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Guest writers

Clair Thunes
Summit Equine Nutrition

Clair Thunes

As an equine nutritionist Dr. Thunes has worked with a wide range of horses from lactating mares to competitive dressage horses, and with a variety of physiological problems including insulin resistance and muscle myopathies, and she is happy to work in conjunction with your veterinarian. Dr. Thunes believes in finding the right balance between the horse\'s diet and needs and the client\'s resources. She works with both individual horses or an entire barn and enjoys working with owners to find the optimal feeding solutions. Services provided include diet evaluation and formulation, hay analysis interpretation, custom supplement formulation and farm visits. Dr. Thunes also offers phone and email consultations. Dr. Thunes can be contacted at 916-248-8987.

Articles by Clair Thunes:




Charles Wilhelm
Ultimate Foundation Trainings

Charles Wilhelm

Charles Wilhelm is internationally known as America’s most respected horse trainer and is the creator of Ultimate Foundation Training, an equine training technique that combines the best of traditional, classical and natural horsemanship into a methodology that is applicable to every riding discipline.

His training facility located in Castro Valley, CA, offers extensive hands-on learning programs for every level of horsemanship, from novice through trainer.  His programs truly reflect his motto “Success Through Knowledge”.

Articles by Charles Wilhelm:

Introduction to De-Spooking and Sacking Out

Training Month IV - Continuing Linework & First Bath

Training Month I - A Good Mind & Haltering

Training Month II - Leading & Picking Up Feet

Training Month III - Basic Linework

The Role of Equipment in Horse Training



by Charles Wilhelm

Getting a youngster ready for the vet and farrier is a very common problem. Many people do not realize how critical very early handling is with horses, and you can often bring home a youngster that is ill-prepared for a first vet or farrier visit. It is important to set up these initial visits to be successful. Horses have very good situational memories, and a bad first experience with the vet or farrier can be a real headache to overcome. But whether getting ready for the first visit or overcoming problems with earlier work done, the foundation steps are the same. The only difference may be how much time you have to spend on each lesson.


The primary goals are straightforward. Your horse needs to accept being touched everywhere on his body, and to have that contact be done by a stranger. Now all of these requirements represent significant pressure – especially to a young horse. So while it may seem like not such a big deal, these can actually be tough milestones to accomplish. These are key cornerstones in your horse’s foundation training and should be approached with a careful planning, a lot of patience and above all, consistency.

Before you begin to work on these training exercises, you need to ensure you have already done the necessary work to begin to prepare your horse to understand giving to pressure without resistance. The horse needs to be soft on a lead-line and while lunging, to have solid go forward and stop cues, and to tie well. If you have not yet done this work with your young horse, I have some great training articles to cover these topics available on our website. And once your horse has mastered those lessons, you can move on to the specific preparation exercises for the vet and farrier work that I discuss below.

The first step is getting your horse to accept being touched anywhere on his body. Now for most owners, this is actually a fun and rewarding training exercise. It’s a great way to bond with your horse. Like tying, this is a very straightforward exercise, it can just take time and patience depending on how fearful or resistant to pressure your horse is. Begin by discovering where your horse is the most comfortable being touched. Spend lots of time grooming and rubbing that area, slowly expanding your zone. One tip – most horses love having the base of their mane and around their withers massaged. You’ll notice that this is often where horses nibble and rub each other.

The most important thing you must stay constantly aware of – if your horse begins to pull away or resist when you are touching him – do not back away! Stay with him, maintaining the contact until he releases/relaxes, even for just a second, and then you release the pressure. The important exception to this rule is when you are at risk of getting hurt or are in danger. Other than a safety risk though, if you reward him by stopping the contact when he resists, you are training him to resist. Again, conduct lots of short sessions with your young horse, where you are spend time grooming and touching him all over, always ending when you see significant improvement. Work on the legs last (as these can be the more dangerous area, and concentrate on getting your horse very relaxed while being touched. Make sure you work on every area of his body, especially the head, ears, mouth, stomach, and for those who will be doing sheath cleaning… well you know what you have to do!

