I prefer the stand to be high enough to have the knee higher than the forearm. This position encourages the horse to stand still. It also encourages many horses to stretch when their foot is initially placed upon the stand.
I had Hoofjack make a longer than normal post for me. I hold 90% of my front legs 27 inches above the floor. Look at my back and shoulder position in Figure 1. My body is much more upright, and therefore exerting less stress than Figure 2.
By contrast, the lower stand position allows a horse to easily brace on the hoof stand while lifting the opposite foot and then move forward, back or sideways. Note the deep, bent over position of the farrier. As farriers, this position will wear out our backs, hips and knees.
You can apply much more downward pressure with your hand and arm low (Figure 3) than you can with your hand and arm high (Figure 4). The same is true for a horse’s feet and legs.
I have noticed that many farriers pull the leg to the outside while placing it on the stand (Figure 5). I have found that most horses fuss and pull when held like this. I believe that this position makes the elbow and shoulder uncomfortable, so horses try to take their leg away.
Set the horses up for success. Look at their anatomy and position the hoof stand so that from shoulder to hoof, their bones and joints are in alignment. Toed in or toed out horses stand best when I place the stand just 2 or 3 inches left or right of the straight leg position shown in Figure 6. If we make our horses comfortable, they willingly stand quietly for long periods of time. A quiet horse allows me to work efficiently, with higher quality of work in a shorter period of time.
Read more tips from Kirk Underschultz in the November 2019 issue of American Farriers Journal.
Photos provided by Marianne Huffman featuring her horse Casey.