I have recently bought a little 3/4 Arab mare as a second horse to ride and would love your help with her. She came to me very nervous and worried and has not had much done with her over the last 4 years.
She has settled in well and I am gaining her trust and she’s nowhere near as worried as she used to be on the ground. I’ve been playing the 7 games with her and spending as
much time as I can doing groundwork with her but still have a long way to go. She was very disrespectful when she first came to me but is very responsive and learns quickly and I am aware not to use too much energy with her as she’s quite sensitive.
My main problem with her is that she cow kicks when you clean out her hind feet. And she doesn’t just kick out, she steps over towards you and kicks out! This is of course very disrespectful and not acceptable behaviour not to mention dangerous!
My question is – what should I be doing to a) protect myself from being kicked and b) stop her from doing it.
I have been playing the friendly game a lot with the carrot stick and using it to rub down her legs and feet and giving her lots of praise and encouragement. She will stand quite happily while I do that, but the minute you ask to pick up her feet she will lash out at you.
Friends have suggested that I keep playing the friendly game and use lots of encouragement but also said to email you as I’m sure you will have other ideas how to deal with this problem.
ANSWER: It sounds like your new mare will teach you a lot!
Even though she seems to be assertive towards you, its most likely that she’s worried about her legs being confined in the hands of a perceived predator (You!)
Being friendly is definitely a good starting point so continue to use the stick to keep yourself safe, then add friendly with the rope to prepare her for the next stage. Once she accepts the rope swinging around her legs, loop it around her pastern and gently lift the leg forward a little, just enough that it releases. Work gradually to where you can lift it up and down with a rhythm before you try to hold it up.
If she kicks at the rope, just go with it and keep the rope there without fighting her.
This way you can stay out of kicking range and she won’t be able to get rid of you as you’re attached to the rope. Once you can hold it up for a few seconds then add rubbing your hand on her leg with the rope still around to hold it up.
Once she can accept that, then lift her leg out of the rope and put it down a few times.
Even when you are ready to lift the leg towards the back, keep the rope on it in case she kicks and you need to let go with your hand. Try to hold the leg low – she may have even developed the kicking habit because she is in pain from having it lifted too high. I’d even get her checked out by the chiropractor in case she still has a physical problem.