet. Ask if he would be willing to give them more breaks as they adjust to the new energy and approach. If he is a compassionate and intelligent person, he will understand that a little patience now will lead to a better long term relationship with each horse. I also recommend some treats or something to shift their focus away from the “someone new”. Good luck!

Some ideas; any Farrier height difference with the new and old? Weight issue? Speed of each portion of work, trim wall, cleaning frog? Slow or fairly quick work?. Does he rasp from both right and left sides of hoof equally? Pull the leg forward to dress the hoof on a stand?

Not critisizing, but taller, heavier Farriers often cannot compress to get IN and UNDER a horse, to prevent pulling the leg out in work. They also might be lifting legs up higher than is comfortable for the horse. Tight-muscled horses, western stock breeds, often get VERY uncomfortable hoisting a hind leg up any height or pulled out sideways any distance, so they protest, jerking away, often escalating to kicking.

My one mare (western) was so tight muscled you just lifted the hinds up 3 inches off the ground for cleaning, trimming, shoeing. She would stand well for long times this way. Lifting the leg higher, pulling it out sideways, you were in for a fight!! It HURT her!

Of course this is a less comfortable body position for the Farrier to work in. Many will not change to accommodate the horse. Could be a painful position for Farrier, getting in/under the body, especially on smaller horses and ponies.

You might watch more closely on the next Farrier visit, see how they position the leg in working height. See if leg is held directly below the horse body (requiring Farrier to fold up to get in/under the body), not way out to the side or twisted at the knee to be worked on. Farrier may not be aware of what they are doing!!

I am in the group that thinks a horse acting poorly, who never did before, has a reason to do that. Now I need to look hard to find that reason! A kindly approach by Farrier with lots of experience, should not trigger bad reactions in well-trained horses. Slow work could be a real problem, it is hard balancing on 3 legs! Especially if horse is used to a faster-working Farrier.

Good luck diagnosing the issue.

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I’ve seen differences in the way my horses react to various trimmers. They LOVED the first one I used, but hated her replacement (first one moved). Even my very good girl was difficult with her. I’m now on trimmer #3 and they like her much better, but it took about three or four visits for them to relax around her and be still. There was nothing wrong with #2 that I could tell, and she did a great job on their feet - but she did have a certain odor about her that I always wondered is what put them off. It wasn’t necessarily unpleasant, but it was strong. None of the horses behaved very well for her.

If other things have changed at the same time as a new farrier came on board it may just be an adjustment period is needed too. If you were anxious they certainly will pick up on that .

I would work on holding their feet up for as long as possible until the farrier comes back.

One farrier I used that the horses did well for was a smoker and when he came for the first visit I could smell cigarette smoke strongly and when I led my mare up to him she went berserk trying to get away from him.

I don’t think I have ever had a farrier who smoked. Chewed yes, but after a few minutes of this farrier petting and talking to her she was perfect and it never happened again. So smells they are not used to, or find suspect can cause problems too for a bit.

That & the fact that this was a New Guy for them could very well have contributed to the antsy behavior.
2nd visit should go smoother if you can get yourself relaxed. :crossed_fingers:

FWIW:
A friend has a horse she has had since he was 9mos.
At 15 he still needs to be loaded into her 2H for a vet visit to her farm - works like stocks.
She has 4 other horses, same vet his whole life & nobody reacts like this guy.
No negative interaction with the vet she can think of, he just plain Does Not Like the vet.

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There were a few things that jumped out to me.

  1. “The farrier holds feet longer.” It’s totally okay to ask your farrier to give your horses a break after a few. Not only is it tiring to hold their feet up, it naturally takes away their flight response. Some horses have a harder time coping with this loss of freedom.

  2. “He does things a little differently.” What exactly are you referring to? The way he holds legs and feet? The order in which he trims? How did he react when the horses were pulling away from him?

  3. Pardon my shouting here, but…RESPECT DOESN’T TRANSFER. Just because they are good with you doesn’t mean they will be good for someone else. Horses can be a great judge of character and mood. If the farrier was worried/anxious or just plain didn’t like the horses, they will know it.

Unpopular opinion, but I would give it one or two more cycles and then switch farriers if you can find another one.