Does your horse go into panic mode the second the farrier's van turns into the yard? Here, we've asked leading horse trainer Jason Webb to offer his tips on how to help your horse overcome his farrier fears.
This can be quite a challenge as your horse sees the farrier on an infrequent basis, so you need to go through a desensitising process with your horse in between visits.
How to desensitise your horse
Before you start, make sure you can replicate the noise of the farrier's tools and that you're able to move around while making this noise.
First of all, check you can control your horse's hind end so he faces towards you on command, then start making the noise. Depending on how your horse reacts, adjust your actions as follows:
If he tries to run:
- Stop making the noise.
- Control his hind end to help him relax while facing you.
- Repeat this until your horse wants to stay facing you, even when you're making the noise.
If he stays facing you, but keeps moving:
- Keep making the noise until your horse stops moving.
- Stop making the noise and take him for a walk to relax.
- Repeat until he doesn't move when you make the noise.
- Progress to letting him sniff and make contact with the object making the noise.
- Take it a step further and progress to placing the object in contact with his neck and moving it down over his back, ensuring you don't leave the object on your horse for too long.
- Repeat, starting at his nose until your horse is comfortable with contact from the object.
Once he's comfortable with this, progress to what I call 'moving with distraction'. If he's truly relaxed with the object, he should be calm while being led as the noise is being made. He may be reluctant at first, in which case try to get one step and stop making the noise. Repeat until you're getting fluent steps forward.
It's also a good idea in this situation to get your horse used to strangers, including the farrier, without making any noise or attempting to do anything with your horse's feet.