While I’m Under Your Horse Trimming.. Some Guidelines

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!





39 thoughts on “While I’m Under Your Horse Trimming.. Some Guidelines

  1. Krystal Phillips says:

    Could you add something about where to stand while they are doing each hoof when you are holding the lead?

    Sure! I like people to stand on the opposite side of where I am trimming, to the side of the horse.


    • Gary Miller says:

      Except for when I have the horse’s front hoof pulled forward on the hoof peg. I want the handler on the same side I’m working on front and back. That way if the horse does panic it has an escape route and will just go around us both without plowing anyone over.

      With the hoof pulled forward on the peg the handler should be on the opposite side. The only reason for this is there is not room to work when we are both on the same side.


  2. Liz says:

    Well written article. I am an owner and keep my horses barefoot trims neat in between trims and it is very hard work. I cannot imagine having to nail shoes on etc. I try to have all my horses and foals ready and well mannered before the farruer or trimmer comes for the first time for them. I remember years ago i had a mare that i have to move to a new yard and a new farrier. I always try to be there myself especially first meeting. The horses were in a camp where the stables are also so the regular horses were caught and lined up for the farrier. My mare joined in the line up ad waited her turn. On her own not even a halter on. The farrier checked her feet and put a new full set (before i went barefoot) with her plated in place still without a halter. He was so baffled and impressed that my first set of shoes were no charge. He could not believe that a horse would come ad stand willingly and behave so well. It did take me a few years to get her to that stage but consistent training and discipline pays off.


  3. JC says:

    What about telling people about holding the horse from the oposite side when you’re on the front and the same side when on the rear?


  4. haswife says:

    and don’t forget a fan for hot days. we have an industrial one and it makes our farrier very happy, not to mention the horses. it’s hard sweaty work and i love my farrier♡


  5. Nicola Robinson says:

    Well said I hold my horses when there hoofs are getting done one horses is really good the other try’s to bite me when getting hoofs done and I tell her no


  6. Linda says:

    I absolutely totally agree with you. Your safety is important to me. I don’t tolegate bad behavior from my horses and you shouldn’t either. I’m there for my farrier on time and hooves cleaned.


  7. Becky says:

    What about standing on the opposite side when the front feet are worked on and the same side when the back feet are worked on.

    This means if the horse acts up and the handler instinctually steps back the horsemoves away from the farrier and gives them more opportunity to get out of the danger zone.

    I am not a farrier, but do a lot of training and work with a lot of hard to handle horses. I love my farrier and can’t afford for anything to happen to her. I know this simple safety drill has saved countless injuries!


  8. equitationgirl says:

    Well stated! My gelding who just passed away at age 28 always stood for the farrier. I was taught to rasp at 16 and did so until the day he died. I always rasped his rough edges on the feet and I took a correspondence course on horseshoeing fundamentals from Equine Educational Service in Chicago. I used that to judge shoeing jobs. And I’ve seen plenty of well behaved horses have bad jobs.. educate yourself as an owner as to what normal or good shoeing looks like and learn how to do basics hooc testing,rasp, nail cut you all benefit horse,shoer and owner


  9. Pat says:

    I agree with most of what you say, especially about clean feet and cross ties. I don’t agree with your assertion that you need to reprimand my horse, sometimes harshly, rather than the owner. My 16.3 Ottb occasionally gets antsy or moody with the farrier. I ask him to step away and I reprimand her- I will shove her, smack her a few times and jerk on her lead – she gets sullen and then stands like a statue. I had a previous farrier who got mad at a horse, he proudly told me, so he smacked her in the face and broke her front teeth. Note I said previous? Let the owner reprimand and if she doesn’t do it effectively, you don’t need her as a client. Your health and safety is too important.


    • thewholehorseblog says:

      Hi Pat, everyone is going to have a different opinion about this but in my experience discipline comes best from my end . Now having said that.. it sounds like you know exactly what your horse needs to be well behaved and so your situation is different. I appreciate your thoughtfulness about how important good behavior is and I bet your farrier does, too!


  10. Marie Tedei owner of Eden's Garden CSA Farm & The White Horse Ranch Boarding Facility says:

    I’m using a great new fly spray that is all natural – which should interest farriers who have to absorb all of those toxins off the horses’ legs…. it’s by Cactus Juice and it’s sold as a concentrated formula that is diluted in your spray bottle. I spray them down and brush it in lightly and the flies are not interested, meaning they don’t even land. (most toxins, will kill them when they land -this acts as more of a preventative so they don’t land to start with.) Plus, it makes my horse’s coat even more shiney with the cactus juice in it. (literally, cactus juice from prickly pear) Check it out – they have a FB page – or ask for it at your feed store and tell them to contact the company. They’re just releasing it and I’m an organic garden shop owner and farmer in Dallas so lucky enough to get it already!


