Hind Leg Lifts
To shape a hind leg lift for hoof cleaning, I use the same basic idea as I did for shaping the front leg lift. This time I will place my hand on the stifle so that I can feel when the muscles engaged to start to lift the leg. Once again, I will take the smallest try from the horse and gradually wait for a bit more and more until he is readily lifting and holding the leg in the air.
At the point that I think he feels comfortable with me ‘holding’ the hoof, I will very lightly place my hand on the hoof wherever it may be, even if not in the final position I would like. This teaching process, just like any other, continues to be refined every time you ask for it.
You need to be careful not to click and reinforce when he swings the hind leg outward, like a cow kick. I have no issue at all with them lifting the leg up and underneath his belly as this is a good stretch and was also the way I was taught to work with green horses hind feet…bringing them forward first and then up and under the hip. I find that too many farriers and owners stretch the leg way too far out behind the horse and this can cause discomfort and some of the hoof handling issues you commonly see.
I am also a firm believer in using a hoof stand when working on a horse’s hooves. It allows the leg to stay in a much more natural position; the horse can relax the leg and be comfortable and so can you!
When you watch the video, please notice that I will hold the hoof with my outside hind and deliver the treat with my inside hand. It is good to have practiced having your horse reach around to his side to accept the treat before you pick up a foot so that he can adjust his balance and know where to look for the food. You can have him target to your hand or target stick placed at his side where you would like him to reach around to when you have his foot up.
In this video Valor, a coming yearling, is readily offering his hind leg well before I can even get to putting my hand on his stifle. Anticipation is helpful and for now I will click and treat when he offers his foot whether I am asking for it or not. Later I can worry about putting it on a specific cue. Try not to make him ‘be wrong’. You have been rewarding him for this behaviour and he has chosen to offer it so gratefully accept this!