How to Train a Horse Not to Kick

Kicking is a dangerous habit that some horses carry. Usually, it involves a person in a horse's blind spot, behind him/her and near the rear. The best way to defend against this blind spot is to kick, resulting in a horse to be uncomfortable there. Its important not to take this action personally, as it is usually a formed habit and can occur even with a trustful owner. However, it is just as important to accept and understand that some horses can be trained out of this habit and there is nothing wrong with attempting to train him/her out of this in a calm way with no physical punishment.


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    Don't get close to the back of the horse. It's important to avoid this area for your safety. Although you may believe there is some sort of 'punishment' you should give the horse, and instigate the act, the reality is quite the opposite. It's important not to start this behavior and to avoid it if at all possible. Rather than teaching your horse another cause-effect relationship (kicking=punishment) and introducing another opportunity to hurt the relationship between you in your horse, simply avoid the 'kicking-zone' entirely.
    • If you must go in back of the horse, put your hand on their thigh right before going behind them and when you're behind them, move it to their rump. When you're on the other side of them or have moved away, move your hand to the side you moved to or remove your hand, respectively. This will prevent the horse from spooking, as they know you're there.
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    Form a trust relationship with your horse. The relationship you form with your horse will determine their basic attitude and actions towards you. You can do this by praising your horse, being the one to feed him/her (rather than a parent or hired employee) and often ride him/her. Horses have the ability to sense the general emotion you feel. If you love your horse and are around him/her often, they'll know it. This trust has the ability to reduce the kicking habit and to not mind your presence in the 'kicking-zone'.
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    Recognize your horse's past. If your horse was previously with an unkind, abusive, or neglecting owner, they likely won't take well to any sort of training and your main goal should be to form trust not only between you and your horse, but rather you and humans in general. Your horse also has the ability to recognize different identifiable features (gender, race, hair color, etc) and will form bias based on the treatment of previous owners who have these features. This sort of distinction can be especially difficult to train out of your horse.
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    Make sure your horse knows basic commands. Skipping to training your horse to avoid kicking without him/her knowing the basic "no", "back", and "whoa" will be much more difficult than establishing a pattern of training before teaching.
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    Try short 'training' sessions. When you do this, be sure you have a helmet on and do not use a stud chain (stud chains rely on pain rather than trust and will worsen your chances of teaching your horse to drop the habit). With your horse standing comfortably in a small, enclosed place with a reasonable amount of room, carefully stroke an item (a dressage whip works well) down your horses back and slowly closer to his/her rear. If you notice any flinching, stop and allow him/her to smell and re-identify the object. If he/she kicks, instruct him to stop with the command "no". Never pair this command with any physical punishment. When your horse is completely comfortable with this, you have the option to carefully stroke his/her hind legs. Never continue if you sense the horse becoming dangerous or very uncomfortable.
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    Test your progress. Use a long lead to send him/her out into a lunge circle. Do five laps and then stop and approach him/her. Make sure he/she is solitary and quietly standing. Do whatever step of the training you think he/she can handle, and try it with your horse. You can either stroke him/her with an object, touch his/her leg, or walk behind him/her.
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    Accept that for whatever circumstance, some horses cannot be trained out of this habit. Some horses simply do not respond well to any sort of training out of this habit, and it is important to maintain your own safety.

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Categories: Horse Training