My oldest daughter informed me that I must set up a website, as no one under the age of 35 was ever going to look for a barefoot trimmer by any means other than Googling. So I dutifully set up my site and on it proclaimed that I eschew all recourse to anger or violence in response to nipping, kicking, or restlessness.
Having made this bold statement, two days later I went to trim some new horses and, of course, one of them nipped me, and another kept swiping at me with her hind foot.
The nipper was a young, cheeky mare with whom apparently nobody had ever had much success trimming, and she turned around to nip me a couple of times as I tried to work on her front feet. The kicker was a bossy, middle-aged mare who didn't think I was to be trusted with her hind legs.
Rather more conscious than usual, having made my public proclamation, of the need for patience, I ignored the nips and kicks and attempted to reach a harmonious concord with the mares, who rewarded me by renouncing their incursions upon my person and becoming rather cooperative and helpful.
A triumph for non-violence.
And then there's Trooper. Trooper is the nicest, sanest, most affable horse you could ever wish to meet. But he has sore stifles, and he doesn't want to pick up his right front leg. He it is of whom my daughter said, "I've never seen a horse rear so politely before." The last two times I was there, he absolutely refused - in the kindest, but most resolute manner - to let me work on his right front.
This morning he had been given bute, but things were no better; in fact the unwillingness had now spread to his left front also.
I asked the owner, "Does it help if you get mad at him?"
She said, "Oh, yes." So I thought, "What the heck, let's give it a try."
So when he snatched his foot away and started pawing the ground, I got in his face and roared at him like a mean, angry lion.
I had to roar two or three more times, but with longer gaps in between, and both front feet got done pretty easily. Trooper didn't seem offended or alarmed by my weird threatening behavior. But it sure did work, although I don't think it would have worked with the two mares the other day. Trooper is so calm and confident and good-humored that roaring at him isn't enough to damage one's relationship with him - but it does seem to be enough to convince him that you're serious.
It's horses like Trooper that I find the most challenging to deal with when trimming - strong, fearless, confident, smart, dominant horses - although it's a type of horse I like very much. That kind of horse is has a lot of noblesse oblige and will let you work on his (it's usually a gelding) feet if it's convenient, but will not be willing to give you his feet if there is much discomfort involved. I've tried "establishing dominance" over Trooper by taking the leadrope and making him back up and stuff like that, which can sometimes help with a different sort of horse. With Trooper it had no effect. Today he either was very impressed and intimidated by my mean lion act or else he felt sorry for me at having to act so stupid. Whatever, I'll take it.
Each horse is so different - just when I think I've got "them" figured out, I find out again that each horse must be learned anew. I'm glad it's like that.