Teaching your horse how to lift their hoof can be a fun trick for them to learn, and is a great way to them to show off and earn some rewards and treats.
It’ll take a little bit of time, but with plenty of practice, your horse will be showing off his new trick with confidence and ease!
Raising the leg
Ensure they’re comfortable with a driving whip or riding crop
You’ll need to use a driving whip or riding crop to train the horse, so it’s important to make sure that they’re comfortable with this.
It may be a good idea to start out by teaching the horse some simpler tricks such as following a target, standing still or bowing, just to get them used to taking commands from you.
You can see some very simple tricks to try out at Horse Tricks 101.
Tap below the knee
Next, you should lightly tap just below the horse’s knee with the crop or whip for a couple of seconds while saying a cue word such as ‘paw’. (Make sure that you only say this word while you are actually tapping the leg!).
Make sure that it is only a light tap, and that you’re simply using the whip as an extension of your arm.
Lift up the foot
Once you’ve done this you should run the whip up and down their leg and gently lift their foot up, gripping above the knee.
Just be sure not to touch the horse’s hoof as they can sometimes be sensitive to this!
Give them a treat
Finally, once you’ve placed the foot back on the ground, reward the horse with some sort of treat such as a carrot or some of our own horse treats here at Rideaway.
For some more information on what you should and shouldn’t use as a treat, have a look at this blog from Smart Horse Care.
Repeat as necessary
Now you simply need to repeat the process until your horse can pick up their foot on cue with the whip or crop, without you having to lift it up.
This could take a while for your horse to get used to, and you’ll need to be patient. You also need to be sure to keep consistent with your cues, going through the same motions each time you train, and be sure to praise your horse to let them know how well they’re doing!
Bringing the foot forward
Gently hold their foot forward
Once your horse is comfortable lifting their leg with a verbal cue, gently hold onto their pastern (the sloping part of the foot between the fetlock and hoof).
Gently stretch it slightly upward and forwards, but be sure not to overstretch them and spook them.
If they aren’t comfortable with this, try lightly gripping the thigh or gaskin (the calf).
Put their leg back down and praise
Make sure to treat and verbally praise your horse for completing this simple step and repeat it several times until they seem comfortable with the action of lifting their foot and bringing it forward until they can do so on cue.
Plenty of praise and treats are important here to really build up their confidence!
Use a verbal cue
Repeat the first two parts
Finally, it’s time to get your horse used to performing the steps without the use of the whip or crop.
Of course, this means you’re going to have to keep repeating raising their leg and bringing their foot forward until they’re completely comfortable with it.
Start using your cue word without the whip/crop
Next, you need to start using your verbal cue word without tapping on the leg with the crop or whip, giving the horse a couple of seconds to respond.
If they don’t respond, give them a light tap and say your cue word again, rewarding them with a treat and praise when they raise their foot.
Repeat until confident
For the final stretch, keep repeating this final step until your horse can comfortably raise and bring their foot forward with just a verbal cue.
This could take several days or weeks and you will need to be patient with the horse, but through repetition and praise, you’ll get there in the end!
Good luck with your training, and make sure to keep checking our blog here at Ride-away for more tips and news.