If there is one thing that horse owners fear on the ground-it’s getting kicked. And with good reason. If you get kicked by a horse you risk getting seriously injured and even killed.
So why do horses kick? Like a lot of issues involving bad horse behavior, the answer comes down to one of two things. Either the horse kicks out of fear-or he kicks out of dominance.
The good news is that horse kicking can be controlled or even eliminated without smacking the horse or even focusing on kicking at all. Instead, you can deal with the problem by building leadership, trust, and respect. How do you do this? Simple-with proper ground training.
Good ground training will eliminate horse kicking because a horse that knows he can trust you is a horse that won’t fear you. When the horse isn’t afraid generally, he isn’t going to fear having his feet handled or fear having you behind him. Conversely, a horse that sees you as his respected leader is not going to try and dominate you. So let’s explore a few ways that we can build leadership, trust and respect with ground horse training, with the goal of eliminating horse kicking in the back of our minds.
Often, eliminating fear and dominance go hand in hand. So you don’t have to focus on what “type” of horse you have too much when applying general principles of horsemanship. First off, what do dominant horses do with the other members of the herd? Well, they herd them around! This simple fact-and keep in mind this is something a horse intuitively understands-is something we can use to our advantage to train our horses gently without using any kind of force. All we have to do is move our horses around. When you do that, your horse will instinctively see you as a leader. Horse kicking will be unlikely in that case because a horse doesn’t kick his leader.
We can make a horse move forward, backward, to the side, or in a circle. OK here are a few basic things we can do:
- Ask your horse to go backwards.
- As your horse to move his forehand.
- Ask your horse to move his hindquarters.
- Circle or lunge your horse.
- Circle or lunge at liberty in the round pen.
By doing these groundwork exercises we teach the horse to view us as a respected leader. This is because we are tapping into his built-in instinct to see those who make him move as his leader. In fact, working your horse at liberty at the round pen may be one of the most important exercises you can use to do this. That’s because you control three things:
- When the horse moves and when he can come to rest.
- How fast he goes.
- What direction he goes.
Round pen work is also safe. By doing these three things, you establish yourself as a leader because your horse will know automatically you’re his leader because you’re controlling his movement. That’s what the trick really is-control the movement of the horse at all times. Then he will see you as his respected leader.
Next time your horse kicks-instead of giving into your impulse to smack him-try asking him (firmly) for a backup instead. By asking him to move off, you build leadership and respect-so reduce the chance of a horse kicking in the future.