Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hoof Picking on the Loose

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.


Jen said...

Wow! That's savvy! :) You have smart girls, but I love your bit by bit approach and problem solving. They trust you completely and that's what it's all about. Well done, you!!!

Jen :)

the7msn said...

Now that's thinkin' outside the box...stall. Great job!

Cactus Jack Splash said...

Good job!

Twinville said...

You're the leader AND you, my friend have VERY smart horses. They are fast learners to be sure.

Good for you. What a terrific solution to the hoof picking problem :)

Laughing Orca Ranch
New Mexico

Carolynn said...

Wow, Victoria! That's amazing and awesome, inspiring and admirable!

I love how you treat your girls with such respect and understanding and they obviously appreciate it too.

What a wonderful relationship you've created with them both. It really is something to behold.

Victoria Cummings said...

Thanks for the kind comments, Everyone - It's not that my horses are fast learners, but that I knew they already knew what I was asking them to do. Siete used to be totally calm and easy with anything that had to do with her feet. Having her horse mom next to her reassured her that it was okay again. I knew that Silk is completely ground tied - a really good thing to teach a horse - so all I was asking her to do was stay in one spot even if the lead rope wasn't on her halter. And I want to be able to move around my horses safely no matter where they are. Mostly, it feels good not to be dreading picking Siete's feet and being annoyed by her behavior.

billie said...

That's wonderful, Victoria. It's so nice when we experience success with these little horse issues that come up!

AnnL said...

Great job. You have such good girls. Not only are you the leader, but they obviously trust you, since you respect them so much.


smellshorsey said...

I could NEVER get my horses to do that. They are lap horses, pets, leaders of my herd.

I am beyond impressed.

IceRyder said...

Good job!

Can you link to the clickryder blog?

I'll link back to you, too!



deejbrown said...

I wonder if clicker training will work with some of the people in my life....