How to Pick Up a Horse's Foot

If you want to pick up a horse's foot you want a relaxed horse. If a horse is upset or excited he will either be too stiff or too over reactive to cooperate. Everything you do around a horse influences how he is going to act. So be aware of how you are making a horse act. If the horse isn't used to new people get him used to you before you grab the leg.

If a horse has all his weight on the foot you want to pick up, he can't pick it up. If you try to push the horse over to get his weight off the foot, he will just sway back and put even more weight on the foot.

I put a hand on his shoulder or butt and slide my hand down the leg to let the horse know I am there and interested in his foot. Some people grasp the cannon bone or hock to signal the horse to lift his foot. I just tap the pastern with my finger and say "foot please". Most of my horses will shift their weight off the foot and lift it up for me. With some of my horses I have to tickle the cannon bone with a tiny twig to get their attention.

I never hold a horse's hoof by the toe because they can slam the foot down and bring your hand with it and smash your fingers before you are aware they are doing it. I hold the leg by the fetlock joint or pastern or cannon bone depending on what I am doing with it. I am mostly cleaning the foot with a hoof pick or trimming the hoof with nippers.

Some horses have never had a foot picked up before. To train them to pick up a foot, I get them used to a rope rubbing on them all over and then down the legs. Then I hold both ends of the rope and loop it around the pastern and gently tug on the rope easing pressure as soon as the horse lifts the foot. Then I rub my hand down the leg as far as the horse will allow gradually working my way down to the pastern. Then I lift the foot briefly and set it right down before the horse panics, gradually extending the time I hold a foot.

I can't hold a foot up for long and some operations require a lot of time so I walk the horse around when the horse gets fidgety. Sometimes I have to trim a hoof that I can't pick up because the opposite foot is lame. I have been able to get an okay trim on a hoof while it is on the ground by chipping away at the hoof with the nippers. Better than a very long hoof anyway.

I have always found it easier to pick up a hind foot because a horse usually rests one hind foot but never a front foot unless it is lame. A horse doesn't rest a front foot but they do shift their weight from one front foot to the other. For a reluctant horse you can wait until the weight shifts off the foot then ask for the foot.

My horses are so relaxed about me picking up their feet that I can walk up to them in the field and pick out or trim all four feet with no halter or lead rope on them.

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