When you are ready to start on the legs, work with a dressage whip first as an extension of your hands. This provides extra distance as a safety measure, and you will be able to tell how sensitive he is, and if he is liable to kick. Use the end of the whip as you would a hand, and touch the horse all over his legs and stomach using the same pressure and release techniques – meaning maintain that contact until he gives. When he seems very relaxed with the contact, you can then begin to work with your hands. Firmly move your hands down each leg, spending plenty of time on each section. Do not yet ask the horse to lift the hoof. If he does so on his own, fine. But for now focus only on the contact. When you go to work on the back legs, make sure the horse is already relaxed while you are standing behind him and at his side, and ensure your head is not in position to be kicked.

Now I hear all the time, “well I can touch my horse anywhere but my vet can’t get near him.” Well… chances are you have not trained him to be accepting of strangers. Remember, you have trained him to accept the pressure from you. Every new person will represent fresh pressure. So now you need to desensitize your horse to strangers. Start encouraging friends and other horse owners to groom and pet your horse. The more exposure he can get to being touched by unfamiliar people, the better off your vet and farrier visits will be. Just remember again, to always be safe and not ask too much of your horse as you progress. One tip I recommend, if your horse is at a facility where the vet and farriers visit regularly, ask them to stop by and briefly visit with your horse… stroking, petting, verbal praise all helps to get your horse comfortable with them when he is not being worked on.

Some other easy tips for getting ready for the vet…. Ask your vet to schedule extra time for that first visit! If your vet is in a rush, this first visit is almost doomed to fail. Ask them to factor in time to let the horse acclimate to them and not have to rush through anything – especially shots. Other things you can do include spending time early on getting your horse “shots” ready. This can be a combination of poking and pinching at your horse’s neck. Not a lot and not too hard – but what you are doing is simulating the brief sensation of the shots. Do this followed by some extra massaging in that area to help desensitize them to the sensation. And as a final step, move onto using a toothpick end. You can do some short jabs with a toothpick that do not break the skin, but do offer a very similar feel to the needle. Another good thing is to get a hypodermic syringe (without the needle) and show it to your horse a lot, moving it to his shoulder followed by the toothpick. Likewise for worming, you can buy a plain oral syringe, put a little apple juice in it and regularly practice putting the oral worming syringe in your horse’s mouth. You can also put a small plastic tube briefly in your horse’s nose to prepare him for the nasal Strangles vaccine. When available too – ask your vet to combine shots rather than doing a series of several injections. And for Judy’s problem with the rubbing alcohol, spend time getting the horse used to the rubbing alcohol on its own. Just like anything else – pressure and release. Have some on your own hand and while petting or working with him, maintain the contact until he releases and then pull back to reward him. Initiate contact again so he can smell it once more, and again, keep touching him until he relaxes – even for that second – and then release again. Keep at it until he has no reaction to the odor. Keep in mind it is a very strong smell; so do not work too close to his nose as that will irritate any horse under the best of circumstances.

Now the approach is basically the same for getting ready for the farrier. Once your horse is comfortable with all the physical contact, you can start to work on getting him to pick up his feet. I see two common mistakes people make to teach this to their horses. First, they ask their horses far too soon to pick up their feet too high, and for too long. Second they tend to rush through this training. Remember these are prey animals with a serious flight instinct. When they are giving you their feet, they are giving up their ability to run. That’s asking a lot of them, so take your time. Start with asking for the feet to be up only an inch or so off the ground and only for a second or two. When you can get that from all four feet, then ask for a few seconds longer - but still keeping the feet very low to the ground. First build on the duration of holding the hoof up low, and then over time you can begin to bring the hoof higher as well. And again – try not to release if the horse is resisting. I know it’s hard but you want to release when he is giving the hoof and relaxed – that is one reason why it’s very important to start with super short “asks” of holding the hoof and make it really easy for him. Once he is comfortable with both having his hooves held up longer and higher than the farrier will ever want from him, then get yourself a rasp to practice moving across his hoof wall. You do not need to trim him, it will just begin to get him used to a strange feel and sound around his feet – run it back and forth a lot and tap the hooves with the metal. It is important for you to try to make more noise and contact than the farrier normally would to get them used to the extreme limits of the experience. And just like that first vet visit, when ask your farrier to allow for plenty of extra time for that first trim visit. . You have to be patient with young horses, and stick with the basics until he is ready. If you try to rush them into it, you could have a lifetime of unpleasant farrier visits ahead of you.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email at or visit us on the web at

Until next time,

Charles Wilhelm

Andalusian Dressage Partners
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