Finding Your Horse’s Feet with Joe Wolter

Courtesy of American Quarter Horse Association

Visualizing what your horse’s body is doing and focusing on influencing are the first steps to controlling your horse’s feet.

Follow this advice from respected clinician Joe Wolter to control your horse’s body and prompt positive behavior, instead of just minimizing negative behavior.

Step 1: All you need for this exercise is your horse, a trail and an obstacle.

  • Find an obstacle. It could be a bush, tree or something similar.
  • Walk straight toward it with your eyes up and forward.
  • Allow the object to turn your horse as you approach it. When your horse begins to turn, focus on the feeling underneath you. Is his head turning to face it or are his feet stepping to the side toward it?

Step 2: The next step is to attempt to influence your horse.

  • Picture next steps in your head, as you walk toward the object.
  • Allow him to make decisions. You might tip your horse’s nose slightly, but focus on the feeling underneath you and let your body language do the talking.
  • Turn him loose, if he is anticipating the next steps correctly.

Step 3: Once you have started understanding and anticipating your horse’s body movement, figure out how to connect to his feet.

  • Timing is everything. The time to influence a horse’s foot is just before it comes off the ground. At that point, you are able to provide direction, resistance or encouragement to determine pace or course of action.
  • Keep balance in mind. Don’t make such a big step that you put the other three legs out of balance.

Step 4: Once you’re able to feel the body and connect to the feet, you have the tools to positively influence behavior.

  • Respect the horse’s energy. Nothing can be done without life in the horse, but find a way to redirect it to your advantage.
  • Turn high energy into lessons. Put him to work doing serpentines while ridingaround trees or bushes or walking or trotting big and little circles. When his feet slow and he starts to relax, reward him with standing still.
  • Mitigate bad behavior. For example, if your horse is trying to graze while riding, refrain from just holding his face up with the reins. Wait until he’s just about to graze and then ask his leg to come off the ground to do something. By urging your horse forwardand into another direction, he will correlate grazing with work and will quit trying to graze.

Developing the ability to feel and influence the horse will lead to a great deal of positive gains for both horse and rider.

“This can be difficult, but if you’re dedicated, you can learn this,” Joe says. “When you get a little taste of what togetherness feels like, you will understand.”