Lately I’ve had a few new clients comment that they’ve never been told by their farrier or trimmer what they need to be doing while their horse is getting worked on. I realize I discuss this with people that I work for, but that there really isn’t much written about this. There is however a video from Smartpak that shows a farrier being downright molested by the horse he is doing finish work on (front foot forward on the hoof stand) and everyone is laughing. It’s not funny.
It’s not funny if you’re the person doing the work. I’ve been bit on the head, on the shoulder, on the back.. So here goes, starting from the beginning.
When we arrive, we’d like your horses to be ready to trim and reasonably clean and dry. We do understand weather happens; spotless is not necessary but mud to the knees is a problem. One big reason we’d prefer less muck is because that stuff ruins our tools. Rasps currently cost over $30.00. So in order to keep costs down for everyone, clean is good!
Please don’t expect us to catch your horse in the field. This is dangerous and frankly the liability to you is huge should something go wrong. I personally want you there so I can discuss your horses feet with you, so I never do this anyway and would never expect anyone who works for me to do it, either.
Crossties. Some folks are ok with this, personally I am not. I don’t feel it’s safe after having a horse fall on me and get stuck with me underneath it. Freak incident? Maybe. But horses pull back and horses panic and – things happen. I’d prefer a human on the end of the lead rope!
We really like a clean, dry, level place to work. I know a lot of people will work in the dirt and I’ve done it, too. But I can’t do my best work on an unlevel, dirty surface. Please try to give us at least a few stall mats somewhere to work on, out of the weather.
Flyspray. Please have GOOD flyspray available and allow us to use it liberally. If your horse picks up a foot to kick at a fly, all that weight shifts onto the person under the horse. It’s abrupt and can injure your hoof care professional in a second. This is a dangerous job; please, let’s minimize the risks of people getting hurt. I often carry fly spray and if I continually have to spray someone’s horses will charge extra for it.
Your horse needs to stand still when we are working around and under them. This means also keeping their head and neck straight and still. When they turn and look right, all their weight goes left and vice versa. 1200 shifting pounds is not safe or easy to deal with and again.. we can’t do good work under these circumstances. I have noticed that often when I trim a horse for the first time who has a bad trim – he also has bad manners. I doubt this is a coincidence. Please don’t let your horse touch me. Even the kindest horses have nipped me – when I’m under them, I’m fair game. I always “meet and greet” and say good bye at the end – I like your horses and enjoy getting to know them. Just not while I’m under them.
Where should you be? Ideally it is on the opposite side of the farrier while we work in the front and on the same side when we are working behind. Please don’t stand directly in front of your horse in case he startles or the hoof stand goes flying! Staying alert and and aware of your horses activity is important; I appreciate a heads up if a client needs to take a phone call or text.
Discipline. A great client told me the other day that she realized a long time ago that I am the one who needs to discipline the horse for acting up because I know it’s happening long before she can identify it and furthermore, it’s often directed towards me and therefore I’m the one who needs to address it. I could not have said it better. I feel your horse tip onto me long before you can see it. I feel them think about rearing long before you can see it. Corrections are based on a lot of factors. One is – how old is your horse? Babies get leeway because they need training and I’m more than happy to participate in that because I want to trim well trained horses. It’s in my best interest, too. Old horses get leeway because they have aches and pains (and I expect clients to use whatever is appropriate to make them as comfortable as possible). Your average working horse of middle age has no excuses unless there’s an injury, so – perfect manners are expected. What is perfect? My horses can be trimmed with the lead rope over their backs and their feet are light as feathers. That is perfect.
What is discipline? Sometimes it’s a growl or I’ll tell you to do something. Usually it’s a tap with the rasp and a sharp word to stand up. If a horse tries to kick or strike me, it’s going to be more than that. Rearing gets a strong correction also. Anything dangerous is going to get a much bigger reaction out of me because I want your horse to understand that this is never acceptable. Not only is it not safe for me but I think you probably don’t want your horse kicking or striking at you, either. If you do then I’d prefer to not trim for you.
A world about natural horsemanship and “moving their feet”. This is inappropriate when someone is under your horse working. Whoa needs to mean that your horse plants his feet and does not move until told to do so. You cannot discipline him for moving by moving him more when someone is under him – it’s dangerous. I’ll leave this subject alone now other than to say that I don’t train my horses that way.
Scheduling. Some clients we schedule the next trim before I leave, some contact me a few weeks out to set up an appointment. Most horses should not go more than six weeks between trims and I do a few who need to be done every 3-4 weeks to stay balanced. Life gets crazy and it’s important for us to all stay on top of scheduling as best we can.
Diet. What goes in your horse creates the foot we have to trim. If your trimmer or farrier suggests a change, ask why and try to work with them on this. We see a lot of correlation between diet and hoof quality – and we see a lot of feet – so please take this seriously.
Questions. Please – ask! I am, and I think most hoof professionals are happy to explain things and answer questions. If your vet has questions, have them call me. I’m happy to explain why I am doing something the way I am, and to listen to what they have to say. This is how we all learn.
Remember – these guidelines are so that everyone stays safe and your horse gets the quality work that he deserves!