Some owners have failed to train their horses at an early age to stand for the farrier.

If you encounter an adult horse who hasn't been properly trained, how do you handle the situation?

What education do you provide the horse owner?

In nearly 43 yrs. of shoeing horses, I have shod many unruly horses, then I decided that was the wrong thing to try to do. No one can do a good job on a rank horse and we don't need to prove that by getting hurt in the attempt. I will not attempt to shoe an unruly horse. I explain to the client that this is not only dangerous, but that I cannot do the quality of work that I want to do.
—Dave Peterson

Depends on the client & the horse! If the horse is "bribeable" & I can gently make it understand that I can pick up a foot & it then gets a treat, I may attempt to do the horse as long as it's not yanking away from me and/or rearing or putting up really bad behavior. Some will also tolerate a chain under or over the nose & then stand to be done. Others I might ask to have the vet come out & tranquilize for me to do it. All of this also depends on the willingness of the owner to then further work with the horse. If there's no willingness on the owner's part, I just pick up my tools & leave! Like Dave Peterson, it's about attaching quality to my work while not being injured doing it. There's no amount of money worth working on a horse that's going to hurt you!

Ida Gates turned me onto Monty Roberts Duelly halter a few years ago. I've had 100 percent success useing it on yearlings and everything older. Understanding how a horse thinks is key to being a good horse shoer. I watched a shoer deal with a horse that he thought was unruly. Indeed even drugged it was unruly when it came to shoeing the back feet. However ,I think I would be unruly to if my foot was being forced to bend up as high as my poop hole.
—Dan Miller

I completely agree with Dave. I did the same thing for about the same amount of time. I shod many unruly horses in my early years because I needed the money and I too much pride to walk away. Somehow I survived. The truth is that by sacrificing myself I enabled owners to owners to do nothing about spoiled horses. Some even expected that horseshoers were supposed be beat up by their horse. Some even said that they were paying me to get injured instead of them. If you are capable and want to train horses for clients for shoeing, that would be a separate bill. I suggest investing in a Noavel head stall.
—Steve Kraus

It depends on the horse and client. Even the sweetest horse can hurt you given the wrong set of circumstances. Some of these horses are just spoiled for their owners, and a short training session improves their attitude greatly. If they are fearful, I will work with them as long as the owner understands that getting their feet trimmed and shod isn't the goal. If the owner is willing to spend the money (and I don't think the horse is aggressive), I will work with the horse. Sometimes the goal is just to pick up a foot, call it a day, and come back later. If a client isn't willing to do that, I am unwilling to risk my safety shoeing a horse. I will not spend the time to work with a horse at a high turnover barn, but if I know the horse will be there appointment after appointment, it can be time well spent to train rather than wrestle. Each situation is different. I evaluate the horse, the safety of the environment, my mood (it does no good if I am having a bad day, hurting, and won't have the patience to see it through), and the owner's willingness (to pay if it extends past 5 or 10 minutes, and to stop at any time without shoeing if I feel it is appropriate). If these things aren't leaning in a favorable direction, I walk away. No amount of money I charge for a horse could match my health insurance deductible.

Owner of a formerly unruly horse here. Mr. Unruly was a 4 yr.old OTTB we'd just bought, shortly after relocating. Up to then, I'd had the great good fortune to have several really great farriers who worked with us on horse behavior. Behavior, even for the most difficult of our horses, had never been an issue and I'd never really thought about how we achieved that. They stood like statues, or else. It doesn't take much to achieve this, but it does take a partnership between the farrier and the owner because someone has to correct the horse the instant it does the slightest unacceptable thing, including even thinking about taking back it's foot, for example. Relentless totally consistent response is the only way the horse learns. As the owner, holding the horse I do not want to correct him while you have his foot more or less in your face. And if I take the second or so to warn you and let you get prepared, it is too late. So you have to help me out here by applying the correction yourself. Our new farrier, after some uncomfortable discussion, finally agreed and the results have been good. Mr. Formerly Unruly is well on his way to being a model citizen, although he does still occassionally need a reminder. Of course we work with him on this everyday, but without the farriers participation, he (being very smart) is going to figure out that when the farrier is working on him, he can get away with shit. Of course the farrier can't do this alone, and I am very, very aware of the danger an unruly horse represents and no way do I want to see a farrier get hurt. And I've no problem if he wants to charge extra for even the slightest misbehavior and will have the horse sedated if it's needed. But please, we owners can't do it alone either, especially if the horse has had years of getting away with murder.
—Ariel Metcalf

