From  Horse  and  Rider  -  UK.  Jan.  2016


LIFTING  HORSE'S  FEET


ASKING  A  HORSE  TO  PICK  UP  ITS  FEET  CAN  SOMETIMES  BECOME  MORE  STRESSFUL  THAN  IT  NEEDS  TO  BE.  JASON  WEBB  EXPLAINS  HOW  YOU  CAN  TEACH  A  HORSE  TO  PICK  ITS  FEET  UP.



You may occasionally find yourself in a position where you can't get your horse to pick up his foot. It could be the first time he's been asked to do it and he doesn't understand what you're asking, or he won't pick it up because he's nervous or just stubborn. Another complicating matter is that, as a flight animal, holding one leg in the air leaves your horse in a compromised position, so allowing you to hold his leg up requires him to feel calm and trusting in his environment. It can be frustrating when he doesn't pick up his feet when you ask, but going back to the start and retraining him is the key.

First things first


Before you start trying to pick up your horse's feet, you need to prepare him for being touched and handled all over his body, and make sure he is comfortable with this. A safe way to do this is to use a long rope. To desensitize your horse to the rope, stand at his shoulder and get him used to the feeling of the rope over his neck, back and around each leg. If he reacts, go back a step and try just stroking him with the rope in your hand, and slowly progress to allowing it to hang.


When he is comfortable with the rope, the safest way to introduce hand-like contact is to start with a soft pole. This is especially useful if he appears nervous. Use the soft pole as an extension of your arm, starting where your horse is comfortable (usually on his neck) and progressing the stroking with the soft pole down your horse's leg, on all sides, until he is comfortable with you doing so. Begin with his front legs and progress onto his back legs. You don't want him to react to the touch of the pole because you don't want him to think that every time you touch his leg he needs to pick it up. You need a different cue for that. This might take a few days, but be patient and don't rush. The length of the soft pole allows you to stand in a safe position where you can step away if there is a problem.



Jason Webb is an Australian horseman. He was taught how to back horses using methods handed down through generations of horsemen in his family, and has gained a reputation for producing calm, well-mannered horses, and for having an ability to turn around horses with severe behavioural and ridden problems.





Time to transfer



When your horse has learnt that it's okay for you to touch his leg and that he doesn't need to react, the next stage is to teach him to transfer his weight from one leg to another. When you ask some horses to pick up their leg, they haven't transferred their weight properly, so they just lose balance and stamp it back down or don't lift at all.


To teach your horse to transfer his weight, start by standing at his head and loop the rope around his front leg, then let it drop to his pastern. Apply pressure to his fetlock by gently pulling on the rope and eventually, in order to release the pressure, he will transfer his weight and lift his leg. When he has lifted it, release the pressure and allow him to put it down again, then praise him. If he doesn't respond to your initial gentle tug on the rope, increase the pressure slowly and wait until he does. As you keep practising, the pressure cue will become less. If

he overreacts and snatches his leg up, don't worry, keep practising and he will become less reactive.


When using this technique on a hindleg, start the process by looping the rope above your horse's hock. Starting above the hock allows your horse to get used to the feeling of the loop and if he reacts and kicks out, the rope will be easier to hold. The aim at this point is for him to settle while feeling the pressure from the rope and get him to take a step forward. If your horse overreacts, you can let go of the rope and go back to desensitizing.  When your horse is accustomed to the rope around his back leg, you can lower it to the pastern. Apply a little bit of pressure, then when he picks it up, allow him to put it back down. When your horse is reacting consistently and correctly to the feeling of a light and consistent pressure, you will find that he'll stand resting that leg. This is when you can be sure that your horse has transferred his weight and you can start introducing your hand.


