Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reader Question on Bad Tempered Horseshoer

I received an e-mail question from Madison, asking, "Just how much discipline should a horseshoer give my horse? I am asking because my horseshoer blows up at my horse for seemingly little or sometimes no reason. One time he tried to punch my horse in the face and missed. Several times he has hit my horse in the belly and shoulder with one of his tools. When he blows up he often apologizes for the cuss words, but never says he is sorry for hitting my horse. I guess I can look for a new horseshoer, but he also works on my friends' horses and they have no complaints. I don't want to alienate my friends. Madison, Arizona."

Good question Madison. Here's what I think: It is the responsbility of the owner to prepare the horse for trimming and shoeing. Your horse should stand quietly and allow all his feet to be picked up and not try to take back (pull away) his foot until the shoer releases it. I did a short post and video on this subject here.

Some horses, especially older horses may have a hard time standing on three legs if they have a bad joint or problems such as ring bone in a foot. If this is the case then the shoer should be informed and asked to consider physical problems of the horse he/she is shoeing. In fact, a friend of mine had a female shoer who was about 4 foot 6 inches and he liked the fact that she understood the old mare's physical limitations and didn't have to pickup the feet of his old mare very high in order to trim and shoe.

Shoer's aren't paid to train horses, therefore most all of them are resentful when they get underneath an ill mannered horse. Imagine shoeing a horse, driving nails that stick out of the hoof wall then have a horse rip his leg away. It can happen. Shoeing can be dangerous and often horseshoers are scrambing to make a living and may not have health insurance and even if they do, an injury that keeps them from working can put them in a financial bind in a hurry.

Having said that, your horseshoer should never hit your horse. A open handed whack in the barrel or a jerk on their lead line is often enough to get the horse's attention and focused on his job and that is to stand still and be cooperative. Your horseshoer apologizes for bad language because it is universally accepted that foul language is bad manners. However he apparently has come to expect to right or ability to "discipline" your horse as he sees fit.

I would have a talk with him next time,...maybe it would go something like this: "Horseshoer,... it makes me upset when you hit my horse. I think it is counter productive and just builds a fearful horse. What can I do with my horse, preparation or training wise, that would eliminate any behavior on his part that would make you feel like hitting him?" Be prepared to find a new shoer. He has a right not to trim or shoe for you and you have a right to fire him.

The friend of mine I described earlier let his female shoer go, much to his regret, and employ another shoer who just lost his temper and hit my friend's horse across the knee with a rasp cutting the horse pretty badly. That shoer was fired on the spot. I would much rather alienate my friends than have to bandage my horse or deal with behavior issues caused by unfair treatment by a shoer.

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