Sunday, August 5, 2012

Horse Games: Legs and Hooves

When I first got Pacem we played a lot of games. Just like with people, games are a great way to train horses.

Pacem was very young and also a very 'hot' breed of horse. He was barely three years old when I got him, and was a (rather inbred) pure Polish Arabian. He had energy to burn. It would have been a huge mistake to treat him roughly in any way. He had had very little human contact prior to me getting him, and his first contact with me was when a family friend literally picked up his hind quarters and pushed him into the stock trailer.

One of my favorites was a game to teach Pacem to pick up his feet nicely.

1)I spent a lot of time playing the first part of the game. I would touch Pacem's legs and feet gently and stay there until he stood absolutely still. Then I would walk away. I got to the point where I could rub his belly (which he loved) and he even got good with his hind legs. One leg I had to rub with a stick for a while before he would let me touch it with my hand, but it was still basically the same game.

2) I would run my hand down Pacem's leg and touch the hoof. If he stood still, I would walk away.

3) I would run my hand down Pacem's leg, touch his hoof, then tickled the back of his fetlock with my finger.  I kept tickling him there until he picked up his foot (even a tiny bit) and then I would walk away. At first I would just accept the shifting of weight away from the foot I was touching.

The game ended when Pacem lifted up his foot anytime I ran my hand down his leg and touched his hoof.

It was really fun, actually, and he became a champion for hoof cleaning!

I never got upset or blew up at him, even if he got rowdy. Sometimes I had to go back to Step one and go from the beginning again. Through me staying calm and not punishing him when he got hot, we formed a really strong bond, which eventually led to me being able to 'ski' around the dirt in the arena being pulled along by his tail... but that was after a few more games!


  1. Just trailered my Warmblood (Shorty) Mike (quarterhorse) and Ike Arabian 1000 miles south. A man in the restaurant where I stopped to get take out asks me, "Where are the cowboys who loaded that monster in that Ellis trailer?" ( Shorty goes in happy for me but pounds on the sides even when sitting in an airconditioned trailer ) Didn't even try to tell him I was by myself. Hey thanks for finding me we have this also in common. Will check out your books

  2. Thank you! Gotta love a huge horse with thev name 'Shorty'!