Marquis Farrier Service

Holding The Horse For The Farrier

All horse holders are not created equally. Ask any farrier or vet, and they'll tell you that there are people they would prefer to have holding horses for them. In fact, quite a few vets and a growing number of farriers actually employ their own horse holders.

Sure anybody can hold a horse. But sometimes you're better off with a horse tied to a wall than with certain people on the end of a lead rope: the guy who holds the tail end of a 12' lead while sitting side-saddle in a chaise lounge; the girl who keeps her horse on a lunge line because he doesn't like to stay close, the woman who's more concerned about her clicker hand than her lead rope hand, and the kid who can't feed carrots fast enough and let's the horse swallow the plastic bag.

While these folks are the extremes who make for good story telling, you get small doses of their behavior from lots of horse holders. And, to be fair, let's admit that some of the farriers and vets out there don't always have the best horsemanship skills either; their schooling usually assumes rather than includes horse-handling skills.

It really comes down to knowing horses well enough to anticipate what's going to happen before it happens and knowing how to stop it or make it work to your advantage. Ultimately, it comes down to “horsemanship,” a combination of learned skills and natural instincts, and it's not something that people are going to get from reading articles, attending clinics, or watching videos. Nevertheless, these venues have something to offer and can provide some insights that will help you along the way and maybe even keep you from committing some of the cardinal sins of horse holding, while getting you, your horse, and your farrier safely through a hot, late summer day.



Horses take their cues from their holders. If you're relaxed and comfortable, you will “telegraph” those feelings to the horse and help him find his comfort zone.

Stand on the same side as the farrier except when the front leg is on the peg…

If something goes wrong, self-preservation instincts kick in, and—no matter how much you want to help the farrier—you're going to save yourself. If you're on the opposite side of the horse, it's very likely that you're going to make self-preservation moves that will result in swinging the horse right over the top of the farrier. If you're on the same side as the farrier, you'll swing the horse away from both of you.

Ultimately, you should ask your farrier where he wants you to stand, but if he's survived a few years of shoeing, it's likely that he's going to want you on the same side of the horse as he.

“Square” the horse up…          

If a leg comes off the ground without the horse being squared and balanced, he's going to be more difficult to deal with.

Tilt the horse's head slightly toward the farrier…

If the horse's head is slightly tipped toward the farrier, he's not as likely to throw extra weight or “lean” on the farrier. Additionally, you're recognizing his limited field of vision and allowing him the opportunity to see what's happening.

Keep attention / Pay attention

Holding a horse while he gets new shoes can be deadly boring, but it can be just plain deadly if something goes wrong. Basically, your job is to keep the horse's attention, and you can't do that if you've gotten distracted. If you have to do something to entertain yourself, don't let it distract you. Turning your back to the horse to carry on a conversation, chatting it up on the cell phone, and other such things turn you into a poor hitching post.

Keep a good hand on the lead

There's a comfort zone on a lead rope. If you toss the horse too much lead, you don't have control, but if you gather him up too much and don't give him a little freedom to move, he'll resist. Basically, you have to walk a fine line between establishing control and trying to over control.

Use walls to your advantage

I don't know why, but horses find walls comforting. Put a horse in cross ties in the middle of an aisle, and within moments, you'll find him migrating toward the wall. Rather than fighting him away, it's best to take advantage of this “comfort zone.”

Note that you have to be careful about this when the farrier is working on a hind leg; if the horse's head is tipped away from the wall, it's likely that his butt is pointing at it, which can put the farrier in a dangerous position as he extends the hind leg.

Keep the horse's head up…     

Once a horse's head drops below his withers, he's throwing extra weight at the farrier, and the lower his head goes, the more weight he throws.


Allow nuzzling…

It's very doubtful that your farrier will ever think it's “cute” for a horse to lick and nibble! Although you may be confident that “Poopsy” would never bite, your farrier probably doesn't share that confidence. And because the farrier is often “wearing” the smells of strange horses, “Poopsy” may well surprise you!

Discipline without warning…

Getting a nail jerked into your hand is never fun, but it's really frustrating when it happens because the holder has slapped the horse for nibbling on his arm or something similar. If you need to correct your horse, do so, but let the farrier know what's coming!

Feed the horse…

While hay or grain may keep a horse's attention for a time, the feed is keeping his attention, not the handler. You're simply asking for trouble to associate feeding with trimming/shoeing. Besides, most horses get grumpy while they're eating.

Use restraints you're unfamiliar with…

If you've never used a chain over a horse's nose, this is no time to introduce yourself to the concept.

Overload the senses

The boredom that comes with horse holding can lead holders astray, tempting them to get something done. Don't succumb to the temptation and overload the horse by trying to clip, groom, check teeth, or whatever. Likewise, even if a horse is used to lots of activity, it's usually best to keep the dogs and kids out of the work area.


While it's not necessarily “holding,” there are a number of things you can do that make holding the horse easier. Basically, you can create a situation or environment where you're not setting things up to fall apart.


If you feed at a specific time every day, you don't want to schedule your farrier visit for that time. Horses are creatures of habit, and they don't like it when you break them out of their routine. And they certainly don't like it when they think that everyone is getting fed but them!


Horses are herd animals, and if you've got them too close to or too far away from their pasture mates, they're not going to give you their attention. Likewise, there are comfort areas where horses will relax; you don't want to trim the stud in front of the mare's stall, and you don't want to trim the baby in the wash rack that he's never been in.

Fly spray…

It's a known fact that one fly can keep a horse's attention better than two people. Using a good fly spray and running a fan during fly season can make everyone's day go more smoothly.


By Danvers Child


Website Builder