~ Romancing Red ~

How do we, as a farriers, work with an unruly horse — one not bad enough to tranquilize, yet not good enough to relax and enjoy?

Until recently, Red, a round-bodied chestnut Quarter Horse, was such a problem.

Living the leisurely life turned out on a large acreage, used only sporadically due to his owner’s time restraints, Red enjoys the lifestyle so many stabled horses long for.

I’d been working with him for only about six or eight months. He’d been fine to trim, great with his hinds, but awful for nailing his fronts!

(And, with thin soles and rocky high-desert terrain, Red needs front shoes to keep sound.)

As soon as my hammer takes to nails, Red yanks and pulls his limb like a large-scale earthquake, worse on the right side.

That’s when I ask Red’s strong cowboy-owner to stand in front of his knee, hold his leg, and push with great might against Red’s protests, so I can get the nails in. (And he’s not quicked, as he’s sound afterwards and throughout the shoeing cycle.)

I’m sure Red has cultivated these less-than-hilarious behaviors with previous farriers throughout his career.

(Since I have no pictures of Red, other chestnut horses in my personal photo archive will have to do :)) DawnHoof


Social Distancing

So when Coronavirus mandated “social distancing”, and the fact that Red’s owner is in the emergency health services field — and was therefore forbidden to stand near another human — I got to face off with Red a couple shoeings ago, all by myself.

“I’m not sure I can nail him,” I told his owner. “If I can’t get him nailed, I’ll have to leave him barefoot.”

“He does better in shoes. I hope you can get them on!” Red’s owner said. “Just do the best you can.”

“Would you mind if I treat him like he’s one of my own horses? Do I have your permission to work with Red’s behavior?”

“You sure do!” he said, keeping his distance, hopping in his truck, and driving away.

Leaving me alone with Red, for the first time ever — just the two of us — to work it out on our own.


Enter ~ Romancing Red ~

Wonderfully enough, I’d just been working on my post, Romancing the Hoof, so all my new “courtship” and “wooing” strategies were fresh at hand.

Primed to “love-Red-up” with cookies and rubs and schmoozing, I determined to treat him like he was one of my own horses. With love and firmness, I’d see how far we could get.

Before starting in, I scratched Red’s neck and whispered soft coos, broke off bits of yummy cookies (The German Horse Muffin, otherwise known as “Horse Crack”), and gave him some delicious bites.

Licking, dropping his head, Red showed all the signs of a happy horse at rest with his herd. That’s what I wanted, “happy-herdship” behavior, rather than displaying “fight-or-flight”.

I started by trimming his hind end, holding his hooves low, using the crook of my foot and the closeness of my stance to support hoof and limb, creating the lowest possible “human hoof stand”. (Horses love this!)

Red responded well. Happy. Relaxed. Agreeable.

I took several breaks, scratching his bum, “Good boy, Red . . .”

Magical Molokai Mount

Right Fore

Finished with the hinds, I decided to do one front hoof at a time, and to start with his more difficult, right fore.

Pulling the shoe — no problem. I rewarded Red with cookies and cooing, “Good boy, Red! Such a good boy!”

Since I knew his difficulty was nailing, and I wasn’t sure if I could get him to cooperate, I took my hammer to his untrimmed bare hoof, and began to very gently tap . . . Red fired into action!

Whap! Pull! Snatch! Red was back into his old fight-or-flight habits.

Immediately I got out from under him, snorted my most demanding “mare snort”, and leapt into aggressive human/horse body-language behavior.

Hissing, snorting, baring my teeth, as my own dominant mare would have done to reprimand an upstart — Red knew that I was less than pleased.

He took a step back, looking peeved.

Then I switched my body language, softening, taking a deep breath — letting it out, blowing my lips to mimic how horses communicate: “It’s all OK . . .”

I asked him to move up, cooing and rubbing, working his endorphin (feel-good hormone) response, until his head lowered and he licked (physical signs of horsey submission).

Back underneath, tapping with my hammer, he jerked again, and we repeated the process a time or two.

Aria Shoes Pinos

‘Ol Red is One Smart ‘Bugga!

Red soon realized he’d rather choose cookies and praises, and make the “mare” (me!) happy — than suffer her snorts and snarls.

“Hurray! Good boy, Red. What a wonderful boy!”

Now I trimmed up the hoof, shaped the shoe, and nailed it on with little incident, generously praising and offering bites of cookies.

Yahoo! Nails in, blocked — now ready for clinching.

Aria Laughing

Extending Red’s hoof onto my stand for rasping and clinching is another behavior he detests — snapping his leg back, turning my stand into an implement of war, aiming at my shins, as if ‘Ol Red is plotting to have the last laugh.

More “mare snorts” and dominant behavior from me, this time just once, changed clinching from terror to do-able.

Hurray! Red was defiantly starting to catch on.

Nails clinched, hoof finished, I gave him more cookies and coos, and started in on the left fore.

