I have a friend that I ride with sometimes. She and I trade the use of her indoor for coaching from me. She has a very neat OTTB that gives her some interesting challenges. Today, I went to help with her hind feet and trimming troubles. She expects she's going to need to shoe her hinds soon and she doesn't believe the farrier will be able to get it done with her defensive behavior.
I have to trim 6-8 horses alone every month, so I have some experience getting horses to behave so I can get my work done. Ruby was definitely defensive and she also has 7-8 years of patterns developed. She snatches her foot back and will kick out and move away and yadda, yadda, yadda. So I decided to play a game with her. First of all, I never gave her anything to brace against. She can't brace if there's nothing to brace against. So if she wanted her hoof back, I continued to hold it, but I didn't fight her pull. I moved with her. She quickly learned that snatching her hoof back netted her nothing. Then, I asked her to stretch her leg back so I could be in trimming position. We slowly worked on approach and retreat where she didn't have to try, but I made it easier to try than not try. Finally, I made it clear that the game was over when I put her toe on the ground. She could pull back or be bracey if she wanted, it just wouldn't get her anything. She's no dummy, her resistance broke down quickly and Tammy was very pleased to see her horses behavior change. For years, she's struggled with Ruby's hinds and Ruby's plan to be intimidating and bracey has worked. So, this was a huge pattern interrupt that should have a positive impact - if carried out the way I demonstrated. Ruby was relaxed by the end and had a leg cocked and I was able to do some rasping w/o issue. Yay! If that's kept up for 4-7 sessions, the pattern of behavior will be broken.