What are the root causes of stall kicking, and what can you do about it?
Horses develop stall kicking as a vice for many reasons, and as Grooms we try to figure out each individual horse and create a plan for him. What works for one may not work for others. Generally speaking, vices can develop from a variety of root causes. With stall kicking, a form of horse communication in the herd gets ingrained and transferred to a stall. It’s accepted “horse language” in the herd to kick to communicate territory, food protection, hierarchy, etc. Sometimes that “language” sticks and moves into the barn in a very negative fashion.
A stall kicker can not only damage the barn, he can damage himself. Giant splinters, torn tendons, broken bones, hoof damage, not to mention what happens if he kicks a human.
Horses also develop the stall kicking vice for the following reasons:
- Territory disputes in the barn. Does your horse object to his neighbor? Is the kicking only in response to protecting his food?
- Estrus cycles. Sometimes mares are very sensitive to their environments due to their naturally occurring cycles. I have known mares that have a very “come here, I love you, now go away, I despise you” attitude towards other horses, sometimes accompanied by kicking.
- The sound is comforting. Often, adding pads to the stall will stop a stall kicker who thrives on the sound.
Padded stalls help protect hooves and can muffle the sound.
- The motion/action is comforting.
- Not enough exercise and/or turnout.
- Too much food. This often goes hand in hand with not enough exercise in some cases.
- One horse “catches” it from another. Often, a kick in the barn will be answered by a neighbor’s kick as a way of carrying on the herd communications.
- We have trained them to do it. Yes, rewarding a kicker with a flake of hay as a distraction strengthens this behavior.
That's a whole lotta damage.
SO - as Grooms and horse owners we have many ways to tackle this behavior. First and foremost, we must try and protect your horse and the stall. You can read another article here on how to protect your stall.
Then, you need to observe with keen eyes the possible reasons for the behavior. Start with analyzing diet and exercise/turnout. Most folks agree that even though turnout is essential for stalled horses, it’s the exercise portion that must be adjusted to influence the kicking behavior.
If kicking is an issue at feeding time, you need to retrain the proper feeding behavior. Work towards having your horse stand with head into a corner before he gets food. This takes time, and everyone at the barn needs to be involved. Every time the kicking horse gets food after a kick, you need to start over. You may be intersted in reading another article on how horses train us, and what we can do about it.
Consider changing your horse’s neighbor/view/stall/toys. You can read more about destructive horses here, many of the ideas may apply for your horse.
The QuitKick can help you solve the kicking horse problem.
Please work on solving this problem. Horses that kick can break legs, tweak shoes, destroy barns, shred ligaments and tendons, cap their hocks, and have permanent joint damage from hoof to hip. Get your team of professionals involved, keep your eyes open, and work towards a solution.
Have you ever worked with a stall kicker? How did you mange the situation?