~ beauty of the moments that will be etched forever in your memory.."

Quinceanera 2010


Draft Horse Shoeing....

An Owner's Manual by Steve Bowers

Draft Horse Journal , Winter 2003-2004  Volume 40, Number 4

Shoeing stocks (photo 1) are either loved or despised by those who have used them. I am one who has generally gotten along fine with them. I use stocks often to trim and show horses that would otherwise be very difficult. In over thirty years of using shoeing stocks for all kinds of horses, I've never been hurt while using them, nor had a horse injured while in one. Yet, I've talked to shoers and horse owners who won't have anything to do with stocks because they have had something bad happen while using them. Since I'm not aware of any available owner's manual for shoeing stocks, I'll try to provide one. An owner's manual might make it possible for more people to succeed the next time they need shoeing stocks.

Normal Use Of Shoeing Stocks - Getting Ready
Start out before the horse enters the picture by making sure that the shoeing stock is sitting on solid, level ground. Some shoers like to tie their stocks to stationary objects or they tie to roof supports in the building where the stock is used. Shoeing stocks are generally designed to not need such tethering. If a horse moves the stock around and the stock is tethered, there's a chance the tether could make the stock tip over. If the stock has been sitting outside, be sure it is still sound and tight, and that the floor is free of anything slippery like snow or ice. This is a good time to do an examination of the ropes and cuffs to be sure they are ready.

Once the horse moves into the stock, the first thing you should hook up are the butt chains (photo 2). There are two butt chains provided on most stocks so it is easy to alternately tighten the more slack chain until the horse is snugly but comfortably up against the chest bar in front. I don't allow too much space between the chest bar and the horse because looseness here allows a horse to really thrash around in the stock (photo 3).

Horses that want to escape your shoeing stock at this point are very likely to try to jump out over the chest bar. fasten the upper front chain right after the butt chains to prevent this. After the upper front chain, I like to fasten both lower chains to prevent the horse from laying down, although that is not likely as long as a foot is not being pickup up (photo 4). The last thing, I fasten is the upper rear chain. The lower chains are adjusted so that the slack is completely removed, and the top chains are left a little looser. To pick up a foot, a horse needs to shift his weight and elevate his torso slightly. If you clamp a horse in the stock with the chains so tight that he can't shift around a little, you might make it impossible for the horse to pick up his feet.

Preventing Injury
Immediately after the horse is fully secured, the next step is to put at least one cuff on a rear leg and tether it loosely to the rear so that the horse can't get its back feet in front of its front feet (photo 5). Before you get down on hands and knees at the rear of the horse and put your face close to the hocks, just remember that some horses thinks it's a pretty fair idea to strike back at the imposition of being put in confinement. There aren't many horses that act that way, but it only takes one to make quite an impression! So it's best to stay on your feet, stay protected by staying to the side of the rear upright, and start by petting the horse's leg to check out his mood. It is safer to start by rubbing your hand down the horse's leg from top to bottom until you're sure the horse is going to stand there. Once that is going well, introduce the cuff, first rubbing the horse's leg up high, then checking the response as the cuff is moved into position.

If a horse thinks he absolutely will not allow you to put a cuff on his rear leg, you can try a few different things to fix the problem. Sometimes all that is needed is to have a helper pass a lead rope around a front limb and begin to pull the rope around the front leg. If you can get a difficult horse thinking about picking up a front foot (or thinking about not picking up a front foot), their attention shifts, making it easy to get the cuffs on the rear. Another thing you can try is blindfolding the horse, at least for the time while the cuffs are being put on and off. I've also had some success with putting a twitch on a horse who thinks he's going to kick away all comers.

When it appears that the horse is not having a good time in your shoeing stock, bus sure to stay clear of his mouth! I don't like to use the head tiedown chains provided with some stocks because they are a little too restricting for most horses to accept. Instead, if a horse seems upset, I'll use a lead rope on the halter to tie the horse's head so he can't reach me with his mouth. That way, I don't need to worry about getting bit while working and the horse feels free to move his head anywhere (except into my space), which helps his attitude about the experience.

If horses only go into shoeing stocks to get palpated, castrated, clipped, vaccinated, teeth floated, treated or trimmed, you will need to make sure the horse's attitude stays positive. It's a great idea to put the horse into the stock and spend some time brushing, petting, putting the cuffs on and off, maybe giving him some grain while he is in there. Getting taken out of the stock while the horse in enjoying being there helps a horse become comfortable in stocks.

Picking Up Feet
Many horses pick up their feet on cue when the cuff rope is lightly pulled. The expectations is that horses will get less resistant to having their feet picked up as they get more experience at being handled in stocks. If you're doing a good job of interacting with the horse and if you're using the right equipment, a difficult horse will bet more and more cooperative each time they go through the stocks. [Caution: the opposite is also true].

If I have a helper, I like to snap a lead rope into the ring on the cuff so that each person who is lifting has their own rope to pull. For horses that are intent on keeping the foot down on the deck, In instruct helpers top pull to the side, not up. It is easier to sweep a resisting horse's foot to the side on the deck than it is to pick the foot straight up. When the foot slides to the side a bit, the horse will pick up the foot as if it was his idea.

When you pull on the cuff rope and the horse responds by picking up his foot, it isn't very nice to the horse if you try to roughly yank his foot over into position, as if you need to be quick and mean to get things to happen (photos 6 & 7). Instead, I try to slow down and give the horse a release of pressure on the cuff as he picks his foot up. When the horse has his foot held up on his own, I'll try to gently cup the toe of his foot with  one hand and suspend the hoof there. Having hold of the toe often relaxes the horse, causing him to soften his resistance, making it easier to move the foot to the desired position.

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