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Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

Posted August 19, 2009 12:01 AM by SavvyExacta

I was kicked by a horse about a year and a half ago. Considering myself an experienced horsewoman (I've owned and ridden horses for about 20 years), I knew it was inevitable, but wasn't expecting it to happen that day. The accident was a valuable reminder that animals are unpredictable! In this three-part series, I will explain why and how a horse kicks, where you should be if you don't want to get hurt, and what happened to me.

In this first blog entry we'll discuss why horses kick in the first place. After all, understanding the root cause is usually one of the best ways to avoid a problem.

Prey vs. Predator

Horses are prey animals – meaning that they are a food source for other animals that are predators. Like most large prey animals (think African plains animals like zebras, giraffes, and gazelles), they are constantly on the lookout for whatever could be out to "get them".

Horses use the senses available to them to stay alert for predators.

  • Eyes – Nearly 360 degree monocular vision allows horses to see just about everything in the surrounding environment.
  • Nose – Good sense of smell.
  • Ears – Ability to rotate the ears to listen in all directions, as well as listen with one ear each way.
  • Skin – With skin that can wriggle to flick off a fly, you know it's sensitive!

Most of us learned about "fight or flight" in Biology 101; some animals fight when attacked, while others flee the scene. Horses are "flight" animals as they are graced with speed, but they also have a powerful set of hindquarters designed for kicking as well as accelerating. This mechanism is used when they are confined or otherwise unable to put the "flight" idea into use.

Health and Mood

Just like any animal, a horse is entitled to have a bad day. A variety of factors can influence how a horse feels physically or mentally. General signs like laid back ears, worried eyes, or swishing tails are important, but there are overall things to watch for, too:

  • Illness – One of the symptoms of Lyme disease is a change in attitude. Some of the horses I ride were diagnosed with and treated for this ailment. As soon as the treatment cycle ended, the cranky attitudes and habits went away, and they were sweet and willing to work once again.
  • Sour Attitude – Think about your routine. Do you get bored doing the same thing every day? Horses do too, especially when they're drilled on the same things in the riding arena. If the thought of what's coming isn't pleasant, they react accordingly.
  • Pain – Some horses suffer from back, hip, hind leg, or other pain that is exacerbated when the saddle is put on or a hoof is lifted to be cleaned. In order to avoid pain, a horse may kick out.
  • Fear – We talked about how horses avoid becoming a meal, but these animals also have long memories (kind of like elephants) and hold on to past fears from prior abuse, accidents, or scary moments. Kicking out is a reaction that may be automatically triggered by the memory of such a fear.
  • Warning – Although horses are herd animals, there are times when they do not like other animals (or people) in their space, especially in the blind spot right behind them. Kicking can also be a way to establish dominance.
  • Playfulness – Sometimes horses aren't hurt or upset at all – they kick out because they feel good or want to play! Horses don't realize, however, that a kick from a 1,200 pound animal is not always interpreted as a playful sign.

Note: Read Part 2 of this series on CR4!

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fight-or-flight_response

http://www.training-horses-naturally.com/horse-behavior.html

http://equisearch.com/horses_care/health/behavior/whyhorseskick_012307/index1.aspx

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#1

Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

08/19/2009 12:34 AM

They can also get jealous and bite you.

Leslie's horse bit me when I was kissing her with my back to the stall.

Copper bit me right hard on my collarbone.

That was his name, Copper Genisus.

Carols horse was the quarter horse I rode, and Leslie had a thurobread.

I got a merit badge! I got a few broken ribs!

I got kissed!

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#3
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Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

08/19/2009 4:25 AM

I'm waiting for the screenplay now

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#2

Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

08/19/2009 1:32 AM

I grew up around horses and have been around them for all my life. Hence the reason I will never own a horse! Your article points out the general good side of most horses. However it doesn't come even close to pointing out the general reality of the overall horse population.

1 in ten at best are true honest good trust worthy animals and make good reliable natural kids horses! The other Nine drop off drastically from there.

9, 8 & 7 are good tempered, friendly and reasonable assets to the owner. But are only best used by experienced riders.

6, & 5 are tolerated and make usable breeding stock but lack the intelligence and character to ever be fully trust worthy as good riding or work horses and are generally hard to work with in all aspects. The personality of their off spring can have more to do with them staying alive than their own. If the off spring fit into the 7 or higher levels they stay. Under that its the owner who ultimately holds their fate. Continual 4 and below offspring typically will have them join them.

4, 3 & 2 only make it to adult hood because the owner let them in order to get their slaughter price up in order to re coop some of his losses. They rarely learn to lead by hand and typically defy you with every move. If you really need them to go some place you use a tractor and drag them. They are naturally wild regardless of how much they were worked with when young. Always very stupid, never trustable, and never easy to work with. Most likely the ones who will get shot some day just because.