Riding on Molokai

Left Fore ~

Pull shoe, no problem.

Tap bare hoof gently with hammer — Whap! Pull! Snatch! Again, Red worked hard to snap his leg away from me.

(This repeat of behavior is to be expected on the opposite foot, as a horse’s brain must learn on both sides for a lesson to get through to the separate-brain-lobe horse physiology.)

Again, my good snort and mare-ish hiss ended all that. In a short time, Lovely Red was wearing two new front shoes :))


Dancing Horse

Fini :))

To his owner’s delight, Red was happy, sound, shod.

To my delight, I fell head-over-heels in love with Red, schmoozing and fluffing and flattering him, and feeling his reciprocal energy flowing my way.

Now I know, Red and I can work it out.

Next shoeing, I only had to reinforce his behavior a time or two. And the shoeings after that, he’s stood perfectly and happily for me.

Hallelujah Red!

You’re proof that something good can come out of Covid. The virus might be separating us humans, but it united me deeply with Red :))



Copyright 2020

Photos: Dawn Jenkins; “Aria Laughing” photo by Z. Schultz (since I have no pictures of Red,  other chestnut horses in my personal photo archive will have to do :))

View of Little Dume Beach

Please also visit my Life Blog, Journal of Dawn, for Strategies and Insights into the Journey of Life


Forest Shadow Fae

Join Dawn for a Soul Horse Ride!  Experience the thrill of becoming one with your Horse . . . Join Dawn and her homegrown herd for a   Soul Horse Ride in the Frazier Park Outback!

Call to book your Life-Changing Adventure today:  (661) 703-6283



October 21, 2020 · 10:58 pm

11 responses to “~ Romancing Red ~

  1. Great communication! It would be interesting discover why he exhibits this aversion. Something in his past obviously triggers it.Next time, ask him about it. Sending you love and peace.

    • Yes — it’s almost like a physiological tic, and now he has a new pattern, a new physiology to turn to. The trick seems to be switching the old behavior off, and allowing the new behavior the space to grow. It’s the same way I’ve dealt with my horses, from birth, and through their developmental stages. A good horse will get it and shine :))

  2. What a wonderful story! Love and patience! Thanks! Sending love!

    • Thank you Linda :)) Our fall weather is perfect right now, leaves turning pale green and golden, purple and red. Low-lying light sending rainbows throughout out log cabin home. Wishing the best for you this fall :)) Dawn

  3. Margery Spielman

    Love it! Wonderful story, Dawn. Courage. Patience. Determination. Communication. Solution. Hugs!

    • :)) :)) :)) Hurray for solutions! They make Life so much more user-friendly. And Margery, you have provided me with a much-needed solution by our serendipitous Mt. Pinos Blood Moon meeting, in helping me with my purple business card :)) :)) :)) Hugs and thanks and much love! Dawn

  4. Hot damn! I am thoroughly impressed. Great job. I was licensed and certified by the Illinois Racing Board. I came across a few like you had and I glued their shoes on but they got Redbox every 28 days. You young lady definitely have more patience than me. Good job. I tip my hat to you. You might want to check out my blog A Little Farrier Humor.

  5. What a wonderful story, Dawn. I’m glad you and Red figured out how to work with one another. Now if only we could figure out how to work with some humans who only want their own way.
    Best wishes,

    • So true!!!! The fact that Red and I worked it out shows his “domesticatable” ability to adapt and cope.

      Yet, sadly, not every horse is domesticatable. Some are outliers, and do not conform to the norm of what we expect from a good, docile-tempramented individual (as in numbers 4-6 below). You might appreciate the following.


      (source: https://barriebramley.com/you-cant-ride-a-zebra-but-you-can-become-more-creative/)

      Domestication Criteria

      According to Live Science (who quote Jared Diamond in his acclaimed book “Guns, Germs and Steel” — Norton, 1997), there are 6 criteria that animals must meet for domestication:

      1. can’t be picky eaters
      2. must reach maturity quickly
      3. must be willing to breed in captivity
      4. must be docile by nature
      5. cannot have a strong tendency to panic and flee
      6. must conform to a social hierarchy

      If any of those are lacking, then your chances for domestication start to thin out really really quickly.


      Perhaps that’s the trouble with some humans! It certainly is food for thought. Hope you are well, Tanja. Fall in our area is beautiful :)) Dawn

  6. This is some special story ~ you two whispered to each other and took what was an impossible relationship into something wonderful 🙂 A talent you’ve clearly made into a incredible life ~ a trait that seems to flow throughout your family! This song’s for you: 🎶 [intro chord] …Well, she was an American girl 🎶 🙂

    • Thanks for getting it, Randall :)) I just put on my Petty CD, turned up the volume, and now playing American Girl (followed by my fave, Free Falling)!!! It’s true, I’m having an amazing, rich American life. And I’m grateful to have a friend like you ❤ ❤ ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s