What is Kicking?
When you notice that your horse is using both hind feet to kick, this is called an explosive kick and can cause the most damage. Explosive kicks can be extremely dangerous to humans and other horses.
Chronic kickers can begin to exhibit medical problems. Capped hocks and curbs can become problematic for horses who become chronic kickers. Loose or lost shoes are also common in horses that kick.
When your horse kicks, he is trying to communicate something to you. A horse that communicates their displeasure through kicking can be destructive not just to the horse but to your facilities as well. Some horses will stand near a stall wall and rhythmically thump the wall with one hind foot as a way to soothe themselves, while others will kick when someone is present to gain attention.
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Symptoms of Kicking in Horses
Almost all horses that kick can be trained to not exhibit the behavior. Your equine veterinarian can refer you to a horse trainer or an animal behaviorist to help you recognize the symptoms and stop the behavior.
- Malicious behavior
- Bad temperament
- Side stepping away from barriers
- Ears laid back
- Baring of teeth
Causes of Kicking in Horses
There are some horses that are naturally predisposed to be much higher strung. They require more exercise and stimulation. Human interaction as well as equine interaction is very important to them. Some of this behavior is genetically inherited and takes much more training to stop the behavior. Horses that form the behavior of excessive kicking can become violent and unmanageable.
Horses may mimic behaviors if they see another horse rewarded for similar behavior. In these instances, the kicking behavior is learned and can be somewhat easier to train to stop the excessive kicking.
Social interactions may also be the cause of kicking. If your horses are bored within their stalls and are craving any form of social interaction, they may kick their stall walls as a game. They may also use kicking as an attention getter or to signal that they want more time with you.
There are also instances where horses will not like their neighbors and will kick the wall to show their agitation. This is a way for them to let out some of their frustration.
Diagnosis of Kicking in Horses
While you may not need a veterinarian to tell you that your horse has a chronic behavior problem, it might be a good idea to have your veterinarian complete a full physical on your horse. This will rule out any ailments that might be causing your horse to kick.
Once your veterinarian has determined that the problem is behavioral and not physical, they can recommend an equine trainer or a behavioral specialist. Your horse will need to be trained to stop the behavior or divert their energy to more positive outlets.
Treatment of Kicking in Horses
To begin modifying your horse’s behavior, implement a more intensive exercise program and evaluate your horse’s feeding program. A horse that is energetic or inquisitive will need active exercise at least five times a week. Each exercise session should include games that make your horse think as well as games that require stamina.
While within their stall, your horse should be given things to occupy their time. Stall balls and other toys or puzzles are available for horses that need constant stimulation. Puzzles made specifically for horses can be attached to the stall walls.
If the kicking is a result of not liking the horse in the neighboring stall, there is a simple fix. Move the offending horse away from the kicker. In some instances, you may need to rotate the horses in the stalls to keep them from becoming agitated with their neighbor.
Some aggressive kickers may need formal leg restraints such as hobbling, cross hobbling, scotch hobbling or side lining. These restraints will teach your horse that he is unable to kick. It is not recommended to leave your horse unattended when using any of these restraints.
Recovery of Kicking in Horses
Most behaviors involving kicking in horses can be modified. While in some instances, the behavior cannot be completely eradicated, it can be greatly reduced to keep your horse from injuring themselves, other horses or people and also keep property damage to a minimum.
Horses that kick out of boredom or to gain attention can easily have the behavior diverted. Keeping them active and giving them things to do will go a long way in turning them into a more docile and well adjusted horse.