Question: I recently bought a 2 and a half year old gelding. His mother was Percheron and his father was a Belgian/1/4 horse cross. He is a big boy and his feet are humongous and very heavy. I can usually get him to lift his front ones but he still has issues with his balance, that just needs some work. My problem is his back feet, they are too heavy for me to lift. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you.
Answer from April Reeves: I’m going to give you 2 tricks I use to pick up feet. The first one is to pinch their chestnuts. This is irritating and almost every horse will lift that leg up very quickly, so be warned. Make sure you always catch the foot, and hold onto it especially if he puts up a struggle. If you drop the hoof it may hurt him, with will discourage him even more to pick up a foot. When you start to pinch don’t quit and start again. Keep it up until he responds.
The other trick is to put your fingers on both sides of his leg and as you move your hand down his leg, when you get just below the knee or hock, start to press in quite hard into the middle just behind the cannon bone. This forces blood down into the hoof quite quickly and becomes uncomfortable. They usually lift their leg with this technique. Once the horse gets this, they usually lift just by the feel of your hand start to slide down the leg.
Trying to hold any horse’s back leg is tough, but when you have a heavy leg it’s almost impossible. I work on my horses from another angle first. I take a long soft rope behind their pasterns, and standing at their shoulder, I bring their back leg up and hold it for a while. I start slow and gradually increase the time I hold it up. This teaches the horse that he has to obey and lift his leg when I ask. Once the horse is comfortable with this you can begin to ask him to lift the leg back (to clean). If the horse has been desensitized by the front lift, he won’t give you much hassle with a back lift. It will help with his balance too. Sometimes they learn to hold it for you but don’t count on it with a big horse.
As for keeping it and holding it, you may have to take a wood block with you, and place the foot on the block to clean it. I had to do this with a few horses, as I did not have a back that would take that kind of abuse.
He sounds like a lot of fun. If you need any help starting him, this blog has tons of colt starting articles that should last you a few years. Thank you for the email and let me know if you have other questions! April Reeves