I am teaching Rociada to hold her foot on the hoof stand. In this session, she learned to keep her foot on the stand long enough for me to take a few steps away and take pictures.
This is a great activity to do when the weather is not conducive to spending long periods of time outdoors. You can teach this in the barn aisle or any other small, sheltered space. If you don’t have a hoof stand, you can use a block of wood, a piece of cardboard, fabric, or other small item as the “target” for the horse to put their hoof on.
It is also an activity you can use as part of your warm-up, to engage your horse mentally and emotionally before a ride. And your farrier or trimmer will thank you!
The keys to teaching a horse this skill are to make the hoof stand a good place to be and to increase the duration of the hold time in small enough increments for the horse to learn without getting tired or frustrated.
To get started, I asked Rociada to allow me to pick up her hoof and while supporting her leg. I would gently stretch her leg forward and then place it back down on the ground. It is important that she gives her leg to me and allows me to move it in any direction without resistance. Placing her hoof on the stand will be difficult if there is any resistance or tension in her leg.
When she was comfortable with allowing me to stretch her legs, I gently placed her hoof on the stand for about 2 seconds. I would then immediately lift her hoof off of the stand and place it on the ground. This would give her time to think about what had just happened. When she licked and chewed, we started again, either with a different foot or with the goal of holding the same foot for a little bit longer than before. This added just enough variety to keep the activity interesting for her without making her anxious with too much pressure.
If she started to take her hoof off of the stand before I was able to remove it, I would start over by stretching her leg and placing it back on the stand. To help her feel comfortable on the stand, I groomed and massaged her leg. If she still wanted to remove her hoof from the stand I would back her up a few steps and move her around a bit, then bring her forward and lift her hoof up on the stand again.
She soon learned that standing calmly with her hoof on the stand meant she got a rest and a massage.
Then I started asking her to keep her foot on the stand for slightly longer periods of time, even if I was not standing right next to her or rubbing her. By the end, she could stand relaxed any one of her hooves on the stand, with the lead on the ground or draped over her back, while I snapped a few photos with my cell phone.