How to Read a New Horse

Decipher what the horse is trying to tell you during hoof care

When approaching a new horse or a young horse that’s never had its feet handled before, a farrier needs to be able to “read” its state of mind. When you do this, you’ll have a better understanding of how to present yourself to that horse, how to deal with it in the short-term and the long-term and can have a strategy for building a good relationship.

“When you first approach a new horse, you know what its attitude is by how it looks at you,” says Pete Healey, a Los Olivos, Calif., farrier who frequently works on new horses at the Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center in Los Olivos.

To the new horse, a strange person approaching with a farrier’s shoeing box might be alarming. You have to be observant of the horse’s response. What is the horse doing as you approach? Is it moving away, snorting, stepping? Does the handler have a harder time holding onto the rope?

Farrier Takeaways

  • Take a few minutes to introduce yourself to a new horse and try to find out everything you can about it from the owner, including age, training, temperament and previous farrier work.
  • Using a hoof cradle with a new or spook-prone horse can protect you and the horse. If the horse knocks over the cradle, it’s not as bad as knocking you over.
  • Having a good horse holder you trust can help when shoeing a new horse. The handler can keep the horse calm and warn you before
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Heather Smith Thomas

Heather Smith Thomas is a freelance writer based in Salmon, Idaho. She has been writing books and articles for nearly 50 years.

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