Bethany A. Caskey
I was never good at trying to stand on my head and hold a thousand plus animal in my hands while brandishing a pair of nippers and a rasp, or any tools, for that matter. As I aged (gracefully) I found the task of trimming hooves even more of a strain. If I was lucky, I could get a hoof or two done a day. By the time I had gone around the herd, it was time for number one again. My bruises were always maintained in a fresh and varying colored state and I was permanently frozen into a bent over posture.
I am an original do-it-yourselfer: Translation: cheap. I would rather do something myself, if at all possible, instead of waiting around for someone to finally show up at the worst possible time. Worse yet was the “honey-do method” that only guaranteed general resistance from both partners.
I use natural horse-man-ship teachings, so I would not recommend that you go out to the worst bronc in your herd with a five-gallon bucket, a pair of nippers and a rasp and plop down under them expecting anything but what you deserve.
The idea is to get the horse comfortable with being handled everywhere and the notion that as humans we can change shapes and locations around them quickly. For more details on the natural horsemanship methods, check out www.parelli.com.
Here are the basic steps to preparing your horse for the sit down method of hoof trimming. I have found in the many horses I have trimmed this way since, the worse they were about standing still the traditional way, the better this method succeeds. My assumption here is that the position is less stressful for them also and that the handler is more relaxed, therefore that attitude transmits to the horse.
I recommend getting the best hoof tools you can afford. I have always heard that a poor craftsman blames his tools, but in the area of hoof trimming, quality tools make a huge difference especially if your upper body strength is not the best. See below for my recommendations. Read up on the proper trim for your horse. I do not use steel shoes and just keep a nice barefoot trim going on my horses. Several trimming and shoeing techniques can be found in many good books and on the internet. You do not have to be a great hoof expert to trim the snags off a horse hoof, but it pays to study the basics.
If you have ever tried to hold a front leg between your knees and maneuver a pair of nippers or worse yet, crouch with the rear hoofs on your knees, you will welcome this method for even the most simple of hoof tasks.
The better-behaved horses will now even position themselves for me when I sit down beside them and offer the nearest foot. What more could a lazy woman want?
Originally published in Rural Heritage, Autumn 07.
Note: in the years since this article was written, I acquired a HoofJack hoof stand and it has been invaluable. For all who can’t invest in this piece of equipment, have back problems, or have a horse that has trouble standing, the sitting method is still my favorite.