Horses are beautiful and gentle creatures, but under the right circumstances, they can pack a very powerful kick. Their kicks can range from zero to 2,000 pounds of pressure, (source) which is more than enough force to be fatal. As someone that provides riding lessons for beginners, I decided to do some in-depth research about avoiding horse kicks.
You can avoid being kicked by a horse by:
- Turning them loose into a field correctly
- Approaching them from the side so they know you’re coming
- Avoiding startling them from their blind spots
- Keeping your distance when they’re worked up
- Knowing where the safe zones around a horse are
- Exercising caution during feeding time
Staying aware of these tips will go a long way in keeping you safe, but I recommend familiarizing yourself more with each point so you can be certain you’re applying these tips correctly.
Easy Ways to Avoid Getting Kicked By a Horse
Prevent Kicks by Turning Horses Loose Into a Field Correctly
This is something many riders don’t even think about, but the way that you return your horse to their field or stable is very important. The majority of horses are very excited when they get back to where they’re kept.
I’ve seen many a horse bolt into their field after being returned to get back to their herd as quickly as possible. Horses have also been known to kick in the excitement as well.
Here are the most common mistakes people make when returning their horse into a field:
- Not facing the horse towards you as you exit through the gate.
- Turning your back towards the horse as you exit.
The safest possible way to return a horse to their field is to reposition them so that they are facing you and the gate as you walk backward towards it to exit. Turning your back to them or not repositioning them so that they’re facing you greatly increases the likelihood of being kicked.
Prevent Kicks by Approaching Horses From the Side
Approaching a horse incorrectly can greatly increase the chances of being kicked by them. Here are the common mistakes people make when approaching horses:
- Approaching a horse from directly behind it where it can’t see you.
- Approaching or abrasively touching a horse on the front from its blind spot.
- Being too quiet while approaching a horse.
Horses have two blind spots that you should always be aware of. One is directly behind them, meaning if you approach them from this angle, they might not know that you are coming until you are directly upon them.
The next blind spot horses have is directly in front of them. If a horse falls asleep and forgets that you’re in front of them and you suddenly touch their heads firmly from their blind spot, they could be startled and harm you by accident.
The next mistake is being too quiet when you’re walking up to them. It is best practice to make a bit of noise as you approach your horse.
Even if you think that they see you coming, it’s possible that they could be asleep. So gently calling their name can be a good way to make sure they’re fully aware of your presence before you’re directly upon them.
Prevent Kicks by Avoiding Startling Horses
Horses are fight or flight animals, so it is very unwise to startle them. Every horse will be different when it comes to being startled, but here are some of the things that commonly frighten horses.
- Foreign objects lying on the ground.
- Strange noises, like crackling water bottles or rustling bags.
- Sudden loud noises like screaming, loud bangs, or the backfire from a vehicle.
- Sudden commotion, like running children, other horses, or lots of wind.
- Unexpected physical contact from their blind spots.
If you’re just beginning work with a new horse, you should take extra care to limit the things listed above, and exercise extra caution in any of these situations.
Because life is unpredictable, and your horse is bound to face unwanted surprises from time to time, I highly encourage you to do bomb-proofing or desensitizing training with your horse to help them cope correctly with uncomfortable situations. Doing so can most certainly prevent unwanted kicks in high-stress situations.
Prevent Kicks by Keeping Your Distance When Horses are Worked Up
When a horse is scared, angry, or stressed out, there are a number of recognizable signs that you can recognize. If you see a horse or group of horses demonstrating these signs, it’s smart to wait until they have calmed down or go get an experienced horse person to help you before you approach them. Here are the signs that a worked up horse might demonstrate:
- Ears that are “pinned” or laying back flat on their heads.
- Ears that are quickly moving around in all directions as though they’re trying to listen to everything at once.
- An excessive amount of swishing of the tail.
- A slightly lowered head that is moving from side to side.
- Widely opened and alert eyes.
It might be hard to recognize some of these signs if you’re a beginner, but the more you’re around horses, the easier it will be for you to tell when a situation isn’t right.
Experienced horse owners develop a sense of when something isn’t safe, so it’s a good idea to have experienced people around you as you’re learning. If you’re ever unsure of how to handle a situation, I recommend calling on the help of someone that has been through a similar situation with their own horse.
Prevent Kicks by Knowing Where the Safe Zones Around a Horse Are
Many people that are new to horses immediately draw away from them the moment there is any sign of trouble, but this can actually put you in more danger at times.
The most dangerous areas around a horse are a couple of feet away from its hind corners, and a foot or so away from the middle of the horses’ back all the way to the hindquarters.
This is because horses are capable of releasing powerful kicks in each of these directions. Additionally, you should not stand directly in front of a horse where they can bite and paw. The safest place to stand is just beside the horse’s shoulder, where you’re out of reach from any kicks.
Prevent Kicks by Exercising Caution During Feeding Time
Horses can be very protective of their food, just like other animals. Horses spend most of their time in a field will be particularly wary during meal times, because they’re likely used to other horses contesting them for their food.
One of the worst things you can do is sneak up on a group of horses during meal time. Doing so can put you in the line of fire between horses fighting with one another over food.
How to Avoid Getting Kicked by a Horse in Tight Spaces
Tight spaces and horses are not a great combo, but sometimes it’s necessary to enter a horse’s stall or trailer while they are in there. If at all possible, I recommend removing them from the tight space before you enter, but if that isn’t an option, here’s the safest way to enter the space.
- Make sure the horse is aware of your presence by speaking gently and making eye contact before entering.
- Maintain contact with the horse’s hindquarters as y0u move behind it.
- If possible, keep the horse from blocking your exit path.
- As you exit, make sure the horse is facing you, and back out while facing the horse.
How to Avoid Getting Kicked While in a Group of Horses
You should exercise caution whenever you’re out in a field with a lot of horses. I recommend that you try not to go between two horses that are particularly close to one another because if they begin to kick one another, you could be caught in between them.
Making some sort of noise as you walk so that all the horses are aware that you’re there is also a good idea. If you’re entering a field of horses, make sure that you don’t bring special treats with you.
Horses can become pushy when it comes to food, so saving your treats for outside the field will keep you from getting unwanted attention and help you avoid a potentially hazardous situation where you could be kicked.
If you would like to learn more about staying safe around horse’s, check out my complete guide of 26 Horse Safety Tips that you can find here.