Every time I ride a horse I wear protective gear in case of a fall. But riders sustain nearly a quarter of injuries on the ground. Most are kicked or trampled. Horse hooves are hard. What then?
Ideally, the answer is to continue wearing the protective gear. I do, especially if I am handling youngsters or a horse I don’t know well who might kick. There is a lot of horsepower behind a fast-moving hoof. But we don’t always do what is ideal. Alexander Pope said: “To err is human.” I must be really, really human.
“Oh, my horse would never kick me! He loves me.”Exclaimed millions of horsey people the world over
That might be true if you added the qualifier “on purpose.” But kicking accidents happen with horses. We may not always be wearing impact-absorbing foam in case of a kick. But we can pay attention to what our horse’s hooves are doing, what our horse is doing, and what others are doing around our horse. I think that covers all kick bases.
Here are some ways to avoid those kicking horse’s hooves!
1. Turning your Horse Out into Paddock/Field
The longer you lock up your horse, the more of a “kick” there will be when you release them into the paddock. But a “freedom kick” might not be the only issue. There are also “food kicks”!
You might change fields from one where the horse has eaten all the grass to one where the grass is lush, enticing, and yummy. The excitement cannot be contained in one horse-shaped creature. A surge of joy is waiting to explode. And then…kicky kicks!
A horse kicked a friend in the face when released into the field, twice. (Not on the same day.) She learned her lesson. Before, she would walk her horse into the field and remove the head-collar as she went. The horse, facing the wide expanses of greenery, would gallop off, kicking up her hooves in happiness. This hoof kicking did not always happen at a distance.
One simple tactic can make a difference. Which sounds better- a horse kicking you in the head, followed by a visit to the emergency room? Or standing further away and watching the sheer glee of a kicking horse at play?
When you enter the field, turn your horse around so s/he is facing you and the gateway. Don’t be silly and leave the gateway wide open, or you will have the same danger of being kicked plus having to go and re-capture your now escaped horse. When you remove the head-collar, take a few steps back and keep your eye on the horse.
The few extra seconds of the horse turning before galloping off and kicking hooves about gives you the time to step back out of the kick zone.
2. Cleaning Hooves
I worked at a riding school teaching English through the medium of Pony Games. I used to cringe watching these focussed little people cleaning away at the hooves. So focussed their faces were about an inch away from the underside of the front hoof. I would explain the risk of being kicked.
The horse’s front leg is bent at the knee when you are cleaning the hoof. But it can bend even further. Quickly. Upwards. Into your face. With force. Ouch!
Beware of focussing too intently on what you are doing. There is still the rest of the horse to be aware of. You are vulnerable when cleaning horses’ hooves, as you’re bent over with your head near to 4 powerful kicking forces.
Horses have unpredictable hooves that kick up at flies and other irritations. Imagine you are so zoned in on cleaning the front hoof that you did not sense a back hoof kick towards the belly to kick off an insect. The horse could kick the top of your head!
3. Stooping Behind a Horse
A sizable group of us on horseback were chatting in the lane outside a friend’s house. One woman dropped something onto the ground. It landed just behind her horse’s hind hooves. Eager to help, a small child bent over to retrieve the dropped item.
We held a collective breath. It happened so fast no one had time to warn the child about being kicked. Everything was okay, but in that split second, the potential for a swift death was on everyone’s mind. The mother explained to her child about being kicked, and from that day on we explained to all children why they must not put their heads next to horses’ hooves.
4. Horse Kicking Hooves at Flies
When you know your horse you can tell the difference between a tail swishing at you to say “oiy” and a tail swishing to get rid of flies. The same goes for kicking. But a kick at you and an accidental kick aimed at a fly hurt about the same.
You should always pay attention when passing behind a horse. But it behooves you to take extra care when you’re in an environment full of horrid little horse bugs.
5. Helping a Trapped Horse
If possible, you should not do this alone. It is difficult to monitor a panicking animal and do the untangling. If you have already built up a trusting relationship with each other, your horse will probably realize you are helping and remain calm. Otherwise, it’s best to recruit some help when a horse is trapped.
The more experienced person should be the one calming the horse. Do the job calmly but quickly. If you’re giving instructions to others, be direct. Don’t worry about offending anyone, you can always apologize afterward.
6. Kicking About with Your Horse/s
I love playing in the field with my horses. Jumping jumps together and hoofing about like fools. After watching the video below, I am glad they did not kick me.
Time spent at liberty with your horse is rewarding. It’s the best way to learn each individual horse’s character. It is also important to observe the group dynamic. Your horse in a herd is not necessarily the same as when with only you.
How do you level the playing field with a sizeable group of horses without getting trampled or kicked? Easy. Stay on the other side of a fence, to begin with. You can run along the fence and they will run with you. But they can’t run over you or accidentally kick you.
Has a horse kicked you? Have you had hooves directed at you in play or otherwise? Please share all your horse kick stories in the comments section below.