Equine Behavior Questions and Answers

The Question: How do I teach my horse to pick up her feet?

Hi. I was just wondering if you could help me? I have a horse that I bought from a auction and I cannot pick her feet up.

The Answer


It is frustrating to get a new horse home and find out she doesn't know everything she should! I do need a little more information. Can you touch her legs at all? Does she kick when you try to pick up her legs? Or does she plant them and refuse to move?

If you cannot touch her legs at all, that's the first place to start. Start rubbing her at her shoulder and slowly rub down her leg. If she tenses up or moves her leg, back up a bit to where she's comfortable and keep rubbing. Once she's relaxed, move back down a little more. It may take several days or even several weeks of working with her before she will let you rub all the way down her legs to her hooves. Go slowly and carefully and keep an eye out for any signs of tension from her.

If your horse kicks when you try to pick up her legs, you need to enlist the help of a professional. Kicking can be a very dangerous habit, and there's no reasno to get hurt. Talk to your farrier to see if he can recommend a trainer who can work with your horse to get her past her kicking problems and teach her to pick up her feet.

If the mare plants her legs and does not pick them up, you can work with her. Stand close against her side as you try to pick up her leg, give her a verbal cue (I use the word "give") and then push against her shoulder or hip with your shoulder/upper arm. This may push her off balance enough that you can pick up her foot.

Good luck working with your new mare - I hope you enjoy her for many years!

The Equine Behaviorist

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