Dealing with a kicker

SEL

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I've made contact with a equine behaviourist this morning, just waiting to hear back!

I kind of left a rambling message of desperation. I'm not opposed to putting him to sleep even if it's for his and others safety however sad that may be for him.

Maybe I could get him rescoped too?
How far back can you go with your horse's history? Mine was hand tested from a few days old and spoiled. I know her behaviour isn't her fault but all those people who say you shouldn't strike back haven't been caught in the ribs by a kick that was 100% aimed at the handler!

It's a tough position to be in. Although mine is fine with other horses she is not fine with other humans!
 

risky business

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I could really only go back to who owned him prior to me. They had him approx 3 years? I have tried contacting previous to her but never got any response and the previous owner said she couldn't give me any details.
 

Leo Walker

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I'd have Tom Beech out. Hes very good at finding things that other people have missed. Then I'd look at Richard Maxwell or similar. If that didnt work I would PTS. Sometimes you just cant manage horses like this, and the risk for someone being hurt is too high sadly.
 

southerncomfort

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1. The best thing I did for my kicker who used to be unpredictable was to get him off anything using soy as the protein source and getting him off ALL grains.

That was the point I stopped needing the riding crop in the bath bucket and he was a teenager by then --- I bought him when he was 2-1/2 yrs and I'm still kicking myself that it took so long to figure out he was soy & grain intolerant.

2. The second best thing I did was to put him on Magnesium MALATE. NOT magesnium oxide.

He stayed on that for a couple of years - until this year as he has seemed to have leveled out chemically and does not need the Magnesium Malate.

3. Before finding all this out, during, and even now if I have to -- I will light up the offending leg with 20 seconds of "I am going to kill you".
Sorry I don't care who thinks lighting up a kicking leg is wrong - that's how I've always done it --- behave and you get cookies out the ying-yang. Misbehave and for 20 seconds I can make Hades look good to you.
One of those posts where someone claims something has always worked for them, while also admitting that they still have to do it regularly. 🙄

What you're doing is dishing out punishment without looking for a root cause. Meanwhile the horse is still trying to kick you and you're still giving it a "whoopin'.

Your solution hasn't worked and the problem is still there. Also, one day he might just give you a 'whuppin' back.
 

equi

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When/why did you take his back shoes off? Just because my friends mare had to move yards due to becoming too much with her back legs and she took down two walls, turned out her hind feet were so worn down she was in pain, since her shoes went on again she’s been a model citizen again.

I’m not saying to shoe your horse, I don’t think that would be wise at all, but it’s worth considering his hooves?
 

risky business

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When/why did you take his back shoes off? Just because my friends mare had to move yards due to becoming too much with her back legs and she took down two walls, turned out her hind feet were so worn down she was in pain, since her shoes went on again she’s been a model citizen again.

I’m not saying to shoe your horse, I don’t think that would be wise at all, but it’s worth considering his hooves?
I took them off more or less right after he arrived, my plan was to try to get him bare on all fours so I started with removing the back shoes. He's always coped really well with no back shoes, we hack on some really stoney ground and hes never once been sore on them. His fronts are just typical TB feet and still really trying to get him to grow some decent heel as they are just so long and flat.
 

exracehorse

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I am so, so sorry you are having problems. horse's very rarely do things out of spite. they generally have a reason for their behaviour. we as humans just need to understand what the problem is. I know how difficult that can be to work out sometimes - but there is always something underlying that means that they react in an unpredictable way. I really hope that you can sort your horse's issues out
Agree. BUT, some horses, like people are just plain mean. I was brought up in the 1970’s and a horse like that would have had a bullet. My horse has kicked me three times. Been in hospital twice. Broken rib and hand. But, it was my fault. Went in the field with a feed bucket and got caught in the cross fire. And when I changed his rug in the semi dark in the field. Stupid I know. IF, he was kicking or trying to kick me at random, for no reason, then I’d have him PTS
 

MotherOfChickens

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Lol, I was brought up in the 70s, and when I look back at all those problem horses I’ve known over the years I now see saddle fit, shoeing and ulcer issues. I do think a very very few horses have an issue, I’ve seen it in certain lines of TBs but even in those a physical issue can’t be ruled out. There’s no doubt that the ops issue is a difficult one to manage and personally I’d not judge anyone for PTS for such an issue, I’d just go for a behaviourist first-unless I could afford someone like maxwell or peace.
 

ihatework

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OP I really feel for you, these types of horses are very stressful - especially in a livery type of situation.

