Does your horse like to dance in the cross ties?
Obviously, the right solution is to teach your horse to stand quietly for the vet, farrier, etc. through training. Standing still really isn’t biologically programmed into horses. But they certainly can learn how to do it. If that’s the worst of your horse’s quirks, it is certainly manageable (albeit annoying).
I’m referring to horses that are fidgety here, not those that don’t tie and pose a danger. Those guys definitely require professional training. So for the fidgety, attention deficit equines out there, here are 5 things you can try to help increase your success during times when you really need your horse to PLEASE JUST STOP MOVING:
Let him have some time to blow off steam before the appointment, instead of on your farrier’s back. Don’t turn him out though if it is super muddy or you’re not sure you can have him caught before that truck is coming down the driveway!
Like turnout, exercising your horse ahead of time helps get some of the wiggles out in a more controlled fashion (we hope, but I don’t judge. Some rides are smoother than others. Do whatever is normal for your horse: lunging, riding, pony off a buddy, even hand-walking for a stall-bound horse (if it’s approved by the vet).
3. Buddy System
Horses are herd animals and some of them get more attached than others. If you have some that are joined at the hip, during a farrier appointment is not the time to work on their separation anxiety. Bring the buddy into a nearby stall or tie him just out of the way so everyone can relax.
If your horse just can’t focus long enough to stand still, try whatever you need to do to distract him. Rub his neck or cheek, talk to him, tap on him gently with your fingers, and just keep redirecting his attention back to you when he starts getting fussy. Feeding treats/feed usually backfires and makes most horses morefidgety, so we usually discourage it. That said, there are some horses that are perfect as long as you keep handing over hay or snacks, so it is occasionally worth trying if nothing else works—but definitely make it a last resort. Sometimes you’ll exchange fidgety feet for biting teeth! (We’ve tried the duct tape on the nose trick; it actually made Robbie worse, but other farriers have said it does work on some horses.)
Sometimes it's just you. Don't take it personally, you've trained your horse very well and he can read your body language before you even realize you're stressed out. If you are feeling a little agitated and unable to stay calm next to your horse, consider just not being there till the end to pay the bill.
This one is always tricky because you have to go with what you are comfortable with. Upper lip twitches work pretty well for many horses, as do chain-end lead ropes in a variety of configurations (just please be safe when using a chain!). Sometimes lightly leaning on the horse in such a way to encourage his weight to go on the feet you want on the ground can help; ask your farrier where he’d like you to stand and what he’d like you to do to help.
If you seem to only be left with options that you’re not comfortable with (ear twitches, for example, or laying a horse down), it may be time to call the vet and get a prescription for a sedative…and then a recommendation for a trainer…and a good beer.