Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Cannot Pick Up Foot

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • If you notice lameness or other problems associated with this sign.

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

  • Even if the horse does not appear to be lame to you.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

For a horse to easily and quickly raise its foot when cued, and continue to keep the foot raised until the handler releases it, the horse must know that this behavior is easier than the alternative – pulling the limb away.

Proper cues must be given to ask the horse to lift the limb. Proper technique must be used to keep it in position. The raised position must always be comfortable for the horse. Struggle or resistance must be less comfortable than complying.

Either not raising a foot, or pulling it away prematurely is usually caused by a lack of training or the wrong cues being given. It is very important to know, however, that pain in either the supporting limb or the limb being lifted may cause a horse to resist raising a limb or keeping a limb raised. Any condition which worsens balance (neurologic conditions) would be expected to cause the same thing.

WHAT TO DO

Try to determine whether this behavior is a result of a training deficit, behavioral issue or physical problem resulting in pain or discomfort. Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) paying particular attention to the appearance of the limbs. Look for swelling, digital pulse and heat in both the problem limb and the supporting limb (the limb the horse must stand on). Assess lameness at the walk and trot. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet can help you differentiate a physical problem from a behavioral or training issue. They do this through observing the behavior, the limb that is being pulled away, and the supporting limb. They assess gait, looking for lameness and neurologic deficit that could be related to the behavior.

What Not To Do

Do not assume that there is or is not a physical cause for this behavior. Do not rely on sedation by your vet to accomplish what should be a standard horsemanship skill.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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