Striking

Also Known As

Kicking

Description

Striking occurs when a horse uses its front feet to kick at people, other horses or objects. In some horses it becomes a dangerous habit, not only for handlers, but also for the horse because of the damage that can result to the hoofs and legs of the horse.

Striking out with the front feet is a physical declaration of dominance and assertiveness, or it is sometimes a reaction to the fear of being cornered or threatened. Some horses use striking as a way of intimidating uncertain handlers when they realize the person is afraid of them. Stallions are especially prone to using rearing and striking to achieve dominance in situations.

Symptoms

  • Horse tenses up and may neigh loudly
  • Uses aggressive body language by rearing and striking out with front hoofs

Causes

A horse that feels threatened or cornered often rears on his hind legs and strikes out at a real or perceived threat. In other cases, a horse, especially a stallion, uses rearing and striking to show dominance and to intimidate other horses, as well as handlers. Lack of socialization, both with other horses and humans, and training that doesn't establish the handler as the master are other causes.

Excessive, inconsistent, and unnecessary punishment will cause horses to resent handling and to resist restraint or the approach of handlers and other horses. A lack of understanding of horse psychology on the part of the handler, and lack of ability to anticipate the horse's behavior and make quick decisions, gives the horse the upper hand. .

Instead of learning that obedience and submission are the normal state between handler and horse, the horse expresses dominance with aggressive behavior, such as striking out at the handler, other people, or horses.

Prevention

Knowledge of horse psychology and proper training and handling techniques are the best prevention of behaviors such as striking. A confident handler who is gentle, but consistently firm and always in control, will have the most success in establishing behavioral expectations. Horses need consistent exercise to work off energy. Socialization with other horses or companion animals is also helpful.

Treatment

Once a horse develops a habit of striking, an experienced trainer who knows the best ways to deal with vice-like behavior needs to be brought in to retrain the horse for at least a few weeks. Providing plenty of appropriate exercise and pasture time will also help eliminate unwanted striking behavior.

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