fancy-friesian-footworkThe girls arrived at the beginning of the month. The transport from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast was long and it clearly took its toll on them both.

They were both very skittish and quite frightened. They clearly had ideas that they were never going to let themselves be caught or go anywhere near a truck again.

I don’t believe at all that this is any fault of the transport company. It is just that it is a very long trip from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast. It would be hard on anyone in a truck, least of all a horse.

Within 24 hours though, we clearly became known as the bringers of the good stuff…….food!

I was distinctly unprepared for exactly how much Friesians love their food. They may have been a tad spoiled with apples and carrots in that first week which obviously encouraged them all the more.

Froukje and Adelgonda would run to the gate whinnying with delight when they saw us coming. I wasn’t silly enough to think that they loved us yet. They just loved the food.

We began getting a regular routine going for them. Mother Nature was kind this month and introduced them to the Sunshine Coast with one of the coldest Novembers in as long as I can remember.

Beautiful crisp mornings followed by mild breezy days and gentle bug free evenings. I was thrilled to say the least.

By the end of the first week they were easy to catch and groom, and we were enjoying just getting to know them both. They are magnificent creatures, with cheeky and gentle personalities. Boy did they love a good back rub too!

However, it became apparent that some serious pedicure work was needed. They hadn’t had their feet done since leaving quarantine in Germany four and a half weeks prior, so they were looking pretty manky.

I had been referred to a great farrier who had experience with Friesians and had studied in the the UK.

The day that Mike the Farrier arrived was the hottest one yet. By 10am it was nearly 30 degrees and the girls were noticeably bothered by it……..and lets just say it all went downhill from there.

We started with Adelgonda. She misbehaved something dreadful. Running all over the yard, pulling her feet away. The vet had also arrived to do some tests. He saw the trouble and offered to sedate Miss A to see if that helped.

Sedating Friesians is not like sedating other horses. They simply do not need as much to get them very very sleepy. We went from having a horse that was skittish and jerking her feet away to one that nearly fell on top of the farrier and needed to be held up by two others people just to stop her from collapsing.

So while she came out with great feet in the end, it was a disaster. I was dreadfully unhappy. I couldn’t believe that Adelgonda, who had been so loving and gentle just could not stand to have her feet touched.

The bad morning wasn’t over yet. By now it was past midday. I was visibly sunburnt. It was hot. I was also upset with how Adelgonda’s feet had gone. The farrier went to start on Froukje who had watched carefully all that was going on. She was not going to have a bar of it. Even though she had already been sedated for her tests, she actively struck out at Mike regardless of whether he tried her hind or front feet.

She was frightened, Mike was frightened and I was devastated. How could this have happened? These girls had great feet in the Netherlands when I saw them. They still had great feet, but we just couldn’t get near them.

I’d also been trodden on in the process, and despite my good shoes, I knew my toe had taken a beating. Mike left, Adelgonda done but sleepy, Froukje untouched and shaken, me bewildered. I had really been counting on Mike to teach me what he knew about Friesian feet compared to other horses.

His parting words were “Be very careful mate, that horse is dangerous!” Referring to Froukje.

I looked over at her where she stood, held by a friend. She didn’t look dangerous. Just frightened.

I was down. Dangerous? Really?

I needed to act. We looked at the girls diet first. We had been feeding them Lucerne hay, that was very high in protein, and had just changed that to a grassy half and half mix. That and some pollard and rice bran, along with a herbal supplement from Lisa Mcann herbs.

Really though, it was time to seriously start working them. We’d had a fun few weeks with our paddock ornaments, but some method training was definitely in order. Besides now I had a deadline. Froukje’s feet weren’t going to last much longer without a trim.

The next day, before afternoon feed time I haltered up Froukje and headed to the middle of the paddock for her first lesson. Being in quarantine is inconvenient for a number of reasons, least of all that you are stuck where you are, limited resources and all.

I have a great big “whip” from Down Under Horsemanship, called a handy stick. It is a long stick, about 1.2m with an even longer string on the end of it, and a small piece of leather at the end of the string,

Standing at a 45 degree angle to her shoulder, with one hand by her eye, I began by spanking the ground beside me with the handy stick, my arm swinging in large circles.

Froukje had a heart attack! She immediately backed away and tried to run, but I tipped her head towards me and we both realised at the same time that I was the leader! The stick kept swinging and I kept the pressure on. She backed away as fast as she could, whilst constantly being forced to keep her eyes on me (still swinging the stick).

It took her less than a minute to realise that this “thing” was not going to kill her. Very quickly she calmed down and stood still. Within another thirty seconds she was licking her lips and had cocked her hind leg – both signs of relaxing. I stopped. The release of pressure her reward for relaxing.

It was such a small thing, that occurred in under five minutes, but I knew then that she was not a dangerous horse, just one in a new environment, a little bit frightened of all that was going on.

The lesson continued with me flicking the rope around her front legs, then her hind legs, her rump and then over her back, and then everything again on the other side.

She was brilliant and we finished on a high note.

It’s been a busy week, but we’ve had another three lessons since. Just short, half hour ones, but she will now let me do anything with her front feet. Rub up and down her legs, pick up her feet, clean them, play with them, rub all over them, brush her feathers out, hose them out, rub a dripping wet sponge over them, ALL while she just stands there and licks her lips.

We aren’t yet at the same level with her hind feet, but I can pick them up. A few more lessons and Mike the farrier won’t recognise her. I’m booking him for a return visit this week. I think I might video it!


Feature image provided courtesy of Isabelle Ann

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