The Kicking Horse
There is one obvious and easy way for your horse to get his point across: Kicking. It is one of your horse’s most powerful forms of communication. Sometimes even the threat of a kick is enough to get his point across. But what causes a horse to kick? There are several reasons your horse might kick:
Your horse feels threatened: It is a survival skill. When your horse feels that it is in danger it will try to repel it’s defender with a kick. It is instinctual and almost automatic when your horse feels threatened. It is not always immediate. Naturally, your horse will want to move away, swing its hind end towards the danger, pinning its ears. It is their only natural way of warding off predators.
Your horse is feeling really good: It is the first cold day and there is a good frost, his back is a little cool and he just feels good. Ever watch your horse play out in a field? Running, leaping, bucking, just having a good time. We have to be careful not to confuse what is fun and what is misbehaving.
Your horse is in pain: It is a sign that we should all pay close attention to. Kicking at the belly is a sure sign of colic. Or maybe you have a poor fitting saddle and the horse goes to kick at you when putting it on? Pay attention to when and why the horse is kicking, and what is he trying to tell you by kicking? Unlike feeling threatened, if the horse is just simply uncomfortable he will lash out immediately at whatever it is that is making him uncomfortable. Even once you’ve fixed the problem the horse might still have muscle memory and may take some time to get him used to the fact that he isn’t sore there anymore.
Frustration: Sometimes this can be a learned behavior. Horses who kick at the walls when it’s feeding time, or horses kicking while in the trailer. Usually the horse is not threatened, just annoyed. He feels it’s his right and he wants it now, or he’s sick of just standing there. Try to devise a program to control this type of kicking. If you have to feed that horse first, or try not to leave him alone tied up for too long. Or you can simply ignore his efforts and he will learn that his kicking will get him no where and eventually get over it.
Leave me alone: Mares are good at this one. Horses sometimes like their personal space and if another horse gets too close… Kick. Horses can also be possessive of their food and will lash out to get the other horses away from their food. Typically this type of kicking is found when a horse is out in a herd. It is unlikely for a horse to kick at a person to leave them alone. It is common in dominate mares and spoiled horses. Have you ever seen a ribbon tied to a horse’s tail out on a trail ride or at a show? That’s your sign, back off.
The horse has taken leadership: Perhaps the most dangerous of all. The horse doesn’t really feel threatened or frustrated because he is in charge. Typically this is not an easy fix as the horse has learned this behavior over time and was able to get away with it. If the previous handler was timid or afraid the horse had to learn his own way to behave. And let’s face it, if this problem gets out of hand it is not a fun one to fix. Often the horse will retaliate as if in the herd, he is the dominate one now and you are threatening his position. It will take a lot of patience and time to sort this type of issue out.
Kicking in horses is not always a bad thing but we must look for the signs of why he is kicking. Is it because he is feeling good or is it because he has taken over the role of leader? Either way we must be careful at all times around horses because kicking can cause serious injury or death.