Pictured Above: This image was captured while I was catching up a horse. Notice a couple of things about the photo. See how relaxed the horse is — as is the human. Notice how neatly and safely the halter and lead rope are draped, not looped, over my arm. This frees my hands to “communicate” ME to the horse. After about 90 seconds, the horse followed me to barn without the need of the halter and lead rope. Horsemanship through meaningful communications.

In the May/June 2018 issue of American Farriers Journal, I shared a few thoughts about horsemanship. For a farrier, horsemanship isn’t just how to handle the horse — it is about protecting yourself.

Understand how a horse can place its feet. For example, the forefoot can’t come out perpendicular to the horse’s body. When I pick up the fore foot, my feet are parallel to its body. So many times, I see a farrier’s left foot, when picking up the left front leg is placed in front of when that horse’s foot would land should the horse pull it’s leg away – and so many times, I see the farrier hit the horse — with nippers or a rasp — for simply placing its hoof exactly where it should be — in the horse’s mind – on the ground. It was the ignorant human who placed his foot in harm’s way. And no, the horse did not “do that on purpose.” That’s not how horses think!

Think about your posture as a farrier when under a horse. Bend at the knees and hips and keep your back at about a 60-degree angle. Think about a cornerback or middle linebacker in football. Seldom do you see their feet flat on the ground. Their legs are in a springed position before the football is snapped. Similarly, this is how we stay safe as farriers, by being able to blow out to the left or right from that position. The farrier who stands straight on his or her legs with the back bent, has a greater chance to be hurt by having to drop bodyweight to bend the knees to spring to the left or right. By the time the knees are bent, in an effort to get out of the way, the horse is already knocked him down (possibly resulting in serious injury to the human). And what’s the human’s first reaction when he and the recover? Hit the horse! Blame the horse!