How to Train Your Horse for the Farrier

Train your horse to behave while the farrier works on his feet.


  1. Image titled Train Your Horse for the Farrier Step 1
    Understand the reasons why horses can be difficult when handling their feet. A horses first line of defense is to run away, this is difficult if we have hold of a leg! He feels vulnerable. Maybe he has been mishandled in the past when having his feet lifted. There could be a physical problem making it painful for him to, either lift the foot you are working on, or put his weight on the other three feet.
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    Don't try to do too much at first. When training a horse to have his feet worked on, break the training down into small ‘bite size’ chunks. So although ultimately we want the horse to stand quietly while having his feet held up and worked on, this is unlikely to happen during the first training session. We need to look for small improvements and end a training session on a good note, rather than ask for more than the horse can understand and risk confusing him.
  3. Image titled Train Your Horse for the Farrier Step 3
    Work with the horse in a safe enclosed area, this can be a small area of field sectioned off with electric fencing (turned off!), or perhaps a round pen. This is to ensure that if the horse somehow gets away from you while you are working, it cannot get into a dangerous situation and you don’t have to walk as far to catch it again!
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    Do not work with the horse tied up at first, this can cause a horse to panic if he feels that he cannot get away from something that he thinks may put him in danger. In addition to a safe area it would be a good idea to have a bamboo cane about 1 meter (3.3 ft) long with some padding on one end, you can even make it into a false arm using an old glove to look like a hand, and a walking stick with the curved handle padded.
  5. Image titled Train Your Horse for the Farrier Step 5
    Start with the front legs. To begin with stroke the horse on the neck and slowly make your way down to the shoulder, if he is happy and hasn’t moved away, stop and take your hand away. Gradually work your way down the front leg, taking your hand away each time you go a little further. Working like this you will soon be able to touch all the way down the leg to the hoof, with the horse remaining relaxed. If you find that you can only get to the knee during the initial sessions, that’s fine, finish on a good note and attempt to get further down the leg during the next session.
  6. Image titled Train Your Horse for the Farrier Step 6
    Use the same technique when working on the back legs, but with the false arm. If the horse kicks out or steps away, try to keep the arm on, or at least near the leg. As soon as the horse stops, take the arm away to reward the horse for doing the right thing (in this case stopping kicking or moving away). While doing this work keep yourself calm and relaxed, as this will also help the horse. As with the front legs it will not be long before you are able to touch all the way down the back legs and around the fetlock area with the false arm.
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    Replace the fake hand with your own. Once you are happy with how the horse is reacting to this you can try to touch down the leg with your own hand. Alternate between legs during a training session to keep things a little more interesting for the horse (and you). This will also help to get the horse happy having all his feet lifted. There are a lot of horses that are really good having their nearside front leg lifted, and gradually get worse as you work your way round. There is no rule that states what order the horses feet need to be lifted in!
  8. Image titled Train Your Horse for the Farrier Step 8
    Begin picking up his feet. Now your horse now lets you touch all his legs whilst standing calmly. For the front legs, run your hand down to just behind the knee and, while standing a little to the side, gently pull forward. As soon as the horse lifts his leg put it down and give him a stroke. Continue like this, holding it up a little longer each time. Once again do not ask for too much too soon, it’s best to do too little than risk upsetting the horse and undoing all the previous good work. When you are able to lift and hold the leg up by pulling it forward, gently try getting it into the more usual position by bringing the hoof back and under. Again reward the horse by putting the foot down, and go to the other side to do the same with that foot. Now try gently picking the front feet up in the normal way. If the horse finds it difficult, go back a step, lift the legs forward again and repeat the above, he will soon get the idea.
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    Using the padded walking stick, move to the back legs. Stroke down the leg and hook the curved handle around the fetlock, you may also use a rope. Gently pull forward, when the horse lifts his foot immediately put it down and remove the walking stick. Repeat this several times, gradually increasing the time you have the foot lifted. Again when you are happy with how the horse is coping with this, lift his foot with your hand, lift it by pulling forward as you did with the walking stick.
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    Begin holding the foot as a farrier would. Once the horse is happy having his feet lifted and held up you can start to get him used to having them held as the farrier would hold them. So take note of the positions that the farrier uses.
  11. Image titled Train Your Horse for the Farrier Step 11
    Using sounds similar to what he would hear from being worked on by a farrier, get him used to having his feet tapped and the sound of hot metal in water. Maybe have him around when another horse on the yard is being hot shod, to let him see and smell the smoke and experience the noise.


  • Don’t ask for too much too soon
  • Keep sessions short (5 –20 mins)
  • Keep practicing, as this will instill in the horse that it is a completely normal part of life to have his feet worked on!
  • Work in a safe enclosed area.
  • Praise your horse when he has done something right
  • Stay calm


  • Be careful, horses can kick very hard.
  • It is not a good idea to do this work in a stall, unless it is a big one!

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Categories: Horse Training