Over the last month, Siete has developed a phobia about having her feet picked. It started after all the drama with her hoof abscesses and the new vet. Of course, it comes at a time when it is more important than ever that I am able to easily lift her hooves and keep them clean. For a while, I was imposing on my poor busy husband to hold the little horse while I struggled with her. I found myself getting more and more frustrated so I decided that I had to find a better way to deal with this new problem.
I wanted Siete to know that it was no big deal for me to mess around with her feet. She’s always been so good about it, but I totally understand why she’s acting this way. Her feet have hurt, her legs have ached, and people keep asking her to balance on the sore hoof or stand in buckets of water or wear clunky medicine boots full of squishy goo. She’s just tired of it and pissed off. Even though she feels better, I think she might be worried that we’re going to do something to make her feet hurt again. So, I decided to take it slow and go back to ground zero.
First, I started by fussing over the other horse. I spent a good, relaxed time picking out Silk’s feet and giving Siete’s mama lots of praise and attention. I ignored Siete who was also in the pasture, eating a little pile of hay and watching every move I made. Then, I pulled out my old “wand” that I used when I did Ttouch (Linda Tellington Jones) with Silk. I used it with Siete, rubbing it all over her, sliding it down her legs and tapping the knob end on her hooves. She was fine with that.
The next day, I decided to continue grooming the horses “at liberty” while they were out in the pasture. I picked Silk’s hooves out while she stood for me without a lead rope. When it was Siete’s turn, I used the clicker and some bits of carrot to help. Happily, Siete was ready and willing to stand still for me and let me lift up her front right foot. I picked it out, clicked and gave her the carrot. When I bent over to do the back hoof, I felt a gentle nudge on my butt. It was Silk, asking for a piece of carrot too.
Hmm, I thought, what I don’t need is my other horse mugging me while I try to convince Siete that having her hoof picked is a piece of cake. I weighed my options: take Siete out of the pasture and put her in the cross-ties, take Silk back to the barn, or make Silk stay a safe and comfortable distance away. I stepped towards Silk with my arm outstretched in front of her and said, “Back up.” She did. I wasn’t feeling like she was quite far enough away. I did it again and she backed up three more steps. Then, I clicked and gave her a treat. I also told her, “Ho.” She stood perfectly still.
I turned my attention back to Siete and picked out the other three hooves without any argument from the little horse. Silk didn’t move an inch while she attentively watched us. Afterwards, there were a couple more clicks, lots of praise and a few bits of carrot. The next day, I tried it again. When I started to pick up Siete’s front leg, Silk came and positioned herself the appropriate distance away and stood at attention. What good girls! I’ve got to say that it did wonders for my confidence that I’m the leader of this herd.