What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Will Not Stand for Farrier, Will Not Hold Leg Up for Long


Over my years in practice, I have been asked hundreds of times to sedate "unruly" horses so that the farrier can shoe or trim the feet. While there are occasions in which this is appropriate, more commonly the problem should be solved through teaching the horse, or changing the handler or farrier's approach.

The primary reasons why a horse will not allow its limb to be held up include lack of training, the handlers lack of skill (horsemanship), poor handling of the limb and the horse by the farrier, pain in the lifted limb, or pain in the weight bearing limb.

Less common reasons include neurologic conditions, muscular conditions, or generalized weakness. Yes, a bad experience (like a nail quick) may cause a horse to resist the next time the foot is handled. But if the right cues are given in response to that resistance, the horse is quickly taught to again stand quietly.

If the horse has previously stood well for the farrier, consider whether the farrier may be doing something differently or whether anything else might have changed.

  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If you want to rule out any physical issue being a factor in the behavior.

your role


What To Do

Consider the horse's health and comfort. Perform the Whole Horse Exam (WHE). Look carefully at the limbs for swelling and be sure the horse does not seem outwardly lame. Feel the lower limbs for digital pulse. If you are simply not sure, then share your findings and concerns with your vet.

your vet's role

Vets rule out physical causes and may have suggestions for behavioral modification. My approach to this problem is to first watch the behavioral problem take place. That usually provides a clue to the nature of the problem. I examine the horse briefly for lameness.

Once I have ruled out pain as a cause, that leaves good horsemanship (handler and farrier) and good training as the main solution to this problem. If needed, I will handle the horse myself, and I consider the farrier's technique. I explain to the holder and farrier what I am doing. Then I hand the horse back to the holder and watch again.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Is this a new farrier?
  • Do you notice any lameness?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Do you notice any other problems with the horse?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Does this horse have a history of lameness?
  • Is the handler experienced, and giving the right cues?
  • Was there any event that you recall that lead to this new behavior?
  • Has anything changed in the environment, feed or management?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP