They say...the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Well, today I again found that sometimes a way to picking up a male horse's hoof..can be through his sheath.
There is a horse I am helping using the Trust Technique that has a BIG problem with picking up his right hind foot for cleaning or trimming. He had a bad experience with a trimmer in his past, and possibly at that time had some soreness in that back foot. The new hoof trimmer - Coreen Bradley of Giroux, MB, has tried with patience and persistance to get that back foot trimmed. With a little "relaxing med" she was able to get him it done, but with still great difficulty. Horses, like elephants, don't forget much, but they can forgive with building trust with peaceful, patient and kind ways.
So I have been working on just touching, rubbing and asking nothing more than a shift of weight from that foot to the other back foot for a few sessions. Today, as per usual in my work in the Trust Technique with animals, I got present and shared peaceful feelings with him. Then I rubbed his back leg, massaged his belly...then proceeded to see how he felt about having his sheath touched gently. He was relaxed, didn't mind, and I did a bit of clean up job there. While working in that area, he lifted that back hind leg as a response of pleasure and wanting me to continue my efforts. I reached down and gently held that back foot and massaged his belly and inside upper theigh. He was enjoying that so much that I don't think he even realized I was holding his foot. I was able to pick up his foot while massaging him a couple more times and left it at that.
I remember when washing my mare's udder area or scratching her there, and my geldings sheath areas that often they would lift the back leg on the side was working on. They usually LOVE that once they trust you, as it bring comfort to an area they cannot reach to sooth or scratch themselves. I would sometimes grab the leg, bring it forward some and then offer them to bring their head around and get a treat. It always helped associate back leg lifting with something yummy and positive. It's a good way to teach a horse to stretch that back leg forward to put on a trimming stand. So I will continue to work with this horse in peace & patience, picking up that leg when he offers it. The belly and sheath area massage will continue to be something of value I am offering in return for a leg up...with the trimming.
After all, we all cooperate better when there is something in it for us...weather a pat on the back, a paycheck, or kind words and praise. Why would it be any different with any animal?
When we offer something in exchange for getting something...we strike a deal, a mutual agreement that will pay off in building relationship and trust and confidence...in both us and the animal.
Anyone looking for a patient, professional barefoot trimmer, and one who is a stickler for providing a balanced hoof...well Coreen sure does some mighty fancy footwork and is still taking on new clients. She is also a student of mine in the Trust Technique, along with her daughter Phoebe. She has added that element of mindfulness and regard for the horses she works with. Contact her to book trimmings through Facebook or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 204-894-0588. Her website is : equinesynergy.ca
Oh...and remember... the way to a horse's cooperation can inspire you to get creative and reach out of your comfort zone and into theirs at times:)
Barb has over 25 years of experience in teaching people with horses. Now, she brings you to a new level of understanding of your equines,through meditation, intuitive training and employing a deeper sense of empathy with your animals.