'When you first start using your

hand, start with your hand on

your horse's shoulder to avoid

surprising him

Taking it into your own hands


The next stage of retraining is introducing your hand to apply the pressure cue and supporting the leg when it's lifted. When you first start using your hand, start with your hand on your horse's shoulder to avoid surprising him and check he's standing in a good position. Then run your hand down his front leg and apply pressure behind his fetlock. When he picks it up, hold his foot rather than his leg. Be careful not to hold it for too long and to put it back down, let his foot fall. Holding his foot as he puts it down will teach him that he can push your hand down and he will learn to lean. With his back leg, put one hand near your horse's hip and make your way down his leg with the other. If he feels tense, you will be able to feel it in the hand on your horse's hip first. If he walks away, go back to using the rope so that you can move with him and reward him for stopping. If your horse feels tense when you lift his leg, give him a moment until he relaxes and let his leg fall. Be persistent and consistent with this plan, and in time you will have a polite horse with easy-to-pick-up feet. ■


I'M  QUITE  SURE  THIS  ALL  WORKS.  IF  YOU  HAVE  TIME  YOU  CAN  "HOOK  UP"  WITH  THE  HORSE,  GET  HIM  TO  KNOW  YOU  ARE  HIS  FRIEND,  WHERE  HE  FEELS  "AT  HOME  WITH  YOU"  AS  WE  SAY.  BE  ABLE  TO  BRUSH  HIM  ALL  OVER  INCLUDING  HIS  LEGS.  BE  ABLE  TO  PUT  YOUR  HAND  ALL  OVER  HIM  INCLUDING  HIS  LEGS.  HE'S  NOW  RELAXED,  TRUSTING  YOU,  HOWEVER  LONG  IT  TAKES.  THEN  VERY  OFTEN  WITH  A  HORSE  RELAXED  AND  CONFIDENT  IN  YOU,  YOU  CAN   RUN  YOUR  HAND  DOWN  HIS  FRONT  LEG   TO  THE  ANKLE,  AND  WITH  YOUR  FINGER  TIPS,  SQUEEZE  HARD  ENOUGH [A  LITTLE  PINCH],  PUSHING  YOUR  SHOULDER  ON  HIS  SHOULDER  TO  MOVE  HIS  WEIGHT  OVER  TO  THE  OTHER  LEG,  AND  MOST  OF  THE  TIME  THE  HORSE  WILL  LIFT  ITS  FOOT.  AS  HE  LIFTS  SAY  THE  WORD  "UP"  -  YOUR  VOICE  TRAINING  HIM  TO LIFT  HIS  FEET.  YES  DON'T  HOLD  HIS  FOOT  UP  VERY  LONG  AT  FIRST,  YOU  CAN  EXTEND  THE  LENGTH  OF  TIME,  OVER  TIME.


ON  THE  BACK  FEET  THE  BASIC  SAME  AS  THE  FRONT,  ONLY  KEEP  CLOSE  TO  HIS  LEG,  IF  HE  WANTS  TO  KICK  OUT  SOME,  HE  WILL  PUSH  YOU  AND  NOT  KICK  YOU,  IF  YOU  ARE  IN  CLOSE  TO  HIS  LEG.  IF  YOU  ARE  NOT  CONFIDENT  DOING  THIS  ON  THE  BACK  LEGS,  THEN  INDEED  USE  THE  ROPE  WAY.  I  PERSONALLY  HAVE  USED  OVER  THE  YEARS,  THE  WAY  I'M  DISCUSSING  IT.


THE  BIG  KEY  THIS  WAY  IS  TO   HAVE  THE  HORSE  "HOOKED  UP"  WITH  YOU  -  FRIENDS  WITH  YOU,  TRUSTING  YOU.


FOR  HOME  BORN  FOALS,  AFTER  THEY  ARE  WEANED  OFF  THEIR  MOTHER,  THIS  IS  THE  BEST  TIME  TO  HALTER  BREAK  AND  TEACH  TO  PICK  UP  THEIR  FEET…..AFTER  THEY  GET  IT  ALL,  DO  IT  ONCE  A  WEEK  FOR  A  NUMBER  OF  WEEKS,  THEN  SAY  ONCE  A  MONTH,  UNTIL  THEY  ARE  READY  TO  BREAK  FOR  RIDING.  ONCE  FULLY  LEARNED  THEY  WILL  REMEMBER  JUST  FINE,  ESPECIALLY  IF  YOU  HAVE  VOICED  TRAINED  FOR  THE  FEET  WITH  THE  WORD  "UP"  -  MY  HORSE  GOLDIE  WAS  TAUGHT  THAT  WAY  -  SHE  PICKS  HER  FEET  UP  WITH  THE  WORD  "UP"  AS  MY  HAND  GOES  DOWN  TO  HER  FOOT  -  Keith Hunt