Horse training is extra fee. There is to much effort, time, and skill involved to divert from doing a quality job. It is the horse owner's responsibility to have the horse "ready" for the farrier.

I own a horse that has a bad rear leg and can have problems holding hiself up during shoeing an can cause problems. We used to let him lean on the wall the opposite side. He's 16 an seam to not work as well. I changed to a farrier who has been doing it over 50 yrs. First thing he did with the rear leg was to start moving my horse's rear leg until he founf the comfortable angle for my horse holding his leg up for the work without a wall to support him. Best time the 10 yrs I've owned him. :)

As farriers we are there to do one job and that is hoof care. I also train and do horsemanship clinics. There is no reason owners can't get a horse ready for us. I'll show them how to safely work the feet and charge for a trimming.
—Brandin Schrader

I have put on clinics and was an invited clinician at the 25th annual farriers conference at Cornell University a few years back. I demonstrated my method of a harness and long rope in front of a full audience of farriers working with a 2300 lb draft horse who kicked with the rear and drove the front down when put between a farriers legs. I sold DVD's for years and taught many a farrier how to school unruly drafts and horses to stand quiet for the farrier and vet. Now a days the most popular method is the headstall with the metal bosal used and taught by Chris Gregory. The Noval Halter. In the right hands and with proper skills it appears to be a very effective method of controlling almost any horse or bull (as I heard that it mellowed out a bucking bull that Cody was riding). There are many other methods, "natural Horsemanship" used by a number of folks for example. It all comes down to what the particular farrier is willing to do and what the particular horse owner is willing to allow to be done. There is no need to use cruel methods anymore. Never any need to rasp hit an animal or beat with reigns or a fist. Methods like this show a person's frustration from not being able to do a job and nothing else. Lack of horsemanship skills are rampant in many of today's farriers...
—Bruce Matthews

If it is really bad, I do not do it. After 20 years you kind of know if it is a lost cause within a few minutes. Many times I experience my "good" horses having bad days. One thing I don't do is get upset. I try my best to get along with the horse, and if it is not gonna happen that day, it is not life or death. I just move on.
—Deb Avritt

I appreciate Ariel's comment. I would like more of my clients to have this understanding that sometimes the farrier needs to be the one to discipline the horse. There is nothing more aggravating than when said horse is bad and one whack labels us as horse beaters. I will gladly work with any horse as long as the human part of the equation does his/her part. If the training requires more than the average where maybe we need to go to the round pen and work until horse realizes standing quietly is much easier or other time consuming training methods there is an extra charge, but if the communication is open between client and farrier it shouldn't be a problem. If it is a problem, the human doesn't do their part or the horse is just a down right dangerous SOB then no way in hell am I going to put myself under it. Been there done that a few times and it's not a good deal for anyone involved.

I have been shoeing horses for more than 20 years. I am also guilty of putting more effort (risk) than I should on unruly horses. We have to make a quick assesment on the attitude of the horse. Is it scared or dominating? I will spend more time on a scared horse and I will also show techniques to the horse owner to help train them. The dominating or agressive horse will get less of my time. I have a pretty good record of getting the job done, but I feel the pain in my shoulders and my left bicep is completely separated from my forearm. It is hard to walk away but sometimes you have to. I have also turned hard horses into good customers. There is satisfaction and pride in that.
—Greg Lucas

I loved all comments the farrier's & owners posted!... If I tried to add another thing, it would be just redundent!!!.. (Great piece.)...
—James Lubig

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