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How to Train a Horse to Stand for the Farrier With Stress-Free Training and Muzzle Butter!

Horse hoof being rasped by a farrier

Whether your horse is barefoot, shod, or wears glue-ons, standing for the farrier can be a major struggle for any horse. It's stressful for you, your farrier, and your horse, and each appointment cements in your horse the idea that farrier visits aren't fun. Farrier anxiety is a very real, very common struggle for horses, and if left alone, this anxiety can become dangerous for handler, farrier, and horse.

But it doesn't have to be this way! Let's discuss what you can do as an owner to help your horse become more comfortable with farrier visits without lunging for two hours, shouting at your horse, or using sedation.

Why Doesn't My Horse Stand for the Farrier?

Horses standing for the farrier

Before we get into how to train a horse to stand for the farrier, we need to first understand why they choose not to stand in the first place. So if you're wondering to yourself "why doesn't my horse stand for the farrier?", keep reading!

Common Reason # 1: Natural Instincts

Any trainer of mustangs or green horses will tell you that horses aren't born knowing how to hold up their feet to be picked out or held for the farrier. It takes time and training to help the horse feel fully comfortable with this process. Why? As prey animals, horses' first instinct in a scary situation is to escape, and if they can't escape, their second instinct is to fight to create an opening for escape. Both of these instincts require the use of their feet, and if their feet are held, it takes that much longer for them to act in scary situations.

Common Reason # 2: Bad Experiences

As prey animals, horses have a very good memory when it comes to situations they deem to be dangerous--it's how their species has survived in the wild for this long! As your horse's owner and guardian, you are responsible for advocating for your horse's welfare, and that includes vetting your potential farrier options to ensure that the one you choose has your horse's best interest in mind. Being cut too short, being mistreated, or being handled roughly by a farrier can turn your horse off from the idea of farrier visits altogether.

Common Reason # 3: General Anxiety

If your horse is a little ball of anxiety, spooking at things left and right and always wearing a worried expression, farrier visits will likely be very difficult for them. The good news is that, in a situation like this, when you've worked with your horse on their anxiety in one situation, they'll trust you more to protect them in other situations as well, and they'll be a more confident horse overall!

Common Reason # 4: Lack of Strength

Despite being massive, majestic, athletic beasts, horses can have muscular deficiencies that can make certain "exercises" difficult for them. Holding their hoof up for extended periods, not to mention holding them in places that require stretching, is unnatural for horses. Recognizing this is important as it helps you to be more aware of your horse's perspective on things!

Practicing for the Farrier

Practice makes perfect! Even if you don't have a farrier stand or any equipment, practicing for the farrier can definitely help your horse feel more at-ease when the farrier does come. We recommend following this routine every time that you pick out your horse's hooves:

  • Hold up front hoof (where you would normally hold it to pick out their hooves with the frog facing upwards).

  • Hold up back hoof (again, with the frog facing upwards).

  • Hold up opposite front hoof and hind hoof.

  • Hold front hoof forward (with the foot out in front of them.

  • Hold hind hoof forward under barrel.

  • Hold opposite front and hind hooves forward.

Notes for Success: Try to hold each position for as long as possible, working your way up slowly to 120 seconds. The horse should hold up his own weight. If he feels heavy in your hand, cluck a few times, or give him a bit of a push on the leg to shift his weight back to the other side. Be aware of when he is beginning to get tired, and end before it becomes too difficult for him. If your horse pulls away right at the beginning, you can use a small verbal correction, such as ehh-ehh if you feel that it's necessary--usually this is more than enough for a horse to understand they did the incorrect thing. In the same way, if they get it right, a treat or scratches are always a good idea to make sure they know! With practice, you'll reach the 120 second mark for each position!

How to Train a Horse to Stand for the Farrier with Stretching

It's a good idea for any rider to incorporate a few quick stretches into your horse's daily routine after his ride. Many riders are aware of carrot stretches, which stretch the neck and back. But just as important is stretching the legs!

  • Front leg forward, holding the leg as high as the horse is comfortable. The hoof should be flexed with the toe pointing up and the knee straight. Be sure to hold from your knees, not your back!

