How can I protect my barn from a stall kicker?
Sometimes horses feel the need to kick. A lot. Usually in a stalled situation. There are varying degrees of stall kicking, ranging from “oh my goodness a fly” to “every five seconds during feeding time” to “I do it because I can and now I’m addicted to kicking”. The stall below was damaged by a horse that actually managed to punch through the outer layer of the stall wall, and into the center wood layer. Of course this is a major hazard to horse legs, and also to the structure of the wall itself. Now moisture can get into the interior of the wall, causing more damage.
That's a lot of damage.
This problem of stall kicking is dangerous, destructive, and can be habitual. First and foremost, it’s important to know that stall kicking can create serious injuries in horses, from the hoof, to the hock, to the stifle to the knees. (Some horses like to knee bang. Go figure.)
One of the first things you need to do is protect your horse and the stall (or fence) and then you can work on the brain part, getting at the root of the problem and modifying the behavior. You can read more about stall kicking behaviors here!
For the stall, you have some options here. First, get some pads up. You can go high tech and order some for a specialty company. These are great for barefoot horses. With the addition of shoes, the outer layer may not hold up so well. (This is speaking from personal experience here.)
A more cost effective method is to use regular old stall mats on the wall. It’s definitely a two person job getting them up there, but the density will save your stall walls. Hanging mats or pads does a few things: soften the blow, absorbs some of the noise, and protects the walls. Wood stalls can splinter and composite walls can dent. Splinters and sharp edges can result, and if you know horses, you know they are drawn by some magical force to sharp, laceration inducing things.
Stall pads may work, or you may find that you want to go thicker and tougher with stall mats.
Use rounded screws to attach stall mats vertically. You will be able to see the height at which your horse kicks, so raise them high if you need to to cover that “kick zone”. Make sure your screws don’t go into neighboring stalls. When I added mats to a stall, I used a screw about every three inches, in a zig zag pattern. This means the first screw about 1 inch from the top, the next screw about 4 inches from the top, etc. This creates more security. The mats are so heavy that you may only need a few screws on the bottom.
Don’t forget to make sure your screws don’t invade neighboring stalls.
There is also a snazzy invention that detects any shaking of the stall and immediately dispenses a spray of water. (The QuitKick). This is a form of negative reinforcement, and some folks may not agree with this as a deterrent, but it may work for some horses. The advantage to this contraption is that you don’t need to be present for it to work. If your horse kicks for his meals, it’s darn impossible to manage from a distance, and this tool will dispense a spray of water for each kick. If you were to replicate this, you would need to camp outside of the stall 24/7/365 and squirt every time a kick happens. You horse will soon learn that when you are gone, he can kick. The QuitKick does this for you, and can often work with a few squirts. Because this system is attached to the stall wall, it's working 24/7/365.
This system works - you don't have to be there to deter the behavior.
You also have the option of using kick chains, which are a thick strap of leather attached to about six links of heavy metal chain. The leather cuffs are attached around the pastern or above the hock and create a stinging sensation when the horse kicks and rattles the chains against himself. I have known a horse that has worn these, and he didn’t even blink when he kicked, as if they were not even on. (Perhaps he was tougher than most?) The down side to these is that your horse will learn when they are on, and he may develop some sores from possible rubbing. You could cover them in a nice fleece if you like.
What physical changes have you made to your horse environment to discourage kicking?? (I'll write about the mental things that create kicking and how you can tackle those in a later article, part 2)