What is Striking?
When your horse strikes out with its front feet, they are declaring dominance or assertiveness. Sometimes this striking can be a reaction to fear or being threatened. There are some horses that will strike out as a way of intimidating an unsure handler and threaten them. Stallions are more likely than mares to use striking as a way of achieving dominance in situations with other horses and with people.
Striking occurs when your horse uses its front feet and legs to kick. This kicking can be towards other horses, objects or even people. Many times, striking becomes a habit that can cause dangerous situations for your horse and for yourself. Damage can result to your horse’s hooves and legs as well as property damage to your barn or fences. If you are not careful and your horse strikes at you, you can become seriously injured.
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Symptoms of Striking in Horses
When you suspect that your horse is getting into the habit of striking, consult your veterinarian for a full physical to ensure that there is no underlying medical cause for the behavior. As your horse’s handler, you can recognize the symptoms and stay clear of the flaying front feet.
- Body tenses
- Neighing loudly
- Stretching out their neck and shaking their head
- Shifting restlessly
- Rolling their eyes
- May try to nip prior to rearing to strike
- Rearing up in their stalls and striking the walls
Causes of Striking in Horses
Your horse may strike out when it feels threatened or cornered. Striking out is a way for them to get rid of the threat. Many times, though, your horse will develop the habit of striking as a way to assert dominance over other horses or over you. Your horse does not perceive you as their master and wishes to take that role from you.
When your horse begins to strike out consistently, excessive or even inconsistent punishment can cause your horse to begin resenting human handling and resist training. You can become seriously injured if you do not know how to properly handle your horse when begins striking. You must learn to exert your dominance over your horse to ensure that there is an understanding that aggressive behavior is not acceptable.
Diagnosis of Striking in Horses
In order to properly diagnose striking in horses, you must first determine that your horse does not have an underlying medical condition that is causing your horse to strike out. Once it has been determined that your horse does not have a medical condition, your veterinarian will probably recommend that a trainer or horse behaviorist be brought in to determine the cause of your horse’s striking behavior.
The trainer or behaviorist will watch your horse’s behavior and determine the cause of the troubling behavior. Once the cause has been determined, a training plan will be suggested to modify and even completely stop the behavior.
Treatment of Striking in Horses
A trainer who is experienced with horses that exhibit striking behavior should be brought in. This way you know that your horse’s training will be centered on modifying the aggressive behavior.
The retraining process may take several weeks to several months depending on the length of time that the behavior has been allowed to continue. Your trainer will set up a vigorous program for your horse to ensure that the behavior is being modified or even completely stopped. As the training progresses, your trainer will include you in the training process. This will ensure that you know how to properly handle your horse and will have the ability to stop the striking behavior.
After your trainer has finished retraining your horse, you will need to continue with the training as a routine to keep your horse from reverting back to the undesired behavior. Also, provide plenty of exercise and pasture time for your horse to burn off any excess energy that may cause it to begin striking out again.
Recovery of Striking in Horses
Many times your horse can be retrained to either modify the striking behavior or even stop the behavior completely. Being a confident handler will allow you to easily keep your horse in line and offer the guidance that is needed to become a confident and well trained horse.
Continuing your horse’s training is essential to ensuring that your horse understands that the striking behavior is not acceptable. Proper socialization with other horses and people will also be essential in ensuring that your horse is well-rounded and able to confidently handle different situations without feeling the need to strike out.