Most people, when they think about horses, think about graceful, beautiful, and magnificent animals. And there is no denying that horses, without a doubt, are elegant, beautiful, and majestic. But that is not all that they are. Apart from being heavenly gorgeous, they are animals who are known for being incredibly strong and powerful. And though, most of the time, they mean no one around them any harm but once in a while they start acting not so friendly and end up causing serious damage to anyone, animal or human, or anything in their vicinity. If you are a person who has come across horses even once in their life, then you might have guessed by now what we are talking about, but if you are not, then allow us to make it clear for you. We are talking about horse kicking.
Surprised? Well, you might not be the only one. For those who are unfamiliar with this bad habit of horses, then yes, horses do kick, and when they do, the result is not exactly pleasant. So, for anyone who recently started horse riding or has taken an interest in knowing about horses for whatever personal reason, then here is a general guide about horse kicking. From questions like why they do it, when they do it, what to do when they do it, and can we stop them, here is where you will find everything that you need to know about horse kicking.
Horse kicking is a habit that almost every horse starts showing at some point. And although there are no types of a habit as ordinary as kicking, this is not the case when it comes to horse kicking. A horse usually kicks in 2 different ways. One is the most basic one. The one where you can see the horse lifting its hind legs in forwarding direction and then starts kicking them back in a sideways motion.
Another kick is what is known as “cow kick. “ In such type of kick, the horse is known to strike ahead using its hind leg. Such kicks are usually done to target someone who might be standing too close to the horse’s side, along with its ribcage, to be exact.
Why Horses Kick
No matter what the horse was kicking, whether it was chains or another person, and how dangerous, there is always a meaning and message to a horse kick. It is a way your horse tries to communicate its physical as well as mental state to you. Just like body language, hostile actions such as these can tell you a lot about what your horse might be thinking or going through. Therefore, it is crucial first to figure out why your horse is showing such behavior before taking steps to treat it. Often the horse is uncomfortable in the environment that it is in. Therefore, it is your job as its handler to identify these triggers and provide your horse with the care it deserves. With that said, here are some of the reasons why horses kick;
When it feels threatened
Often, kicking is used by a horse as a defense mechanism. Wild horses, especially, protect themselves from predators through kicking. Trained horses, on the other hand, may kick when they feel like some other horse is trying to get close to their food, is a threat to their foal, or any other fellow horse in the herd that might be special to them. In such cases, the horse starts kicking another horse and may end up causing injury either to himself or the other horse.
Another factor that results in horse kicking is abusive owners in the past. Because of that, the horse might be feeling scared around people or whenever the new owner gets too close. This is why it is never a good idea to surprise your horse. You might be thinking that you are playful with your horse by coming from behind while he is dozing or eating, but in reality, your horse is seeing you as a threat and may kick to protect itself.
What’s good about horse kicking when he feels threatened is that you can recognize it. Most of the time, whenever a trained horse is threatened, it doesn’t immediately kick. Its first move is to always step away from what it is that is threatening him. If that doesn’t work, then you can notice its ears being pinned, or it starts raising his hind legs to prepare for the kick.
Just like humans, horses also feel happy and joyful at times. Most of the time, you might notice them frolicking, galloping, and bucking in the fields whenever they feel this way, but sometimes, they also start kicking. Such kicking is purely meant not to harm the horse’s part but may end up doing so by accident.
Such kicking is difficult to avoid or stop the horse from doing. The best measure is to take precautions to keep yourself as well as other horses and people safe.
When in Pain
Touching or grabbing the part of the body that is hurting is something that we all do to show that we are in discomfort, and horses are no different. If the horse is kicking at its stomach, then this might indicate that it is in some kind of pain. For example, if your horse is going through back pain and you place a saddle on it or if the girth is too tight, then the horse might start kicking its back legs.
Similarly, a horse may kick during grooming if it is finding the experience unpleasant or painful. In such situations, the horse might start kicking the man doing the job or other people around it and end up causing some serious damage. You can identify such kicking by removing the stimuli and checking if your horse stops kicking after doing that.
Horses also kick when they feel frustrated or annoyed by something that is happening around them or by the presence of other horses or animals. This might also occur if it is hungry, and you haven’t delivered it its food yet, or it has been inside the stable for a long time and needs to go out into the pasture. If the horse kicks at feeding time, then simply start serving its meals a little earlier.
