The key to happy horses having their feet trimmed AND to the healing possibilities in happy feet “training”, is FEEL for your horse – which we talked about quite a bit and did an exercise for, on the seminar.
You’re going to be using your Feel that we were talking about on the seminar, to know when your horse is in their Comfort Zone and when they’re starting to come out into the Not Too Sure Zone. Typically, you’ll feel your FEEL and know when to back off, before you observe a change in body language.
Your FEEL is your ability to communicate with your horse. EVERYONE has Feel and no two people feel it exactly the same, which is why we can’t copy someone else’s Feel and trying to do that (that happens too easily when we admire really great horse people) that copying thing makes us feel not good enough or even like a failure.
Feel free to repeat the lesson / meditation / exercise that did at the end of the slides, that was designed to bring your Feel to your conscious attention.
The Comfort Zone Model
Click here for the full Comfort Zone Model lesson for those who haven’t seen that lesson before.
Baby steps that need to be in our horse’s Comfort Zone for happy feet trimming
We talked on the seminar about HOW to expand a horse’s Comfort Zone. it’s not the only way of expanding a horse’s Comfort Zone, but it works for now, because it’s a simple but very powerful process when it’s done with Feel for our horse.
” How you EXPAND the Comfort Zone is exactly the same process as releasing stresses and tensions, but usually goes a lot faster. i.e. Go as far as we can into picking their foot up until we Feel that first warning that tension is rising, put the foot down, back off and wait for them to finish thinking about it. They signal that by licking and chewing. The next time you’ll get further into the task of picking the foot up happily.”
1. First of all they need to have a Comfort Zone in the area that you’re going to be feet trimming in. And they will most likely need a buddy that they can see from that area, to be completely relaxed.
2. They need a Comfort Zone around the halter itself. That’s huge for some horses who have been traumatised by their halter training.
3. They need a Comfort Zone around their legs being stroked and that includes not snatching their legs away from your touch. Your Feel should tell you they’re happy or not long before they snatch their leg away though.
4. They need a Comfort Zone around their belly being touched – see the position the feet trimmer or farrier is in. We don’t suddenly walk up and touch their belly to check that out though – we might start by stroking them on the neck and gradually work our way down their body, keeping going if they feel good and using our Feel of any tension rising, to back off and wait for them to lick and chew as a signal that they’ve finished thinking. We will have talked on the seminar about the difference from Calming Signal theory and how horses are smart enough to cope with whatever way you’re using the lick and chew, just be consistent. i.e. don’t use licking and chewing as a calming signal one minute and the next minute as a signal that “I’ve finished processing and thinking now.” To me there’s a BIG difference to a horse grinding it’s teeth anxiously and a relaxed lick and chew and yawn after they’ve finished processing.
5. You can get a Comfort Zone with just tipping up their foot and resting their toe on the ground. Lots of horses have too much stored tension to pick their feet up all the way and as in the picture here, lots of trimmers these days know how to trim a foot without actually picking it up. He’s resting the horse’s foot on his foot.
6. Have a Comfort Zone about lifting the foot up for just a moment, but not holding it there.
7. Develop a Comfort Zone around holding it , then holding it up for longer and longer (that’s a process for some horses.)
8. You want a horse in their Comfort Zone with weight on all four feet so that they can balance easily with one foot in the air. Ideally, your horse will end up so comfortable that even if their weight isn’t evenly distributed, that as you ask for one foot to get picked up, they will automatically shift another foot into a good position – for a split second having only two feet on the ground. My feet trimmer Kathryn Christieson prefers this to moving them into a good position before she starts. She says that when they can re-balance that easily she really knows she has a horse comfortable about being trimmed.
9. Have a Comfort Zone with taking their feet out to the right angle for trimming. Don’t drag the leg back into position – take it as far into position as flows easily and WAIT for them to RELEASE their tension and give it to you. If your horse has had old tension that you’ve helped them release, you may like to show your trimmer / farrier how you put in that gentle pause. (Subtle enough? Smiling here.)
10. Have a Comfort Zone around someone actually doing something with the foot – i.e. you might tap the foot with the palm of your hand, use the hoof pick to clean their foot etc.
11. You don’t need to use the same way to ask for a foot to come up as your trimmer / farrier does – your horse is smart enough to figure it out, provided you and they give them a minute to think about what you’re asking. You can ask from a light squeeze of the chestnuts, you can run your hand down the leg and gentle signal on the fetlock, you can run your hand over the rum and gentle squeeze on the hock, you can run your hand all the way down to the hind fetlock too. You can also use the weight of your body as you get into position beside them, with a bit of a lean into them, to indicate that you’d like that leg picked up.
Some things to consider while feet trimming
Here’s some things to consider about problems at feet trimming time:
1. It’s not our trimmer’s or farrier’s job to train our horse – it’s ours – and if we don’t do that, then bless them they’re within their rights to charge us extra time.
2. If you’re the one holding the rope, stand on the same side as the trimmer / farrier, so that you can easily move the horse away for them should they get stung on the butt by a bee. Yes the bee thing was a joke.
3. If you’re gas bagging to the trimmer / farrier, then unless they are an EXTREMELY Present horse person, they’re not listening to your horse. The possibilities then spiral downwards to a horse who finds some other way of telling you something’s wrong that isn’t so polite as our Feel communication. Smiling here, but hey how often does the horse get into trouble when it was simply the human not listening?
4. Personally I’m not a fan of using treats around feet trimming. I want my horse to have their mind on the job and on how good they feel, not on a treat.
5. Smaller horses need consideration for their height – the trimmer comes down to them, not them having to put a leg up to the trimmer / farrier.
6. Lots of horses have physical discomfort around the front foot being between the trimmers knees – and lots AND LOTS of horses have discomfort, even pain in the shoulder, if they take the leg out too far as we show in the first photo. If the trimmer / farrier tucks themselves further under the horse it’s lot more comfortable. For some horses though, being between the knees is just too uncomfortable, as it was with Goldi here, so Kathryn’s doing her across her knee.
5. This horse could well start to cramp up with its leg held this high.
Oliver’s Stand in the Box lesson
This is a lesson from our Fast Track to Brilliant Riding program, so ignore everything from the heading “The Forum” onwards, because the links are passworded and it doesn’t apply to this seminar anyway.
This next lesson I’m sharing with you, IS NOT to be used to get a scared horse to stand still – that would CAUSE stress and tension. And we’re all about RELEASING stress and tension. For the horses who have never been asked and /or taught how to stand still for things like feet trimming, then this lesson from Oliver’s Diary called “Stand in the Box” will help.
Written version of the Meditation
Will go here later…