  • Front leg backward, holding the leg at a 90-degree angle, and pushing gently backwards with your hand on his knee.

  • Back leg backward, holding the fetlock, and stretching the hoof down and back as far as he is comfortably able.

  • Back leg forward, holding the fetlock or heel bulbs, gently pull the leg toward the midline of the horse under his barrel, as high as he is comfortable.

Notes for Success: Hold each of these stretches for as long as the horse is comfortable, up to 30 seconds each. Don't "pull" the leg into position or force the stretch--just go as far as the horse's range of motion will naturally allow. If the horse pulls his leg away, don't fight it. Let the foot go and try again with an easier stretch (not stretched as far), or wait for the horse to relax back into the stretch.

How to Get a Horse to Trust You

Gaining a horse's trust

Anxiety in horses, if it's not caused by pain, can be eased quite a bit by performing trust exercises with them. Simply put, trust exercises are designed to show your horse that he can feel safe around you!

Reacting in Turn

In certain situations, for safety reasons, it is important to correct a horse for an unwanted behavior, such as threatening to bite. When you feel you must react to correct your horse, ensure that your reaction matches the "energy level" of your horse.

Think about it this way, if you told a very small lie to your parents, you would feel it was very unfair if they grounded you for a year when they found out. But if you were caught stealing and they merely said to you, "It's not okay to steal" and left it at that, it also wouldn't be fair to you because you would be left feeling that stealing is no big deal.

Horses are big animals, so we must react appropriately to ensure that they feel safe with us, but also so they are aware that certain behaviors are not okay when they are near to us.

Desensitization Training

Desensitization training can be a great tool in boosting your horse's confidence in you. It is important not to overwhelm your horse, though, otherwise your horse will feel that you are a person who presents them with overwhelmingly scary objects. As with the overall training suggestions in this post, these suggestions are also designed to be stress-free for your horse. When introducing a scary object, watch your horse's body language, and follow these steps:

  1. Apply Muzzle Butter At-Ease to help your horse stay more calm and comfortable in this scary situation.

  2. Choose your object and bring it near to your horse.

  3. When you see them show they are slightly uncomfortable with the object being so close to them, stop. This could be right next to the horse, or 30 feet away. The important thing is to be aware of your horse's body language.

  4. Place the object on the ground gently and go comfort your horse. Tell them how brave they are and how great they're doing!

  5. Wait for them to "tell you" they are comfortable again. This may be them licking and chewing, lowering their head, or taking a deep breath.

  6. Then take the object closer and repeat until you are able to have the horse touch the object with his nose, and eventually rub it on his body.

Notes for Success: Horses are very subtle communicators. If you are waiting to stop until your horse is snorting or moving away from the object, you've gone too far. Watch his ears for being alert, his eyes for concerned wrinkles, and his head for lifting up. If you show your horse that you are very aware of his body language, he will feel that he is able to trust you because you understand when he is trying to communicate, and know what he is trying to tell you.

Understanding Body Language

Like we mentioned in the previous section, communication is important to your horse. As prey animals, they will always choose subtle communication when they are able. It saves energy and makes them more effective communicators with their herd-mates. However, people tend to only be aware of their horse's communication when it is at level 10, instead of level 1 (thinking biting, bucking, rearing, or bolting). Show your horse that you are in tune with him by being aware of his communication at lower levels, and responding in-turn.

Using Muzzle Butter to Ease Anxiety

Muzzle Butter At-Ease formula

Muzzle Butter At-Ease formula contains a mixture of science-backed natural ingredients that are proven to help horses relax. Simply apply it to your horse's nose in 2-3 swipes 15 minutes before the farrier comes to create a more relaxed mindset and put him more at-ease (pun intended). Using Muzzle Butter in situations where your horse can get anxious, such as farrier visits, helps to build an association with the farrier--one of being relaxed, instead of afraid.


Farrier visits can be stressful for everyone involved, and it may feel like you're up against a wall when it comes to training your horse. These stress-free training methods should help you out and impress your farrier for your next visit!

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