Training A Horse Not To Kick

Many of those that decide to get a horse have little to no experience with horses and most simply don’t know what they’re doing when they bring home a new horse. In this post I will cover the, often necessary, training of a Horse Not To Kick

Have you ever wondered how to stop a horse from kicking? This article provides thorough tips and techniques to give you a well-mannered horse. Now, I should note that some of these methods are not ideal, such as the 3-step “halt” method (which is just a brief second jump forward), but they have been helpful for certain horses that can’t deal with having their feet pulled up (mine included). As always, there are no guarantees.

Horse kicking is a common problem that many horse owners struggle with. It is important to teach your horse not to kick so you can avoid injury and so your horse does not hurt others around him. Here are some tips on how to train your horse not to kick:

1) Do not make sudden movements towards your horse. Horses can become startled when they see or hear something unexpected, which could cause them to react defensively by kicking out at whatever frightened them.

2) If your horse does kick out, do not punish him for it. This will only make him more likely to react defensively in the future. Instead, try moving away from where he kicked and then slowly approach again after giving him some time to calm down. This will allow him time to realize that he is safe before interacting with you again.

3) If you notice that your horse tends to be nervous around certain things or people, try bringing those things closer so that he gets used to them gradually over time instead of all at once like when someone walks up behind him unexpectedly from behind a bush without warning!

If your horse is kicking, you can train it not to. It might take some time and patience, but it’s possible.

First, you’ll need to find out what triggers the kicking. Is it when you’re riding? When someone else is riding? When you put a saddle on? When you pick up a bridle? Once you know what triggers it, look for ways to desensitize your horse to that trigger. For example, if it kicks when someone else rides, ride with a friend and have them hold the reins while they stand next to your horse as much as possible for a day or two. After that, try having them stand farther away from the horse for another day or two. Then try them standing still further away from the horse for another day or two until they’ve moved back so far that your horse has gotten used to having them there without kicking.

Now that your horse is used to having people around when they’re not riding (or whatever else was triggering the kicking), start working on getting him comfortable with wearing a saddle or bridle again by putting one on and feeding him treats while he wears it in different positions: sitting down at first so he gets used to having something on his back; then standing up with one foot

Training A Horse Not To Kick

It is helpful to understand why horses kick. Then we can use this knowledge to teach them to stop kicking. Horses are a prey animal. For thousands of years they have used a herd hierarchy system for the survival of the fittest. Horse herds were developed as a means of defense against predators. When you have several horses living together, natural leaders start to take charge. This is similar to what happens with large groups of people. The goal of this leadership is to govern social interaction, reduce aggressive conflict, and alert the herd to dangers. 

why horses kick and how to stop it

Legs are a valuable survival and communication asset. 

When threatened or fearful, horses respond with fight or flight. They have strong jaws and can leave a nasty bite. But, their most valuable survival assets are powerful legs. You definitely want to use techniques to avoid getting kicked. Because horse kicks can result in bruises, deep lacerations, broken bones, and in some cases death.  Our equine friends can also kick to communicate their state of mind and physical being.  If your horse is kicking or threatening to kick, you can bet he is trying to tell you something. 

When Do Horses Kick?

Mares Teaching Their Foals

Foals learn to use their legs from the time they can stand and nurse. When her foal gets too pushy and aggressive nursing, the mare responds by lifting her hind leg and gently moving the foal away. This communicates to the foal, “That is bad behavior. Move away from me.”

At weaning time, domesticated horses are usually assisted by their human partners. Horses in the wild, however, have to wean their foals by themselves. Therefore, the gentle nudge will get more aggressive, but not strong enough to do serious damage. 

why horses often kick

Young Horses Playing

Oftentimes we see young horses rearing and kicking at each other in what looks like play acting. This behavior is crucial in teaching and practicing the use their defense mechanism for survival.

Herd Hierarchy:

The phrase “fighting tooth and nail to get to the top” can well describe equine herd hierarchy.  Why would a horse want to be at the top? They get the best access to feed and water, the first choice of shelter or shade tree, etc.  All of these things are necessary for survival. 

You may have heard of the expression “Boss Mare.”  Some horses just have a personality that encourages them being the “boss.” When a horse is put in with horses they don’t know, there will be a period of adjustment and squabbling while the pecking order of the hierarchy is established. 

How to Teach a Horse to Stop Kicking

You May Need Help 

The first thing you need to know is it is nearly impossible to get a horse to stop kicking in all situations. With that being said, it is possible to teach a horse that kicking is not an acceptable behavior. If you have a chronic, aggressive kicker, it is highly recommended to get the advice and help from a professional horse trainer. Remember, those legs can be deadly. 

All four legs can be used to kick.

Horses can kick with all four legs. Most commonly when we refer to kicking, we are referring to the hind legs. But, all four legs can be used in some form of kicking. The hind legs can kick forward, sideways, and backward. The front feet are used to strike forward and stomp. For this article, I will focus on the hind legs.

Violence Is Not the Answer

A negative reaction to a kick (i.e. slapping or kicking back) will not have a positive effect on getting the horse to stop kicking. Violence is not the answer. It may be our first reaction, but we as horseman have to learn to curtail this reaction. 

Take Notes from Mares and Athletic Coaches

Remember the mare telling her foal, “That is bad behavior, so move away from me.” This is the same theory used by athletic coaches around the world. If the athlete has an attitude or misbehaves, they are told to run drills. It is also the same basic training theory used to teach horses not to kick. 

Move the Feet

Teaching a horse to stop kicking requires you to teach the horse to respect you as being higher in the hierarchy of the herd. No, you are not a horse, but to the horse you are still part of his herd. 

What You Will Need

You will need a round pen where you can turn your horse loose and ask him to free work on the rail.  The enclosure needs to be large enough so you can avoid the back legs if he kicks out, but still be able communicate with a lunge whip what you want of the horse. 

Rubbing the Hips and Legs

Hold your horse’s head using a short lead rope. Do not lock your fingers around the halter! Take the long lunge whip and gently rub it up and down your horse’s hip and leg. You can use a stick with a flag on it for this also. 

If he walks away, stay with him, never stopping the rubbing. If he kicks out and jerks away, let him go and ask him to run on the rail.

After a few rounds around the circle, ask the horse to stop and face into you. Walk up to the horse, grab the lead, and repeat the rubbing. 

This lesson is a back to basic ground exercise. Letting the horse run off from you may seem counterintuitive, but if done correctly this method works. The horse will eventually figure out it is easier to let you rub than to move his feet.    

After the horse lets you rub with the stick, start rubbing with your hands. Remember to stand to the side and close to the hip. Horses can kick sideways. If he kicks, repeat the same process of rail work and try it again. 

Picking Up the Feet

Once you can run your hands down the legs, move on to picking up the feet. Start by putting a long rope around the foot you want to pick up. Stand by the horse’s head and use the rope to pull the foot forward. If the horse kicks out, try to hold the foot up with the rope until he stops.

The idea is for the horse to realize that kicking does not get a desirable effect. If you are unable to hold the rope and he gets away from you, it is back to the rail for a few laps, then repeat. Depending on how bad of a kicker your horse is, this process may take several training sessions. 

Final Thoughts

Horses respond to fear and aggression with a flight or fight instinct. Kicking is a result of this. They also use kicking to help establish where they stand in the hierarchy of the herd. It is possible to teach a horse that kicking is not an acceptable behavior and will not have the desired results he wants. To teach this can take several training sessions.

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