I like to help farriers wherever I can, and I recently had the chance. I was booked to give the horse some bodywork, and then the farrier would work on the feet shortly afterwards. He wasn't looking forward to his job, as the horse has been difficult with his feet in the past, particularly his hinds. The farrier described him as defensive, tight and with a tendency to draw his feet in towards his body. Wrestling with a horse like this is havoc on the farrier's own body, and makes for a miserable time for both of them.
I took my time with this horse so that I could be sure I gave him as many chances to release and unwind as possible. I combined various techniques from massage, Structural Integration, and craniosacral work, as his body changed and I needed to adapt to him over the course of the session. I allowed him to move his head and feet as he needed to. He began to show signs of release very quickly, with sighs and licking, and lowering his head to stretch his back.
I was careful to work this horse all over - I worked on his trunk and between his ribs, his pelvis, deep into his shoulders and his chest, his neck, his tail, his face, his jaw, his nose and lips. There was barely an inch of him that I didn't touch with purpose. He had muscular tightness that needed a combination of massage strokes to release, and fascial restriction that responded well to Structural Integration strokes. His hind end was perhaps the part of him that needed the least work. I mobilised his forelimbs, where his shoulders had been tight and sore.
The farrier remarked that the horse seemed brighter and more attentive when I was done, and we both wondered if that would be a good thing or a bad thing for him when it became time for the feet to be done. I wished him luck and went on my way.
The farrier checked in with me about this horse later in the day. As he had worked on the feet, he had noticed the horse continue to relax, unwind and adjust - yawning, licking, stretching and breathing with more ease. The feet had been easier to handle, and the horse had been much more receptive to his work. The dreaded hind feet, rather than being snatched up into the horse's body, had been easy to trim, and the horse had enjoyed the stretches on the hoof stand.
This meant the farrier could do his work more quickly, with less strain on himself, and with less stress or pressure on the horse. He was able to give the horse an accurate and neat trim, as he was not fighting with awkward positioning or an anxious mood. All in all, it was a better day for both of them!
When I work on your horse, I am not just trying to help your horse. I'm trying to help everybody who has to handle your horse too. I will often pick up the feet to see if one feels heavier, or if movement in the joints is restricted. I will also use stretches and mobilisations to try to help the horse feel more comfortable in having his feet handled. I want the horse to be able to support himself on three legs without feeling unstable. I always insist upon the feet being put down politely - manners are important to me.
If your horse is difficult for the farrier, you might consider helping the pair of them out - book a bodywork session for your horse (and buy a gift certificate for massage for your farrier!).