Some Days Aren’t Good Days Working With Horses


Do you ever have that feeling in your gut somedays that says “No I shouldn’t do that” and then you do it anyway for what ever reason and suddenly regret doing it? Yup yesterday was one of those days for me. (beware. Grab that cuppa coffee and maybe some chocolate, this ones a bit long)

Jacks toes had gotten long and needed to be trimmed. I do ALOT of my own farrier work to save on my pocket book and I have the farrier come out about once every 3-6 months to look at them and ensure there’s no issues going on that I haven’t noticed. Well it’s been pouring the last few days and as I got home from work there was a break and even sunshine out! So I decided “oh what the hell I’m gonna do Jacks feet”

Now hindsight is 20/20 as they say. And I should have worked Jack a good bit before I asked him to stand still a long while, while I trimmed his hooves. And because I’m not a professional farrier of course I’m not lightning quick yet. I mean who really is lightning fast unless you do it every day?

So Jack decided to test me with his feet. He’s pull his feet away, try to kick out…try to lay down. And I was good and calm for most of it. He is a youngster after all and I’ve been practicing yoga (oh yes yoga….and pilates….I am a zen master….apprentice….ok I have a lot yet to learn) .

For a farrier he stands perfectly. Probably because I’m holding his head and someone else is working on his feet…..But about the time I got half way done Jack began his melt down saying “Cash is Eating grass and I wanna and I’m DONE standing here.” (I’m beginning to think 4 year olds are akin to 2 year old humans) again I was fine. I just talked to him a bit, gave him a few “Stop its”…maybe a grumble or two and it was going good. Until he decided to loose his marbles and knock me completely over and jump over the top of me, cutting his leg in the process because he hit it on the nippers (only a minor cut, barely enough to break the skin) and knock his legs against the hoof stand.  Where he proceeded to stand there like I had just beaten the holy hell out of him, when in fact he had done it all to himself. But in his mind I had caused it all.

This is when I lost my temper a bit (I quite possibly had steam coming out my ears). He knows better then to do that. He can stand perfectly still for a good bit while a farrier trims his toes but when he needlessly “freaks out” over absolutely nothing, after a long day at work….I got mad. Now obviously I never beat a horse EVER I find it appalling and no matter how angry I get I’ll never needlessly smack a horse.  But Jack also lives with Cash who routinely gets him jumping out of his way so “angry face” makes him skittish.

Well Jack knew I was mad. I’m sure it was written all over my face and my body posture. I marched over and went to pick his feet up. His skin was twitching a bit and he was most assuredly nervous. He stood for a minuet and I began to relax and breath and tell him “good boy” in as positive voice as I could. He sighed and licked his lips and I thought we were good.

I gave him a treat for standing so still for me to finish clipping his foot. This was also a mistake because I’m coming to learn Jack turns everything into a “game” to see if he can earn another little delicious morsel. He began to lift the opposite back hoof in an odd game of teeter totter with himself, trying to get me to put his foot down and give him a treat…..I should have put his foot down….When his antics didn’t work he decided that yanking his hoof away and slamming it on my foot was the way to go. I smacked him with the small side of the rasp to get him off my screaming foot. Now I barely hit him hard enough to hear a thud. No skin was broken and in all honesty I didn’t hit him hard at all. Which is an amazing fact since my foot was screaming at me in agony asking me why in the hell I had decided this was a great thing to do after a 10 hour day of work. I was questioning this myself…but I had 1.25 feet left to go (oh yes a decimal. I can do math I swear!)

He jumped sideways and tried to panic and pull back on the halter. After a few deep, DEEP breaths I managed to calm myself down and talk Jack back into standing. I was almost done with this hoof. He decided that quietly standing there while I finished was a good idea and I made sure to give some nice belly scratches and “good boys” until I put his hoof back down.

I was excited. I only had 1 more hoof to go. I was ALMOST DONE!!!! Now did I mention that 4 year old horses are like 2 year old children?

I began nipping away….my legs were shaking a bit (ok they were exhausted but man I was on the last one I could make it!). How the hell do farrier do that to multiple horses a day? I had sweat dripping off me but by golly I was almost done and with the other three feet I quickly managed to nip all that was needed off his hoof in record time. I grabbed the Rasp and began rasping his hoof smooth. I was almost done. Like I could SEE the light at the end of the tunnel. I had about 2 more swipes left. Literally two swipes to get the last of hoof nice and smooth and level.
Jack Lost. His. Mind. He reared up and lunged forward and I barely managed to get out of the way before he took me with him.

I pulled the rope undone before he could damage my trailer and he ran backwards. I stepped back sent him in a circle and began to lunge him. I was furious. I was so, so close to the end and he decided that he was gonna melt down, arms and legs flailing and screaming in the middle of the grocery isle.

So he lunged in a circle until he decided standing was a good idea and until I could control the burning fury inside my chest. Deep breaths. More deep breaths. Ok. Lets try this again. I grabbed his front foot and bent over gently placing it between my knees. The second my knees were around it he went up again. Ok bucko two can play this game. I grabbed a spare lead rope and looped it around his hoof and tried again. This time I knew it was coming. So as soon as he reared I stepped to the side and pulled his leg up to his belly. Now this little Jack ass (oh yes his name for the rest of the night…rings nicely with Jack don’t ya think?)  is very, very athletic. He managed to run in a circle rearing and bucking with one leg held up.  And he rope burned my hands but I wasn’t giving up and letting go.   After a while he managed to get his foot down but I yanked it right back up until he stopped moving his feet. Then I gently set his hoof back down….as gently as I could anyways. He had a rope burn on his fetlock, I had one on my hands and we both stood there panting like we had just run a marathon. But ya know what. He happily stood there while I finished. He even kindly asked for some grass. (no joke. kindly touched my side then pleadingly looked at the grass) He didn’t get any until he was back in his pen, though again in hindsight I should have let him have a nibble.

Now when I put him back he went off and pouted. And I walked back to my truck, sat on the tail gate and bawled. Yup big heaving sobs with tears running down my face. I felt like I had just ruined my horse. I felt angry and sad and exhausted and just horrid…and above all guilty. Guilty for loosing my temper and pushing a young horse to stand when I probably should have taken a step back, hanged up what we were doing for a second and then asked him to stand still so I could finish.

Jack didn’t want anything to do with me, and I just wanted to hug him and say I was sorry, even though most of it wasn’t my fault. But I was sorry for loosing my temper. I’ve been working on calm. Calm and I are now great friends…patience and I are getting to be better friends. But sometimes I just can’t help getting angry and Jack can’t help being a somewhat spoiled 4 year old.

Some days are just days that don’t quite pan out with horses, but thats part of horses and part of life. Nothing perfect all the time. It’s how we deal with the situation at the moment, and how we come back from it. For now I have a new game plan in place so that situation doesn’t happen again. Each horse is vastly different then he next and I never thought Jack would do some of the things he did. I sometimes forget that a young horse can be very unpredictable. He’s trying to test as much as I’m trying to teach.

If you have one of those days where it just feels like it went horribly wrong don’t worry. Your horses will forgive you, you’ll forgive yourself and it’ll all work out because we each learn something new and eventually we learn to laugh at ourselves….after the fact….and maybe after a glass of wine or two, and a pint of ice cream.

Until Next Time

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