A friend of mine has a very talented eventer on competition livery but it sounds a lot like yours to manage. It has broken bones of handlers (grooms) on 2 different occasions and she has now had to implement a 2 person handling rule and she does the high risk activities herself as she can’t risk staff getting injured. To be fair the horse is definitely improving in this very structured environment.

The horse has to be pandered to, as frustrating as it is, it’s just not safe otherwise. Luckily the horse is talented otherwise it would probably have been shot. There is just no way you could have it in an amateur livery yard set up.

I’d certainly get a behaviourist involved but it’s no way a failure if you decide to PTS this horse, you can’t win them all as sad as that is.

In your shoes I wouldn’t be doing any groundwork (lunging / long lining etc) without an expert in tow. And have the horse tied up and consider hobbles when doing stuff to and around him.
 

Orangehorse

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It was a bit drastic that someone suggested PTS but not a whack with a stick! I thing a kicking horse is a difficult problem and one where may a good whack might be the answer. It certainly was for a mare of mine that had a tendancy to kick. It didn't stop her kicking but it did stop her backing up to me in the field and threatening to kick while I was poo picking. I tried shouting, clapping hands and other verbal signals but it was only when I whacked her from a safe distance with a rubber feed bowl that she stopped that particular behaviour. I think I had to do it 3 times and then she never did it again, so it was an action, her threat, and the consequence, being whacked with a feed bowl.

It is a difficult one to cure as particularly with a mare it is a natural behaviour, but there is a big difference between a threat, and lashing out and also kicking at its human who looks after it.

I know that some nagsmen would give a good hiding to a ridden horse that kicked out, administered immediately.

This horse does sound rather calculating and possibly spoilt. I think it is one for a behaviourist person who maybe has come across a similar situation and has some extra remedies to suggest.
 

Trules

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What would you suggest? I've looked into supplements but that seems like a minefield?
Radiance gold. A gut supplement made with mainly healthy bacteria. I had an stressed ulcery horse on it and he was calmer and happier within a week. Amazing stuff!
 

Trules

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It was a bit drastic that someone suggested PTS but not a whack with a stick! I thing a kicking horse is a difficult problem and one where may a good whack might be the answer. It certainly was for a mare of mine that had a tendancy to kick. It didn't stop her kicking but it did stop her backing up to me in the field and threatening to kick while I was poo picking. I tried shouting, clapping hands and other verbal signals but it was only when I whacked her from a safe distance with a rubber feed bowl that she stopped that particular behaviour. I think I had to do it 3 times and then she never did it again, so it was an action, her threat, and the consequence, being whacked with a feed bowl.

It is a difficult one to cure as particularly with a mare it is a natural behaviour, but there is a big difference between a threat, and lashing out and also kicking at its human who looks after it.

I know that some nagsmen would give a good hiding to a ridden horse that kicked out, administered immediately.

This horse does sound rather calculating and possibly spoilt.

Agree- they surely have to learn that kicking out at a human is not acceptable??
 

windand rain

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Problem is that a horse with a fight rather than flight instinct you are likely to end up losing a very dangerous battle. I would no more take a stick to my boy than I would stick my hand in a pan of boiling water not because he is spoilt but he would take my head off or die in the attempt although I am certain it would be me that died. I have the same strict boundaries with him as I do with any other horse I handle but I do not let him get into a situation where he is reactive and defuse any that arise as quickly as possible with distraction. People say I am too hard on him but he knows the rules and give him an inch and he takes 10 miles not just 1.
 

risky business

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I've already chucked something at him in his field previously and he just kicked out when it hit him.

Hitting him doesn't and wouldn't work, if you went for him I have no doubt he would go back at you and you'd lose. He's not a small horse and when he kicks he kicks up and out and could easily kick you in the face if your close enough to clump him, I can't explain how quick this horse is to turn and kick.

I'm not looking to pick a fight with him or even attempt to hit him, he would have me and it's not worth my life.
 

