The thoroughbred wouldn’t stand still. The farrier was trying to trim her hooves, and she wasn’t having any of it.
She was not letting him pick up her feet. She was fidgeting and not trusting him enough to let him have one of her precious hooves.
For a horse to let a human pick up its foot, it has to trust that human. Because to a horse, their feet are their freedom. As prey animals they have to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice, and that means having all four feet on the ground.
So the farrier pulled out a twitch – a device which pinches a horse’s nose so that the poor beast focuses on that discomfort, and not whatever it is we humans are trying to do to it.
The farrier placed the metal prongs on the horses nose and fastened them together.
It hurt me just to look at it.
The horse wiggled her nose a little to get used to it.
And then she let the farrier pick up her feet.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the twitch. It was the first time I ever saw a device like that.
The mare didn’t seem to be in any pain – just an uncomfortable curiosity as to what was on her nose.
But I was nearly in tears.
And I thought to myself, it is a blessing that horses don’t cry.
At another barn, a horse who didn’t like having its whiskers trimmed was forced to endure two vice grips clamped on its upper and lower lips. He kept still while the owner razored the whiskers down.
He didn’t look like he was in pain, just discomfort as he wiggled the clamps up and down.
Who knows how much pain they can tolerate. They seem to notice a mere fly landing on their body – the way they twitch their skin to shoo them away.
But I do know that most of the time, they have to simply endure what we do to them. Their tractable natures are their own downfall much of the time.
I read an article once about how some horses have “learned helplessness” – and I prefer to take it one step further and say that it’s “quiet desperation”.
And it’s a blessing they don’t cry.