Friday, February 6, 2009

The farrier visit

A nice roll after some play!

Well today I didn't play with either Link or Sonny but instead had their feet done. Both horses stood very well, despite someone snapping a longe whip numerous times at their horse in the arena. All our hard work, particularly during this last week, is starting to pay off! The two boys get the next two days off (I am in a course over the weekend) but are back on a regular schedule by Monday!

While we're on the subject of farriers...

The feat of finding a quality farrier in this area sometimes seems impossible! Today's farrier was great, but I'll explain further below. The last farrier I had (the one who did Silver and Koolaid just yesterday) was well enough but he lost me as he went on about having one of his clients use a twitch on her horse. He also lost me further later when he refused to listen to any insight I could offer into my own horses and when he refused to listen to my advice as to how to ask my horses to pick up their feet (my horses sort of respond to different cues to pick up their feet than your usual horse) and thus experienced difficulty. As a note though, for sure it is our responsibility as horse owners to make sure our horses are sufficiently developed and have sufficient trust in our leadership to stand nicely for the farrier. I cannot imagine bending over a multitude of horses each day and the toll it would take on my body, nevermind should those horses shuffle around and fight me the entire time! On the other hand though, when we don't properly prepare our horses (or our horses just are not "there" YET), there are things a farrier can do to help themselves out. For example, don't fight the horse! Koolaid, my Warmblood, WILL test the farrier (or anyone in his presence) - guaranteed. I can hold that horse's foot all day if I wanted, but when the farrier comes along, he is going to try to pull that leg away at least once. Now the farrier has one of two choices at this point:
1. try to hold the leg of an 1,100lb horse or
2. release the leg before picking it up again immediately after and try again
Let's look at what happens with #1. By pulling his leg away, Koolaid's started a game, testing the farrier's authority. By trying to hold that leg, the farrier is actually challenging Koolaid and is continuing the game! So what happens, the fight escalates.
With #2, the farrier is ignoring the challenge to his authority and is refusing to continue the game Koolaid has started, thereby actually starting to earn his respect.

Of course though, first off, the farriers never seem to introduce themselves to the horse. They march up to the horse, typical predator-style, and expect the horse to stand still while a complete stranger walks into their personal space and starts disabling them by picking up their feet. Then, when the horse (such as in Koolaid's case) does try to pull away - either out of distrust or disrespect, what does the farrier do? He holds onto said 1,100lb horse's leg. With a horse like Koolaid, he's going to fight you. Koolaid tried to pull his leg back and when he found he could not, he reared. Luckily for both him and I, I was able to work with him enough to get him to stand relatively still afterwards and he later gave the farrier little trouble. However there have been times in the past (prior to Parelli) where we had a huge fight on our hands - horse rearing, striking, very angry horse. For the distrustful horse, you've just grabbed his foot - his method of escape. From a prey animal's perspective, of course he's going to panic; he is going to do whatever it takes to get that foot back in case he's going to have to run (which he's thinking by this point, is increasingly likely).

The last thing that irritates me about farriers is that I have yet to find one that listens! I'm not going to try to tell you how to do your job, but I know my horse better than you do. So if I ask you to drop my horse's leg rather than fight him, please do it! I know my horse! Also, when I tell you that my horse has no idea what you are talking about when you ask him to pick up his feet that way, I know what I am talking about! If I tell you the cue to pick up his feet - the cue he knows - is to pinch his chestnuts and the caps of his hocks, please do it! Don't try to cue my horse in a way he doesn't understand (ie, pulling on his feathers), then get upset with him when he "disobeys" you! He's not disobeying you, he just doesn't understand what you're asking!

Link and Sonny's farrier today was actually excellent. He was very quiet with Link, which is what Link really needed. Unfortunately though he is not in the area for long, so I'm still in need of a permanent farrier. The second last farrier lost me when he smoked the green mare I was working with in the belly with his rasp. She was testing him a bit but also just green and so was unused to having her feet worked on by a farrier. So what is his first reaction? To yell and hit this prey animal. To add to the problem, this mare had been formerly worked with very harshly by another trainer. I had spent a lot of time gaining her trust and convincing her that I was not going to take her down and eat her alive. So naturally the rest of the time was spent trying to convince my mare that the farrier wasn't actually out to kill her. Even I didn't know what the man was going to do next, so how could I expect my mare to trust him?! This was supposedly a very good farrier - so...what does a 'bad' farrier look like, then?

Ultimately though, it is our responsibility to ensure our horses are adequately prepared for the farrier. On the other hand though, particularly with the green horse or with the horse that is a little distrustful of strangers, there are certain things the farrier can do to help him/herself out. Ultimately, when we cannot all work together and with the horse's best interests in mind, it is our horses that pay the price.

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