The Internet can be a fabulous resource to have some of your horsey questions answered: by browsing reputable websites with trusted sources, I can learn books’ worth of information about horse heath, horse behavior or horse training.
For every reputable source out there, however, there are plenty of places that you should maybe stay away from. Polling random strangers in your favorite Facebook group, for example, is not going to return credible, fact-based information, though you’ll be up to your ears in contradictory anecdotal experiences. (We could all do to remember that “the plural of anecdote is not data.”)
General reference sites can usually be filed under the “not a credible source of training information” category. So imagine our joy when this WikiHow article started making the rounds of the horsey internet, helping hapless readers train their horses to stand nicely for the farrier. It’s not necessarily the text of the article that makes us cringe — there’s some good information in here, such as the understanding that horses are flight animals, it’s best to train in multiple short sessions and why you want to work in safe, enclosed spaces.
No, it’s the illustrations that baffle us. We’re not really sure what happened here, but, well… they tried. In an effort to make sure we laugh rather than cry, we rewrote this guide, based entirely on the illustrations.
(Disclaimer: the following guide is purely for entertainment’s sake and is not meant to serve in any capacity as a legitimate training guide for working with horses. If you are training a horse to stand for the farrier, please consult a reputable, researched source or work with a trusted trainer in person.)
Step One: Identify that what you are looking at is indeed a horse. Horses have four legs, hair coats, manes and tails, arching necks and hooves. If what you are looking at has two legs, feathers, a wattle and comb, a short neck and clawed feet, it may be a chicken.
Step Two: When admiring the horse, begin at the front end, where his eyes are. (Like many animals, the horse’s eyes are in his head.) You are less likely to be kicked in the face if you greet the horse from the front end first.
Step Three: When greeting the horse, always have multiple exit strategies. Horses can smell fear on a human, so if you are nervous, it’s important to be able to vault the fence in multiple places before the horse senses your emotions.
Step Four: Contrary to instinct, the halter should not be worn by the horse like a face guard. The halter needs to buckle behind the ears in order to function. While the halter does look way cooler when the connecting strap runs up the center of the face, it is much less effective.
Step Five: After you have greeted your horse, marked all available exits, established that you are not fearful and applied the halter correctly and then taken it off again, sink your fingertips into his shoulder and lean backwards. Really let the horse hold you up. This establishes your working partnership and lets the horse know that you will always be there for him when he needs a shoulder rub.
Step Six: As established in Step Two, horses prefer to be approached from the front, so when you work your way to the back end, it’s important to first fondle the hock with a fake hand on a stick. Horses appreciate being tickled in sensitive places by inanimate objects that LOOK like the real thing, especially when the human handler is trying to stay as far away as possible.
Step Seven: After you have successfully tickled your horse’s hock with a fake hand, it’s safe to apply your own hands. Make sure you are kneeling directly behind the hock when you do so — this will make your horse more likely to come into direct and forceful contact with you when he lifts his hoof.
Step Eight: Give your horse a leg-up. Again, this is a trust exercise to teach your horse that you’ll always be there for him when he needs to be launched onto a higher surface. Make sure you kneel directly in front of the horse’s leg and place your sneakered foot where his hoof will land should he pull his leg away from you.
Step Nine: The shepherd’s crook is a valuable tool for catching horses, so it’s important to practice this skill for speed and accuracy. Traditionally, horse catching with a shepherd’s crook is done from a kneeling position where the handler is most likely to be run over.
Step Ten: If your horse’s hind leg bends like this, this is 100% normal.
Step Eleven: If your horse’s leg bends the other way, it has suffered an injury and should be bandaged. When applying a bandage, always kneel beneath your horse and directly in front of the injured leg. This will help keep the horse still so you can apply your dressings.
If you’ve successfully completed steps one through eleven, call up your farrier — you’re ready to go. And then call your vet. And maybe a doctor.