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Help! My horse is difficult with the farrier — what should I do?

Jason Webb of Australian Horse Training is a renowned UK-based horse trainer with a passion for starting young horses, solving equine problems and teaching riders of all abilities and ambitions develop and strengthen the partnership they have with their horses. Here Jason gives one H&H forum user advice on how to get her horse more settled while being shod by the farrier

Q: “My horse is difficult with the farrier: My mare has always been difficult to shoe. However now we have to sedate her which is costing a fortune. We used to give her Sedaline but this now has no effect and my farrier prefers her to be completely sedated now. He is a very experienced farrier but has not come across this sort of problem before. I think it is a mixture of her being nervous from a previous experience and also a habit to act this way. She does not kick out but snorts her head off and will suddenly pull her leg away and barge through whoever is handling her. If other horses on the yard are being shod she again snorts her head of and gets very nervous. She is fine to have her feet picked out and in all other aspects on the ground. I have tried putting a bridle on and a twitch so I wondered if you had any suggestions please?”

A: Horses that snort like this tend to be genuinely worried and can become irrational very quickly. If it is an association specifically with the farrier, then this might be more difficult to fix because it may not necessarily be a leg handling issue.

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This will need to be a case of desensitising your horse to the farrier over a period of time.

I would start with teaching my horse to stand while tied up. I do a tying up exercise called “standing on the tie”, which would be a really useful thing to do with her. It involves tying your horse safely on the yard (I use a resistance tie system) before moving your horse’s hindquarters over from right to left and back a few times, before asking them to stand and settle at a point of your choosing, through your body language and saying the word “stand” as her cue. Then, walk at a safe distance behind the horse to see if they stay standing. If they move off the spot, repeat the exercise until they stand without moving.

Jason Webb

This can take a lot of patience and repetition, but it is an important training step. If you can get her good at this exercise, then whenever she gets fractious you can move her, get her to refocus and show her where to stand to be comfortable and relaxed. This will be useful when the farrier comes on the yard and she starts looking for her escape route. This exercise can be seen on www.yourhorsemanship.com.

I would practice this while other horses are being shod on the yard and I would get your farrier to come over once she is settled and just pick her feet up.

This is a starting point, but you may need some professional help to get you going. Good Luck! Jason

For more information on Jason Webb and his online training base Your Horsemanship, where you can learn a foundation in horse training with online lessons in groundwork, starting, and ridden fundamentals, visit his website

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