  11. Kathy Duncan says:

    Very well written. Articulate. Spot on! You are appreciated by all horse people who cannot do it for themselves and you need the respect, admiration, and help of all of us. Thanks for your article and keep those feet going! Kathy Duncan, Vinton, Iowa


  12. Kittitas Valley Trail RidersLaurie says:

    Another reason to leave the discipline to the farrier: if I reprimand a horse more than a little, say, for trying to turn to bother the farrier, I need to WARN the professional who is under the horse before I create energy that may impact (literally) my farrier!
    Also, I was always taught the I should be standing on the same side of the horse as the farrier–if something does cause the horse to move (spook, loss of balance) I can then pull the head towards me and the body will pivot away from the farrier.


  13. Gayle says:

    Thank you for posting this! I have just changed farriers and I think my old one spoiled me. He always brought fly spray and used it on the horses. Now I know what I should be doing with the new Farrier to make his life easier.


  14. Pam says:

    I would also add that whatever side the farrier is on then the person holding the horse should be too. It seems common sense but again some people just don’t know it.


  15. Jessica Normand says:

    Thank you for this great blog post! SmartPaker Jessica here 🙂

    Although we do think our video is funny, we do also wholeheartedly believe in all the common sense and safety points you make. I wanted to share this article that we posted on our blog last summer:


    I’ll definitely pass along that we should make sure we continue to balance educational content like this with “the fun stuff”. Please feel free to send me suggestions!

    Best Regards,

    Jessica Normand (jnormand@SmartPak.com)
    National Director, Equine Health Education


  16. Raquel Rita says:

    Hi, I loved this article, I try to help my farrier while he works on my horse, but where I have my horse everybody tells me I just should walk away and let the farrier alone with the horse, that he knows what he is doing and if he needs me he shall shout…

    Can you tell me what fly spray you use? Here in Portugal is uncommon to use any kind of fly repellent, so I don’t know any of them and would like a professional opinion on which one to buy.

    Thank you so much for your text, it really helped me understand more how I can be of use.


    • thewholehorseblog says:

      Hi there- not sure what is available in Portugal ( but boy am I jealous of you having horses in Portugal! ) but I use 3:4 Endure mixed with 1:4 of the *original* oil-based Wipe while trimming. Nothing works as well in my experience.


      • Raquel Rita says:

        Lol, don’t really understand your jealousy, I see everybody enjoying their horses in the wild, near the beach or in great forests, and here we have so little of that.

        I don’t know if I’ll be able to find those products here, but I’ll try, not only for my farrier, but for my horse as well, he hates flies, the poor thing… thank you so much for your reply!

        I think we here are always a bit jealous of anyone who gets to ride Portuguese horses! Good luck finding good fly spray, it’s always a bit of a challenge to figure out what works in your area best. Where I live, this is it


  17. jcbellerby2 says:

    Some good points here thank you. You could also add that the handler/owner needs to stay alert and remember to change their position according to whatever hoof you are working on. This is a safety thing.
    Front hooves – stand on the opposite side of the hoof being worked on so you are out of both the horse and the farriers way, and can easily move the horse backwards, forwards, and away if necessary.
    Rear hooves – stand on the same side as the farrier so you can swing the horses’ butt away from both of you if necessary. Also so you can fully see the horses’ head and hooves, and all the bits in between – and can read the situation.


  18. Rider66 says:

    Well said! I train my own way, often at liberty, and used to trim my own horses long ago. Three years ago I was crazy enough to take on a three year old who didn’t even know how to walk on a lead. So when others are involved, I use a well fitted, knotted rope halter. Well, she and the farrier did have a serious exchange the first couple of times he worked on her. And I had no issue with what he did. Even so, we still needed a twitch early on. I don’t like them, but by God, I’ll use it before I see someone get hurt.

    Farriers do very difficult work, even if the horse is perfect, it’s back breaking. And now if my dear mare behaves for the farrier, she gets bits of carrot to snack on while he’s working. If she gets difficult…they dance, or the twitch comes out. My farrier is a good, kind man. And although I’ve worked with horses longer than he’s been alive, I respect his judgement, and his wellbeing.


  19. Margie Wolson says:

    Extremely well said. We love our farrier and are mortified if our horse is not a gentleman. A good farrier is like a good mare. If you got a good one, you’ve got a great one.


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