Posted: Mon Apr 25, 2005 1:54 pm Post subject: Bad bad behaviour for Farrier
I received some very helpful information from you many months ago via the NR website. Great to see you have now started your own -- it's terrific!
Here's my problem...I have a mild-mannered 5 y.o. Canadian mare who is sweet, easy-going and a real people-lover. That is, except toward farriers. The first time she was fine for trimming and shoeing but since then, it's been all downhill. The second visit she became quite agitated, the third she was downright nasty and the fourth was a full-out explosive hellish nightmare. He eventually gave up and shod only her fronts. To my knowledge, she has never been hurt or punished by any farrier, vet or handler, and each episode occurred with a different farrier. She will still tolerate the trimming without too many problems but as soon as the hammering starts, she totally loses her mind. I am willing to tranq her if necessary but I really want to get to the bottom of the situation and somehow build it into a positive experience in her mind.
BTW, I can pick out her feet without any reaction whatsoever and have started tapping on the hoof walls and soles as part of my cleaning ritual....no problem.
What do you suggest? I don't want her to go through a lifetime of anxiety over something that MUST be done. Others have said she'll just get used to it because she *has no choice* but I definitely do NOT like the pattern I see emerging here! Any advice would be most appreciated.
Hello, Debra. I apologize for the delay in response. (The world is a little rough on me right now.) Thank you for the kind words about my website.
I have seen horses become agitated during the actual shoeing process, for no visible reason. So it can happen. However, there's a possibility that there *was* a reason. Perhaps the first time, the farrier did something that was uncomfortable while hammering the shoe on. These sorts of things could vary from holding the leg at an uncomfortable angle, to driving in a "hot" nail (through the sensitive part of the hoof).
Something that I always look for when a horse has a shoeing problem is hamstring trouble, which can give horses a lot of different reactions. A horse with a tight hamstring can't hold up the hind legs for long enough to be shod. If they try, they soon cramp and may even begin to spasm. This is also something which can get worse over time, making a horse worse & worse for the farrier each time. The whole procedure is downright uncomfortable, and the horse is bracing throughout--the jolt from the hammering of shoes, after all the time holding the leg up, can be terrible.
If the farrier is different each time, and she was fine at first, it sounds like there is *some* reason for her to be uncomfortable with the actual nailing of the shoes. It could be that she is not comfortable holding her legs up that long--picking feet doesn't require nearly the effort that trimming and shoeing does. It could be that she has a negative association with the nailing. It could even be that she is, for some reason, nervous about the area in which she is being shod, and the hammer spooks her.
I hope I've managed to give you a few things to check out. Hel,ping her get past this will depend on the reason why she's having such trouble, and accomodating it. You're already doing the right things: picking feet, tapping--by the way, you can buy a light hammer and actually tap on the shoe itself--and overall trying to make it a positive experience.
One final comment: are you sure that she needs shoes? Many horses can get along fine without them. It seems to me that the Canadiens are similar to/related to the Morgan, which is known for having very nice, solid feet. It's possible that whatever your level of work, she would really be all right without shoes. Alternatively, if she'd be okay barefoot, but she wouldn't tolerate the workload without shoes, then you could consider hoof boots. There are quite a number to choose from, now; Old Mac's, Boa Boots, and so on. This site has some good information about boots:
I am very happy to report that the Canadian mare that was having problems with the farrier is now an absolute saint. We had her vet-checked and everything came back normal. I attribute it completely to using a farrier with a kind, calm and consistent approach (and using the same farrier every time). He's made a point of not pushing her too far out of her 'comfort zone' and rewarding her with carrot bits every 5 minutes or so during the shoeing -- SO LONG AS she's behaving.
I have never seen such a transformation in a horse. It just goes to show you not to give up.
What a terrific farrier. It's so hard to find someone who does a good job with the feet, and also has the sensitivity for handling horses. Congratulations on a good find, and on helping your mare get past her anxiety.