Submitted by Karen Bumgarner, Team Easyboot 2012 Member
A recent question about getting a horse used to gaiters on our Team Easyboot list made me realize that perhaps some people need to train their horse to be used to stuff around his legs. These actions are an important part of my training with foals and older horses to get them used to touch and different sensations on their legs.
All you need for this is one 10 – 12′ long cotton rope and some time. Nothing more. Again the idea is to get the horse accustomed to items around his legs and feet.
Take the horse into a corral or stall for this and do not tie him. Just have the lead rope attached to the halter dangling there so you can grab it if you have to. Take the second rope in your hands for the leg work. I do not tie the rope I hold it loosely in one hand and pass it around the leg, always holding an end in each hand. This way if at nay time if the horse gets upset you can just turn it all loose and no one gets hurt. I wiggle the rope back and forth over and around the leg, beginning high and allowing it to work it’s way down the leg to the pastern.
I always begin high and lower it as they are more likely to kick or fuss as it works down. If they are calm about it you can gently seesaw and wiggle it back up and down the leg. Don’t be afraid to flip it around a little after all the idea is to get the horse used to touch and pressure. If at anytime he gets upset just slow down, or stop, and let him think about it. It is a good exercise in trust also.
Once the horse is fine with the up and down touch and sliding of the soft rope over his legs you can try another trick. Gently pull or tug on the rope while it is low on the pastern. When he picks his foot up, release pressure and let him place the foot down. Do this a few times and then pick the foot up with a gentle pull on the rope and hold it up for a few seconds.
This not only gets your horse used to touch but if he ever gets his leg hung up in a fence or wire he will know enough not to fight it. And once he is accustomed to this the wearing of splint boots, bell boots, leg wraps or easyboots with gaitors will be no big deal to him at all.
One more thing. With your horse again in a stall or corral, after you have done the rope work apply the boots and let him wear them. Then slip one off and attach it loosely around the pastern. Your horse may jump around a bit but if you did your homework with the rope he won’t even notice. I think its important that horses know what a loose boot feels like so if they pull one off while you are trotting down the trail they don’t freak out about this thing flopping on their leg. Just a bit of time and patience can help insure a safe ride for you and your booted horse.