1 never sees adult hood. Its own stupidity and or stubbornness makes sure of that. It either continually runs though fences and gets cut up until the owner has to put it down or its general lack of usable intelligence, overall stupidity, natural defiance, and bad temper just gets it shot early on if it didn't some how manage to get itself killed first. Good old fashioned coyote bait.

1 in perhaps 1000 is the bragging horse. That super smart save your life type horse.

1 in a million is the I cant believe it real and could be a main character in a movie.

These last two are why millions of inexperianced people buy horses and attempt to have them as pets. They have unfortunately biased the public view of horses and have given 1 - 6 far to much undeserved credit. The inexperienced people unfortunately end up with 2 -6 before they ever get 7 - 10. 7 - 10 are the ones the first owner keeps until old age! (Either the owners or the horses.) Or does sell them at a premium price.

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#6
In reply to #2

Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

08/19/2009 11:03 PM

Look up Monty Roberts and his Join-up method. If treated right, many of the 2-6 horses in your list can be 7's or 8's.

My girlfriend has 6 Foundation Quarter Horses. While most are trained for barrel racing and reining (therefore not suitable for riding by novices), they are a joy to work with - good tempered and friendly.

We are training one to pull a cart, so I'll be able to work with her. I'm no expert, but I'm learning.

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#7
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Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

08/19/2009 11:29 PM

I bought that Monty Roberts book "Horse Whispering" for my dad, It was a interesting book.

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#10
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Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

08/20/2009 9:28 AM

Haven't read that one. I did read his autobiography, "The Man Who Talks to Horses".

My girlfriend follows his teachings, and has excellent results. For those who aren't familiar with his aproach, he convinces the horse (using the horses own body language) to accept him as the herd leader. Then the horse wants to follow his lead. This makes training much less stressful for both horse and trainer.

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#12
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Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

09/03/2009 7:12 PM

My family has raised horses several generations before I have been around and my Dad just stopped due to age a few years ago. I spent many years around horses of all types. My favorites are Kieger mustangs (the only horses I ever seen hunt coyotes on their own)

Any way, When I read the book all type of horse behavior made sense. I never could quite put it together. Dad felt the same way. We should have figured it out but never made the connection.

The last year I had anything to do with the horses we had 50 colts. Growing up that book would have saved me hide and frustration.

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#4

Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

08/19/2009 8:36 AM

Hi...My thought is...With all animals, put yourself in a position to get hurt, you will.

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Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

08/19/2009 9:21 AM

Very good, and any horseman that says they were not hurt by a horse, the only horse that they came close to is a picture of one.

And as far as kicking.....unlike a cow, that needs to shift its weight, that gives you time to prepare, and get out of the way......a horse, respnse can be very quick, with no warning.....unless havbe a understanding with horses....and this only reduces your chance of getting kicked.

It is interesting, horses have a language of their own. about 15 years ago, there was alot of hype on horse whisperers and such........there is truth behind that.

Playfulness – Sometimes horses aren't hurt or upset at all – they kick out because they feel good or want to play! Horses don't realize, however, that a kick from a 1,200 pound animal is not always interpreted as a playful sign.

Watch a new born foal. How that saying go...."Feeling your oats".

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#8

Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

08/20/2009 9:10 AM

I have to wonder how you can tell with any certainty that a horse or any other animal is just bored or maybe decided that he doesn't like you all of a sudden and kicks the crap out of you. I think you may be giving the animal to much credit when you say it has feelings like a human has. A horse is an animal that was breed to work for humans and in my mind should be treated this way. If a person chooses to kiss, hug or turn their back on any animal then they will probably regret it one day. If what you say is correct and animals do have this higher intelligence level then I bet that horse was thinking "just let this girl turn her back on me" and probably laughing when he kicked you. I had a buddy that owned a beautiful horse that seemed at first to be very gentle. After a few months though the horse started to bite people that would turn their back on it. My friends sister would come over to ride the horse and it seemed the horse really liked her. About the 10th time she was over riding him he just turned and bit her on the shoulder when she was concentrating on getting the saddle off. The bite left a very nasty bruise and I could tell she was really hurting. My friend sent the horse on to it's maker after that incident.

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#9
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Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

08/20/2009 9:28 AM

Unfortunately, sometimes you can't tell with any certainty when a horse will act out, which is why I said: "The accident was a valuable reminder that animals are unpredictable!"

However, most animals don't misbehave for the sake of doing of it - at least one of the factors mentioned (illness, sour attitude, pain, fear, warning, or playfulness) are probably behind the behavior. You're right - you should not turn your back on an animal. You should always be alert to the behaviors a horse is displaying - an animal's body language is its voice and is a key indicator to his or her upcoming behavior.

