Medicine Lodge Valley, Dillon, Montana

"Shaking Hands"

Easy Leg & Hoof Handling

".. it must be realized that spirit in a horse is precisely what anger is in a man."

Xenophone, The Art of Horsemanship, 355 B.C.

This exercise will eliminate the need to bend down and pinch or hit your horses leg so you can clean or examine his leg/hoof. This exercise can also be made into a neat, fun trick. What if someone new ( especially non horsy people) to horses comes to your horse and you tell the horse to shake hands to say hello? The person would think "wow a horse with human personality". But that part is the icing on the cake.

The horse that knows this exercise will be great for people with problems bending over too much. It may be difficult for the person to bend over and pick up the leg the conventional way.

So here we go.. I have started doing this exercise before the horse has even been taught to halter. When the horse gets to know you and he lets you touch his sides, and of course knows the treat will be given when he's done something good then you can start this exercise.

When he is used to touching on his legs start by pushing the back of the bottom of the leg forward and at the same time say to the horse "shake hands". Standing at his side not in front for now. Don't hit or pound on the leg just increase your pressure to go forward. As soon as the horse lifts his foot give the horse a pellet. When the horse does give he might pick it up quick and stomp it right back to the ground. This is usually done by stud colts, because when studs play fight they take the mouth right to the legs and bite, and the other colt will try and get him off his leg. Or the horse may let you have the leg then lean back trying to get his leg back where he thinks it needs to be. Don't raise your voice or hit him because he didn't keep it up. Do the process again. Each time he raises have the horse keep the leg up a little bit longer each time even if it is for two seconds. I have the horse put his leg more out in front than directly underneath. Good for stretching also. But that is after you know that he won't be quick and stomp his foot. When you know he won't stomp his foot or try to harm you in any way by running you over you can start by doing the exercise directly in front of his chest. Stand directly in front of the leg you want him to lift not in the middle where he isn't sure which leg you want. Gradually just tap the leg more on the top half and say "shake hands". Horses pick things up quick. And soon all you have to say is "shake hands" and put your hand out and the horse will offer his leg to your hand. Always make sure you praise the horse for giving the leg with a pellet and soon after the horse knows this exercise good you can wean him off the pellets, but always praise him.

Some problems that arise when doing the exercise are: If you give the pellet to the horse as soon as he lifts a leg all the time when learning this exercise then he will only keep his leg up long enough for you to blink. It would be more like stomping again. Also when a horse learns this he may think "hum if I offer a leg then I'll get a pellet", even if you don't ask for it they offer it. So you say; "no" I don't want it and ignore it. They'll figure it out soon.

There are times when a horse is uncomfortable with touching of the legs. Start scratching (itching) him on the leg. The horse will like it whether he lets you know this or not.

I have to be careful to try not doing this when I have a few horses around me. If I say to one horse "shake hands" I end up getting a foot from every horse around me. What do you do but praise each horse - they listened to me!

If you want to get more detailed you can teach the horse to have a certain word for each leg. Ex. Say "1" for the left front, "2" for the right front, "3" for the right rear, and "4" for the left rear. Most of the horses I teach I say "lets see a foot" instead of "shake hands". But it doesn't matter which you use just as long as the words mean one thing.

Click any photo to get a larger photo.

Asking Sunny for a leg. He is just lifting leg off ground

His leg and my hand/arm coming together

Scratching leg

Stretching and scratching his leg



Horse Training Articles

Body Position Articles


Training Approach Articles


More pages

Donna Hildreth 1998 - 2009
DbarH Logo designed by Horsedesigns.