Difficult with Hind Feet

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Q: You have a great web site. It is very to-the-point and educational.

I have a 4 year old gelding warmblood that was recently introduced to shoes (October). His first set was front shoes only. That went fine. Next set was all four. This was a bad episode. The horse is very large, heavy, and strong. Although, in all other areas he has excellent ground manners. As soon as the farrier starts pounding on the nails, the horse pulls his leg up tight and slings the farrier or myself off. We did manage to get the shoes on. The second episode just a couple of weeks ago was even worse. The horse would NOT stand to have his rear feet pounded on. He even resisted to having the clinches removed. We had a chain under his chin and a twitch on his nose. This only bought us a few short minutes of calm. He either slings the farrier off the leg, or lunges forward to resist this process. Eventually, he gets so irritated he attempts to cowkick when approached to pick up the rear foot. All in all, it's a terrible situation.

In practicing for the next farrier visit, we attempted to pound on his shoes by using a chain across his upper gums. With this method he stood stock still and we were successful. When we tried again without the chain on the gum, he was back to his regular antics.

In trying to resolve this issue, I spoke with one farrier who suggested that some horses who are unwilling to have their feet pounded on could have problems with their hocks. The horse exhibits no sign of lameness, stiffness, or pain when riding, lungeing, or free in the field. I feel that it is more likely an attitude problem but I would be very appreciative of your analysis and input on this situation.

Thank You

A: I commend you on being open minded enough to realize that your "baby" could be a brat rather than immediately blaming the farrier. Secondly I would commend you on checking out all possibilities, including that the horse may indeed be in pain.

First of all you should eliminate any question of unsoundness. I would recommend a veterinarian examination. Your information was correct--sore hocks can cause bad behavior on the hind feet, as can sore backs, hips and other assorted pains.

I suspect that your vet will find nothing wrong, but until you are sure you may have trouble committing yourself 100% to firm discipline.

If the horse stands for tapping on his hind feet when a lip chain (which is the common name for a chain that goes across the gums) is applied, that is what you should use. Ask him nicely to allow the work without the chain. When he first says "NO", put the chain on.

Once the chain is on, it may not be comfortable, but it doesn't hurt as long as the horse stands quietly and the handler doesn't need to reprimand him with it. I think you will find that soon he will behave himself with the chain softly over his gum. Then he will stand when you put it over his nose because he will learn that from that position you can quickly move it to his gums. Next he will be good when he hears the chain rattle as the farrier sets it on the tailgate of his truck in case he needs it.

Horses are not stupid when it comes to pain avoidance, and it sounds like you should have your problem worked out soon.

Good luck with your warmblood.


Geronimo Bayard
The Village Blacksmith

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This entire web site is copyright protected.  1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard,  2001-2008 Mary Fitzpatrick
All rights reserved. Contact Mary for reproduction information & permission.