The good thing about horse kicking at feeding time or when it is feeling frustrated is that it is easily recognizable through the horse’s body language. The horse starts flipping its head or pins its ears to the back right after the kick in such cases.
Just like for safety, kicking is also a way for a horse to project dominance. Such behaviors are extremely common among wild horses. They use it to enforce hierarchy in the herd, which ensures order and determines breeding rights.
Similarly, stable horses might also show this behavior to assert dominance. This mostly happens with dominant mares or geldings. They put up mean faces before kicking and aim their rump towards you. Such horses are also known to be aggressive towards their fellow horses and can be a threat to them. This type of kicking is a serious issue and is a sign that the horse needs more training.
Although very rare, a horse might start kicking its stable walls because it wants your attention. Who knew that animals love attention as much as humans, and there is nothing wrong with it. Your horse also has a heart and emotions. It feels things, and sometimes a little extra time with you is all that it asks for.
If you are new to all this, then that might be exactly what you would be thinking about doing but don’t. You need to do the exact opposite of giving attention, i.e., ignoring the horse. Leave it alone in its stable, and after a while, it will stop doing so.
If the horse is in the stable and it starts kicking stable walls, then this might mean that it feels uncomfortable among the other horses. There are high chances that the horse might start kicking its chains or other horses as well. In some cases, horses also start feeling uncomfortable when their personal space is being invaded. It usually happens with mares who like to be dominant. The animal starts kicking whenever they feel like another horse is getting close. This personal space changes from horses to horses. In the case of dominant mares, this space mostly means no other horse within 20 feet.
Why Horse Kicking Might be Dangerous
Now that we have talked about all the possible reasons a horse might kick a man, its chains, or another horse, it’s time to talk about why something as ordinary as a kick might be dangerous. This is why, as mentioned earlier, horses are one of the strongest animals. They are huge, and so when they kick, the blow is highly strong and carries a lot of force with you, which causes damage. A horse’s kick is known to be powerful enough to cause serious injuries to anyone around the horse at the time.
Many riders have gone into cardiac arrests by experiencing an equine kick in the chest. You can also suffer from a head injury, broken bones, and damaged soft tissues from the impact of a horse kick. Such injuries have effects that last long and are only able to heal through constant care for a long period.
Horses can even put themselves in danger by performing such harmful activity. Kicking the stable or any stationary object can result in fractured bones either in the limbs or within their hoofs. Other than that, if a small animal experiences a horse kick, there is a high chance that they might not be able to handle such a strong blow from a large animal and die.
After having an idea about how dangerous a horse kick can be, it becomes crucial to know all the ways we can avoid and prevent it from happening. If you are horsemen and you know that your horse kicks, then it is your utmost responsibility to ensure the safety of other horses, animals, and people.
There are several ways you can deal with this problem. First of all, try to avoid taking the horse out in public at all costs. Inside the stable, the horse can either hurt you, himself, or other horses. But once outside, anyone close enough to the horse is at risk. Therefore keep your horse inside until you have trained to stop its kicking behavior. You can read our article Train Your Horse from Stop Kicking to learn about different ways you can accomplish this.
In the field, make sure that anyone who is or might be working with the horse that kicks is well informed about its behavior. This way, they stay away from their hind legs. Practice this yourself as well for your safety.
If, due to some unfortunate event like the horse getting sick or injured, it becomes necessary to take it out, then make sure that you tie its tail with a red ribbon. This will act as a warning and let other people know about the animal’s bad habit, and they will keep their distance from it.
While riding with a herd, make sure your horse is in the end so that even if it starts kicking out while riding, it doesn’t kick another horse or the person riding it. Inform others about its habit as well so that they can always keep their horses ahead and keep themselves as well as their horses safe from horse kicking. If by some mistake another horse is left behind, then immediately turn your horse to either side through its hindquarters so that even if it was planning to kick another horse, it misses its target.
Often, a horse sends warning signals through its body language whenever they want to kick. Observe its ear, head, and the rest of the body for any such signs. In case you do notice them, then act without any delay and try to distract your horse.
As mentioned above, most of the horses use kicking as a defense mechanism. It may be possible that your horse had an abusive previous owner. As a result, the horse had to adapt such harmful habits to keep itself safe. Therefore make sure that you are always kind to your beloved stallion. Feed it on time, and if you touch it, touch it with care and gentleness. Other than that, ensure that the horse feels safe and comfortable in its stable.