Getting kicked by a horse is an incredibly painful and potentially life-threatening situation. There have been cases of fatalities following horse kicks, and the sad news is that most of these scenarios could have been avoided with a little care and know-how. A horse’s kick can create as much as 2,000 pounds of pressure on a very small surface (hoof).
While horses are definitely some of the world’s most peaceful animals, they will kick with their hinds legs if they’re startled or feel threatened. How can one avoid getting kicked by a horse? There are several ways to go about it:
- Approach the horse from the side so that it acknowledges your presence.
- Don’t approach a horse from its blind spot or you might startle it.
- Be careful during feeding hours, as they can get excited.
- Familiarize yourself with a horse’s safe zones.
- Stay away from the horse if you notice any signs of frustration.
- Turn the horse correctly into a field.
- Treat your horse with kindness, and it will do the same.
Avoiding a horse kick by approaching from the right angle.
Surely I don’t have to tell you that horses have a wider field of view than us. That being said, they do have two serious blind spots that can spell trouble. These blinds spots are located directly behind the horse and in front of it.
I would advise approaching a horse from the side at all times, and it definitely doesn’t hurt to make a bit of noise as you do so. Don’t approach a horse too quietly. You know, like a stalking predator would. You’ll only increase your chances of spooking it.
Never approach a horse directly from behind, as it might kick you if it suddenly becomes aware of your presence. Don’t do it directly from the front either, as it can quickly turn around and perform a swift kick if it gets startled.
Call the horse by name, clap your hands a few times, stomp your boots a bit so that it knows you’re about to approach it.
A horse is more likely to kick during feeding hours.
Horses push each other aside for food all the time. They’re quite competitive when it comes to feeding. Therefore, if you know that your horse has been spending a lot of time on the field with other horses, be careful as you bring it home during feeding time.
If it had to fight off another horse for food recently, it might get a bit too excited when you present it with its daily meal. If you don’t approach it correctly or you manage to startle it somehow, the chances of getting kicked increase quite a bit during feeding hours.
Take note of your equine’s body language – stance, ear position, nostrils, and any sounds that it makes. If you think that he’s getting too excited for its own good, allow him to cool off before presenting the food.
Avoid getting kicked by not startling the horse.
A horse will kick if it feels stressed or threatened. However, not all horses are as easily startled. Some of them will get spooked by sudden noises, thunder, children screaming, a car backfire, or other similar sounds. Others will also freak out whenever they see a foreign object on the ground.
The point is some horses inherently easier to scare. If that’s the case with your own equine, I would suggest some special training sessions in order to de-sensitize it somewhat.
If training is not an option, do try to avoid startling your horse, both for its own safety and for yours.
Know when a horse is worked up, and keep your distance.
You can’t really say that you know your horse until you’re familiar with its body language. All horses have their own tells when they get worked up. They can’t help it. The trick is to know what to look for, as these signs of frustration and anger are sometimes difficult to catch at a glance.
In order to avoid getting kicked by an angry or worked up horse take a good look at it before deciding to make your approach. Ears that are pinned back or that move rapidly in all directions is a clear tell. Also, a horse that is swishing its tail around excessively has a good chance to be worked up. Widely open eyes and a slightly lowered head that’s moving from side to side are also important signs to watch out for. Keep an ear out for any sounds of distress as well. If you’d like to learn more about horse sounds and how to identify them, have a look at my dedicated article right here.
If your horse is worked up for whatever reason, it’s better to leave it alone or try to calm it from a distance before making your approach.
Turning a horse into the field correctly can prevent a potential kick.
I’ve seen this happen a couple of times: the horse gets turned back to the field, and it becomes so excited to reunite with its herd that it starts kicking. In order to prevent this, make sure that you’re not facing the horse towards you as you exit the gate. Also, don’t ever turn your back to the horse as you exit.
The easiest and probably the safest way to go about this is to make sure that the horse faces you and the gate as you back away toward the exit. Turning your back on the horse will dramatically increase the chances of you getting kicked.
How to avoid getting kicked by a group of horses.
If you find yourself in a field with more than a few horses, be careful not to walk between two tied up ones as you might get caught in their kicking. Horses will sometimes kick each other when tied up in close proximity. They have their reasons, and kicking each other doesn’t do much damage to either horse.
If YOU get caught in their kicking, though, you’re in for a world of hurt. So make sure to alert the horses to your presence before walking between them. Better yet, find an alternative route just to be on the safe side. Don’t bring any treats with you if you go through a field of horses. They can smell that stuff on you and they might get competitive for it.
Don’t get kicked in a horse’s stall or trailer.
There’s not a lot of room to maneuver if you decide to go into your horse’s stall or trailer. Sometimes it can’t be helped. However, in order to avoid getting kicked by it, make sure to keep eye contact with the equine as you enter the stall, and always make sure it is facing you as you exit.
Speak to it in order to make your presence known, and don’t allow the horse to block your exit route. Above all, keep your calm. Horses pick up on our anxiety and might become nervous too if they sense that we’re stressed. Being cooped up in a tight space with a stressed human will become stressful for the horse as well. These animals are fight or flight creatures, and when there’s nowhere to run, they’re forced to fight.
Never antagonize a horse in its own stall or trailer. Better yet, never antagonize a horse period.
Most horse handlers and trainers have dealt with anxious or worked up horses that attempted to swipe a kick at them. Knowing what signs to look for and how to behave around your horse can make the difference between a potential mishap and a trip to the hospital.
By following the steps that I presented above, you’ll minimize your chances of being kicked by your horse no matter the circumstance.