As far as your friend's horse I'm sure there must have been some reason why the horse's behavior changed so drastically during the course of ownership. Since I don't know any details of the situation I can't say for sure. I'm guessing it could have been because the animal's environment changed. Perhaps it did not like something its new routine/handling or living situation and the behavior declined because of those factors.

Why did the sister get bitten when removing the saddle? Reread the parts of my blog about pain, sour attitude, and fear. Any of those associations in a horse's mind can cause drastic behavior and mood changes when being saddled. I owned a great, friendly horse who was a completely different animal when the saddle was being put on or taken off. He hated the feeling of the girth being tightened and would reach out to bite anyone/anything nearby when the saddle was adjusted. When a horse does this it's a behavior known as being "cinchy" but as you know it can be quite serious.

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#11

Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

08/20/2009 1:12 PM

Well see here is where the problem sits. Having spent a lifetime being around horses I can tell you that in the sense horse are like people is some what true. How many people are just bad seeds?

How many people do you know of that no matter how patient you were and how much time and money you spent on getting them educated would still by design just be dumber than dirt?

How many are just useless by design?

How many just never had common sense in regards to their personal actions ever?

How many would make society better if someone just put bullet in them early on when they showed they have a natural tendency to be detrimental to society.

Sorry but not all horses are redeemable. The horse whisperers don't take the 2 - 6 horses and turn them into 7 - 10's. They find 7-10's that got over looked by people who didn't do their job right when raising them.

Trust me real 2 -6 type horses stay 2 - 6 until dead. #2 gets there first and #6 gets there last. But ultimately they still get there earlier than 7 - 10 do.

Some horses do get mean as they get older. So do some people.

Some bad horses may get better with time but I wouldn't know. My life exsperiance was that they got sold long before they ever reached that age.

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#13
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Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

09/09/2009 12:11 PM

ROTFLMAO!!!! So so true! There was a Simpsons episode that summed it all up: "Sometimes animals are like people. They're just jerks." I have met a lot of animals that fit that category! In fact, my husband has 'visitation' rights to the three dogs he and his ex had, and one of them (a Bichon Frise, or "Bitchy Frizzy") is just an a-hole. When this particular dog comes to spend a week here, I take his muzzle firmly in hand, look him square in the eye, and state "You are not allowed to be a jerk here." He usually minds after that.

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#14

Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

09/09/2009 12:23 PM

There are many more reasons not listed...such as:

It's feeding time. (A horse is built to graze throughout the day. Domestic horses are put on a schedule of two feedings a day. They get hungry and it hurts!) I learned this lesson, and won a broken arm in the process.

Another horse nearby is an enemy.

The horse has issues with you.

There is a mare in heat within a ten mile radius. Even geldings get antsy.

The horse is a mare in heat. We humans have nothing on PMS next to these girls!

The horse is wormy. Intestinal worms are a big problem in stables where many horses are kept. Worms hurt the belly, the horse isn't getting all their nutrition needed to feel top notch, and the horse feels "off" and doesn't know why.

It's hot.

It's cold.

The horse has been on a "hot" diet, too high in protein, and being kept in a stables doesn't allow it to work off the energy building up.

The horse is on too rich a diet, or too lean a diet.

It's Tuesday.

There has been a significant change in weather.

There's a storm coming in.

You're human.

Because it can.

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#15
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Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

09/09/2009 11:24 PM

You can add

Colicky (Upset stomach from too much whatever )

Was set to work and you want to play

wants to play and you want to work

was just picked on by other horses and wants to vent or get sympathy and you have other plans

full of P and V (energy) and you are making them behave.

Predator up wind

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#16

Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

10/31/2009 7:26 AM

With Christmas coming up and money tight, it's a bit of a nightmare that my girlfriend loves horses as they are so expensive! Can anyone recommend a place that has <a href="http://www.mountfusion.com/browse/horses">horses for sale</a>

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#17
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Re: Mechanics of a Horse Kick – Why? (Part 1)

11/02/2009 7:16 AM

In my opinion, horses do not make ideal gifts, although this is a nice gesture. When purchasing a horse you must make sure both horse and rider are compatible. The rider needs to try out the horse to ensure both are a good fit physically (size, riding style preference, etc.) and based on personality (horses have various personalities just like people).

You also mentioned that money is tight - how do you expect to maintain the horse after purchasing it? Horses are not like puppies (although they can be expensive too!). In most cases they require hundreds if not thousands of dollars per month to keep.

The best gifts for people who like horses are gift certificates to their favorite tack shops so they can buy the equipment they need or just want, gift certificates to the stables they ride at so they can take more lessons, massage gift certificates (riding and the associated chores make the muscles sore!), or start a savings account to put money away for a horse in the future - so that your girlfriend can find the right one for her and have something for the upkeep.

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