My horse kicks out when I try to pick out his feet – and he’s difficult with the farrier. How can I stop him?

Posted by in kicking, picking out feet, Q & A on May 10, 2015

“Picking out my horse’s hind feet is becoming a nightmare. It’s getting so bad I can hardly do them at all. When the farrier comes he settles in the end but my farrier tells me I need to practise between shoeings to make his job easier. I know he’s right but eveyone on my yard has a different opinion on what I should do. Any ideas would be great!!


If ever I’ve had kicking problems I’ve worked from the opposite side. It keeps you right out of the way. It’s something I find very useful with young horses when grooming or picking out feet. I’d suggest you teach your horse to pick up his front feet with you from either side before you move on to the hinds. Make sure you reach well underneath him so he can lift his foot up in a comfortable way – so he doesn’t have to twist it towards you in other words.

Practise grooming both hind legs from both sides too so he gets used to you touching each leg from both sides. The last thing you need to do is make him jump and kick out! 

When you do ask him to pick up a hind foot from the opposite side tap it and use your voice. As he lifts it up get hold of his pastern firmly. And don’t let go if he starts swinging it about! Try wearing rubber gloves so you can keep hold of it when he starts. Working from the opposite side keeps you well out of danger so you can just keep up the pressure until he admits defeat – which is actually what he really needs to do.

However! It’s worth looking at the way you’re picking up and holding his hind feet. Is he kicking out as you pick it up? Or once it’s in the air? 

When you ask make sure you run your hand down his rump firmly so he knows you’re there. The firmer you are the more he’ll feel you’re confident – even if you don’t! When you ask him to lift it get hold of his hoof firmly so he knows you’ve got him – do it too lightly and you could become irritating similar to a fly!
If he’s kicking out once it’s in the air you could be holding it in an uncomfortable position. Make sure it’s not too high and that you’re not pulling it too far underneath him or out to the side. If he feels unbalanced he might be kicking out so he can get his foot to the ground.

When a horse kicks out he often does it because he can! If you feel happy to do this try standing right up close to him. Then run your hand down his leg and take hold of the back of his canon – just above the fetlock on his tendons. Pinch the tendons so he’s encouraged to lift his foot up and as he does get your hand around his hoof so you support it. Now lean into his hind leg so it stays under his body. This keeps him balanced and also stops him being able to kick. I live in my chaps too so I feel a bit more protected – just a thought 🙂

If his head is turned towards the offending leg it can stop him finding it so easy to kick out too! To do this have him tied up on one rope and hold the other in your hand so you can pull his head towards you as you ask him to pick up his foot.

At other times – such as when you’re grooming him – it can be helpful to draw his tail to one side (towards you). By pulling his tail towards you you’re putting his weight over the hind leg nearest you; making it harder for him to lift it and kick out.

I’m a great fan of doing things on your own so you can be quiet but firm and avoid hysterics. Often too many people aggravate issues like this – one may shout, another grab the rope etc. and this can actually make things worse – it’s dangerous too to have too many people in your space. If possible work on it when nobody is around. Don’t set yourself an unrealistic target either – such as when the farrier comes next – take your time and get it right.

Good luck!

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