As a farrier and also as a teacher of farriery I teach, I preach and I practise shoeing without violence. There is absolutely no need for any ropes, hobbles, straps or restraints of any kind, no matter how difficult that horse may be or has been in the past. I prove time and time again that with kindness and understanding all of these horses will come good, they will allow themselves to be shod in a relaxed manner without using violence. They will first of all start off expecting the worst, but within a very few minutes they will relax, settle down and allow themselves to be shod with no violence whatsoever.
I abhor the use of hobbles, sidelines, collar ropes and they are totally unnecessary. I have actually seen where a young horse was hobbled, then sidelined and then fitted with a big heavy halter and a big heavy lead rope to a heavy post that will not break and then they have the audacity or the stupidity to get down and try and pick up a front leg or a back leg and try and shoe that horse.
The horse cannot possibly balance, because he has hobbles and sidelines and his feet are in inappropriate places. In order for him to balance when you pick up a leg, he has to be able to spread his legs; either to spread the hind legs for you to pick up a front foot or vice versa.
You also must realise that when you pick up a horse’s front leg, he has what I call a ‘Happy Spot’. This is an area of about one foot square that when you hold the foot up off the ground at the fetlock joint, there is no tension on that leg at all, and the horse is standing on his other three legs perfectly balanced and comfortable. That is the spot to work on the hoof.
However, most people then pull the leg out another foot and up another six inches so they can step in and work on the leg. That immediately puts the horse out of his comfort zone, the hoof has been removed out of it ‘Happy Spot’ and the horse will not stand there for more than a few seconds before it starts to shift its weight, pull its leg back and then get branded as and ‘idiot’ or as a ‘bad horse’ then gets thumped or kicked or at the very least abused and then tied up a bit tighter, and the whole thing goes spiralling down hill and comes out the other end in disaster. This is even more evident with a hind leg. Young horse or older horse, it makes no difference, but if you are going to teach them, start at a young age and these problems will not occur.
With a hind leg, it is picked up in exactly the same way, and you find where the horse’s leg is relaxed by simply holding the hoof and taking it out the back to find that happy spot – it may be a lot lower than what you expect, it could be a little bit higher, or out the back a bit further, or back under the horse a little, but wherever that relaxed spot is, that is where you work.
If you look under your shoulder at the front feet when you are picking up a back leg, you will see that the horse will have moved its opposite front leg out by around two inches in order to balance the leg that you are holding. Now if he is hobbled or sidelined he cant do that, so immediately the horse will panic and seemingly start to kick, but all he is actually doing is grabbing his leg that he doesn’t fall over again. In all cases where horses have been misunderstood and hobbled, sidelined or collar roped, they expect violence when you handle their legs and they react accordingly to defend themselves.
In every single case, by taking a little extra time (and I have explained this and demonstrated it to countless pupils at my courses) you will find how easily this task can be performed with very little stress on the horse, and the outcome is always predictable, in other words successful.