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There is a slight difference between lifting a rear foot and front foot, even though your basic positioning and actions are nearly identical. When you lift your horse's rear foot he will probably give a little jerk that you might misinterpret as a kick. This is a common reflex reaction among horses and nothing for you to worry about.
Secondly, when you raise your horse's rear leg you'll want to step into him a bit so that your hip is underneath his leg. Rest his leg on your thigh, grab his hoof and gently flex it upwards. By doing this you lend him some support and more importantly position of his leg and his flexed hoof will prevent him from being able to kick you.
Clean hoof, lower it cautiously as you did first and praise him. Congratulations – you're halfway done! The opposite side will be done exactly same way, but try to return to his front and start opposite side rather than move around his rear. It's bad practice to approach or circle all but most trusted horses via rear in such close quarters since a horse would be within range to strike.
When lifting any hoof try to make sure your horse is properly squared (balanced evenly on all four legs) so that when you lift one hoof he can easily balance on his remaining three. At no time should horse actually lean his weight on you! Even when you rest his rear leg on your thigh you're not allowing him to use you as a crutch.
Once you have picked your horse's hooves a few times it will probably become very simple and take less than 5 minutes to clear all hooves. Most trained horses will raise their hoof for you moment they feel your leg run down their leg.
It is a very good idea to control your horse's head while you are picking his hooves. This can be done by attaching his halter to crossties or asking a partner hold your horse's head. By controlling his head you ensure your horse can't move away from you while you're trying to pick his hooves, or worse… turn around and take a bite at your rear!
Jeffrey Rolo, owner of AlphaHorse and an experienced horse trainer and breeder, is the author of the above article. You will find many other informational articles dealing with horse training and care as well as games and other horse fun on his website: http://www.alphahorse.com
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