Sunday, April 28, 2013

How Do I Get A Horse to Stop Pawing?

Clint, as well as a couple other people, have written to ask how do they get their horse's to stop pawing, which is an issue that has plagued many horses and owners over the years. In the past when I have been asked about pawing my usual response was, "If you get it figured out let me know", because this stymied me for quite a while.

Actually, I have had two horses who had pawing issues. I really don't care, nor respond to a horse that paws when I am entering in the pen or beginning to feed as I just don't see it often enough nor choose to make it a big deal. However, I don't like my horses to paw when they are tied. The reason a horse paws is usually because they are impatient, bored (same thing really) or have some anxiety. It can be associated with pain too, such as a gut ache or colic so you have to eliminate this as a cause.

The reason I don't like pawing when tied and especially when I am saddling is that it shows that the horse is not with you or not paying attention to you. Usually when this happens, I just get the horse's attention or make him move over to distract him. Sometimes as you are moving around getting tack, picking up grooming tools or prepping the trailer, a pawing horse just isn't cutting it.

I feel like I should be embarrased that years ago I tried pawing chains, which may be best described as dog collar like straps with a six inch piece of lightweight chain, which are intended to strap around the horse's hoof at the coronary band so when he paws the chain whip around and make it uncomfortable when he paws. These did not work for me.

I have seen pawing clamps advertised as well. These appear to be "U" type clamps that are placed around the top of the horse's hoof and also designed to make it uncomfortable when the horse paws. I passed on trying these.

One method to try and stop the pawing process is when the horse paws, pick him up and move his feet making it work and then offer him to stand still and tied again.  You want him to get the idea that standing still is a good thing - that's where he gets his rest.  However, the time it takes to untie him and get him moving makes this less effective.  A tie ring that will feed the rope out in a controlled manner can work, so the pawing problem can be addressed much like you would on a horse that can't stand still when tied. 

However, some horses, mine included, will only paw when you are too far away to address it in a timely manner.  For the two horse's of mine who had pawing problems, one of these horse's would usually not paw until I was 30 or 40 feet away doing something else, so I had to resolve this by tieing him and sitting about eight feet away off to the side and behind him with a lunge stick. When they would start to paw I would make a verbal warning and hit the ground with the lunge stick at the same time. This distracted them from pawing by getting attention on the noise I was making. I can't remember how long it took me on the first horse years ago to get him to stop pawing, but the second horse I only had to do this twice, and both times were also helpful for him to learn to stand tied and be patient.

A word or warning - don't start anything with a horse unless you have the time to see it through. I sat on an old tire behind and to the side of my horse, with my lunge stick, and just waited. This actually workd out for both of us....the horse learned to be patient,...we both got a rest,...........and my wife couldn't find me to tell me to do something.

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