Hoof Care Made Easy
So, how do you start getting your horse to offer to hold up a hoof?
Here are the videos that go with my article in the March/April issue of Horse-Canada.
I will share some video clips showing how to start this process with a horse (pony in this case) that has had a bit of clicker training, so understands the relationship between the click and treat and how it is linked to a behaviour we like.
These videos of Squirt were done early on in his clicker career. As you can see, he is a busy little guy so getting the timing for the click was challenging. He is one end of the spectrum while the other end is the horse that never offers to lift his feet. I will discuss the training for both types over the next several blogs, so stay tuned. I would love you to comment and ask questions if you need further clarification on how to do this.
I would suggest you watch the clips several times before trying to shape this behaviour. Depending on your horse, things may go faster or slower and you may need to be happy with less progress during a session.
Let’s start with the hoof that is the least stuck to the ground, and it will be to your advantage it you have your horse in a place where he is inclined to move about a bit but not where he is so distracted that he can’t focus on the training.
You are going to watch the chest of leg with the hoof you have decided to work on or the stifle if it is a back leg. Why? The chest/stifle muscles will start to move before the hoof starts to come off the ground. Remember in clicker training, like all good training, you need to break the training down into easy, small steps so the horse and you can be successful.
Now, I hope you realize that it would be unrealistic to expect him to lift his foot up and hold it up right from the start. It is funny, but most people in traditional training expect this. Rather, we will capture and shape successive approximations of the end behaviour that we want.
I like to start shaping this behaviour by placing my hand on the point of his shoulder. I can then feel his muscle tighten as he is getting ready to move his leg. I am NOT pressing or pushing on his shoulder to get him to move, I am using my hand to give me an early warning signal to his actually moving his leg by feeling the muscle contract. At the slightest contraction of the muscle, I will click and treat for the smallest try.
Look again at video one. You will notice here that the lead rope is helping me out a bit by encouraging movement forward. I don’t usually tie while teaching this, but needed to this time as I didn’t have help videoing and needed to stay in frame. In this instance it worked a bit to my advantage. With another horse it might not have helped at all.
I am not going to bend over and try and grab his foot. Do not bend over or assume your regular hoof picking up position, sta