Q: How can I teach my horse to be more careful with his feet? He just doesn’t seem to pick them up properly.
A: Picking the feet up comes from an engaged, forward and uphill motion of the horse. If you feel like your horse is slow, dragging his feet or lazy in general, transitions are the best exercise you can do to get him more uphill and engaged. Practice lots of walk-to-halt, halt-to-walk, walk-to-trot, walk-to-canter – all sorts of transitions that will make him use his hindlegs to propel himself forward.
Collected trot and canter work can also help to get your horse to ‘sit’ on his hindquarters and carry himself more uphill, which helps with lifting the front legs.
Pole work is an additional tool that can be fantastic for getting horses to be more careful with their feet. Don’t be afraid to use plenty of poles – lay out 10 trotting poles up the long side (approximately 1 metre apart) and really get him going forwards over them in trot. He might hit his legs and stumble a couple of times but he’ll soon get the idea – just make sure he is wearing protective boots! NB – if your horse is not practiced at trotting poles, start with just a couple to begin with and perhaps even lunge him over them (rather than riding him over them) to let him get the feel for them without you on his back.
Once he’s mastered this, try raising some of the poles to make the task more tricky.
From here you can move on to jumping gymnastics that incorporate bounces and ground-poles – these are great for teaching horses to be careful with their leg and foot placement.
Also remember to first rule out any pain or other physical causes for the problem. Speak to your vet or farrier to check that there is not another cause leading to the tripping!
Answered by Charlotte Bastiaanse