Why Horses Kick and How To Stop This Behavior


Horses are majestic creatures. And by and large, they’ll bring joy into your life.

However, it’s important to remember that they’re all big and powerful creatures. And that means that they can be dangerous. If you’re riding your horse, then you’ll know just how important it is to be careful when you’re galloping on top of your beloved creature. And when you’re not riding, you’ll need to ensure that you’re putting yourself out of harm’s way. 

The most dangerous aspect of horses is their kicking. There are many reasons why horses do this, but regardless of the motive, it’s important that horse owners take the time to stop it as soon as possible. Serious injuries could occur if they don’t.

In this blog, we’re going to run through everything you need to know about horse kicking. If you have a horse that kicks, then take a read and follow our advice. 

Why Do Horses Kick?

There are plenty of reasons why a horse can kick, ranging from fear, playfulness, boredom, frustration, and more. Let’s take a deeper dive into why this behavior exists. From there, we’ll look at how to solve the issue.

Defense

All animals have defense mechanisms that kick in when they’re threatened. A dog will bark and bite. A horse will kick. If they’re startled, and feel like they’re in danger, then they’ll kick out. It’s important to note that while horses mostly kick with their hind legs, they can also kick using their front legs. 

Sometimes horses kick out of simple playfulness.

Horses, especially young horses, like to play, especially when they’re together with other horses. You’ll see young horses kicking out in a playful manner. Of course, while their motive may be pure, those kicks can still cause damage. 

Some kicks are a response to pain.

All creatures express pain in different ways. When a horse is in pain, it’s common for them to kick out. This isn’t a controlled response; it’s just their natural response to physical pain. While they sometimes kick out in response to immediate pain, that won’t always be the case. They could be kicking out because of a non-obvious pain in their hind legs. In that case, it’ll be good to get them seen by a vet. 

They Feel Frustrated

A child will often act out when he or she is not getting their way. The same applies to horses. When they’re in the stables, you could see that they’re kicking at the door in frustration. What’s causing the frustration?

There are usually two motives. One is that they’re hungry and don’t want to wait for their food anymore. They’ll kick out when they know it’s feeding time, but the food isn’t in front of them, even if they can see that you’re coming with it. The other reason is that they want to stretch their legs.

Humans can become restless when they’re cooped up inside for too long– the same principle applies to horses. Similar to frustration, horses often kick out for no other reason than they’re bored. 

Aggression

Angry creatures will often lash out for the smallest of reasons. You’ll know the temperament of your horse better than anyone. It’s normal if they’re a little moody from time to time. However, if they seem like an angry horse, and they’re kicking out because of it, then it’ll be important to take action. 

Mares Teaching Their Foals

We all learn from our parents. If a foal is acting up, then the mare will kick the foal as a gentle (or not so gentle) way to communicate that whatever they’re doing is unacceptable. Of course, just as with humans, this method is internalized by the foal, who will go on to become a kicker themselves!

Herd Hierarchy

It’s important to remember that horses have their own social structures. In an equine environment, it can be beneficial for a horse to kick out, as this establishes them as a leader — and there are plenty of advantages to being the leader. If you see horses kicking out, it might not be anything other than the herd trying to figure out who ranks in what position. 

How to fix horse kicking

While it’s normal to see a horse kicking from time to time, if it becomes a more common occurrence, then it’ll be important to take action. There are plenty of things you can do that’ll help to eliminate the problem, or at least reduce it. 

Safety Around a Kicking Horse

Before you do anything, remember to keep yourself safe. You might have a great relationship with your horse, but just one kick can cause serious damage. So exercise caution and stay safe at all times. 

A professional horse trainer

You’ll know a lot about horses, but it’s unlikely that you know everything, especially if you’re dealing with a new problem with kicking. In that case, it can be beneficial to work with a professional horse trainer.

It’s always important to remember that horse kicks can be deadly, so while you might feel like it’s a problem that you can handle on your own, it’s very rarely worth taking the risk. A professional horse trainer will have seen this problem a million times before and be able to help your horse stop kicking in a safe and long-lasting way. 

Violence is not the answer.

Very few creatures change their behavior through violence. It can work on a short-term basis, but it does not eliminate the problem completely. When you’re trying to teach a horse to stop kicking, violence is not the way. It will only cause more problems than when you started. 

Teach the horse to respect you 

You’re not a horse, but you’re still part of the gang. One way to get your horse to stop kicking is to place yourself at a higher rank than the horse. This is something that takes time, but if you’re authoritative and in control, then eventually, it’ll happen. There are two ways you can do this, as we’ll see below.

Rubbing the Hips and Legs 

Using the whip, rub down the horse’s hips and legs. He may walk away, but even in that case, don’t stop. It’s only when they become stressed and angry that you should let them go. This is also part of the training. Once he’s walked for a little while, repeat the process. Once they’ve gotten used to you rubbing them with the stick, you can use your hand.

It’s important to be careful at this stage. If there’s any sort of aggressive movement, then you can start from the beginning again. 

Picking Up the Feet 

The above process will let the horse become more comfortable with you. Once they’re used to you rubbing your hand down their leg, you can look at picking up the feet. 

To do this, put a rope around the horse’s foot, and then slowly lift it up to your hand. This is unlikely to happen at the first time of asking. If it doesn’t, then send them for another walk, and then try again. The horses that have more of a kicking problem will require more training exercises than more mild cases. 

Application of Kicking Chains

If the behavioral approach doesn’t work for your horse (or you’re looking for a more immediate solution), then you can take a look at kicking chains. They work to prevent horse kicks as it’s happening.

So what are they? They’re simply chains that are attached to a cuff. You place them on the horse’s fetlock or above the hock. When they kick, the chains hit the leg, and that’s supposed to stop him or her from kicking. They can be effective, though it should be noted that they’re not a failsafe option. 

Are kicking chains cruel?

Kicking chains are not cruel since they don’t cause the horse any pain or discomfort. However, the one potential downside is that they could cause stress for the horse. So while they’ll prevent kicking, they might just produce another problem.

However, this isn’t common — it’s just a possibility. If you’re planning to put kicking chains on your horse, then put them on when they’re in the stable first. If it seems to stress them out, then take them off.

It’s likely that the horse wearing the chains will respond to them. However, remember that the sound of the chains could cause stress to other horses, so be sure to keep an eye on any other horses that are in the vicinity. 

Conclusion

You’ll already know how big and powerful horses can be. Indeed, this is one of their primary advantages! However, just from a pure safety point of view, it’s important to limit the number of times that they’re kicking. There are also advantages for the horse, too, since the majority of the time they’re kicking will be out of frustration.

As we’ve seen, there are plenty of things you can do! So take our advice, and this issue will hopefully become a thing of the past. 

Recent Posts