MotherOfChickens

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I could really only go back to who owned him prior to me. They had him approx 3 years? I have tried contacting previous to her but never got any response and the previous owner said she couldn't give me any details.
while knowing all of his history in detail would be best, a behaviourist will want a detailed history of each event as well so don't worry too much about that.

as for giving them a wallop-yes, it can work, if the timing is immaculate and depending on the reason for the behaviour in the first place-just like with dogs. My Exmoor as a bolshy colt once tried to double barrel me while feeding him in the field, he got the feed skip up his backside-it was completely reactive on my part but it did the job, he's never done it again and is a very polite boy in the main. But with this horse there's the risk you would compound it by this stage-he's done it more than once, with seemingly different cues with no apparent reason why.
 

Shilasdair

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I'm probably going to get lynched here - but I think there's a place for discipline with all horses, preferably starting from day 1 of their time on earth. If any horse I have owned/handled kicked out at me, it would get a smack and firmly told off. It's much better than putting people, and ultimately the horse's future, at risk. If I was poo picking and a horse kicked at me, I'd smack it (perhaps have a rope or have a lunge whip handy in case), and chase it round the field until it was puffing. Instant consequences.

On the other hand, you need to praise and reward good behaviour generously and clearly. I praise, and reward mine 99 times for every 1 time they get told off. Horses aren't stupid, and if you make the rules clear, and reward them for obeying them, the naughty occasions diminish rapidly.
I do notice that many people only speak to their horses to shout, and ignore the good behaviour.

I do feel for the OP as through no fault of hers, this horse has never had clear boundaries set and thinks it's ok to be a brat when someone wants to do something he doesn't fancy (working on the lunge or long reins, or when he has leg straps put on). Clever horses like him are often easy to train for reward though...
 

Shilasdair

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I've already chucked something at him in his field previously and he just kicked out when it hit him.

Hitting him doesn't and wouldn't work, if you went for him I have no doubt he would go back at you and you'd lose. He's not a small horse and when he kicks he kicks up and out and could easily kick you in the face if your close enough to clump him, I can't explain how quick this horse is to turn and kick.

I'm not looking to pick a fight with him or even attempt to hit him, he would have me and it's not worth my life.

Ok, seriously, if you are scared of him (and I don't blame you after broken ribs) and you believe he is so dangerous you aren't going to sort out his bad behaviour, have him put down before he injures/kills someone else.
You can't not deal with his behaviour, or avoid the triggers - it will just escalate.
Good luck either way.
 

risky business

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Ok, seriously, if you are scared of him (and I don't blame you after broken ribs) and you believe he is so dangerous you aren't going to sort out his bad behaviour, have him put down before he injures/kills someone else.
You can't not deal with his behaviour, or avoid the triggers - it will just escalate.
Good luck either way.
I don't trust him a lick at current if I'm honest. I absolutely agree horses need that discipline unfortunately for mine he's had god knows how long of this being acceptable.

I'm not going to sit here and say I have the experience to deal with a horse of this type. I've been around horses over 20 years and never come across or had to deal with one like him. I don't think I'd win if I tried to discipline him, not saying no one else couldn't discipline him but I'm not realistically going to find someone to take him on and morally it would feel wrong to pass him on.

As the days gone on I've leaned towards PTS more and more if I'm completely and utterly honest.
 

Shilasdair

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I don't trust him a lick at current if I'm honest. I absolutely agree horses need that discipline unfortunately for mine he's had god knows how long of this being acceptable.

I'm not going to sit here and say I have the experience to deal with a horse of this type. I've been around horses over 20 years and never come across or had to deal with one like him. I don't think I'd win if I tried to discipline him, not saying no one else couldn't discipline him but I'm not realistically going to find someone to take him on and morally it would feel wrong to pass him on.

As the days gone on I've leaned towards PTS more and more if I'm completely and utterly honest.
In my experience you'd have to take him on, and win the argument, even if he comes back at you. Not for the faint-hearted due to the potential danger involved. And if you have any doubt, taking him on and losing would reinforce his views of his own status above you in the hierarchy.

You also don't sound as though you like him very much any more (I wouldn't much like a friend who kicked me in the ribs either), and horse ownership is meant to be a pleasure, not a fear filled test of your nerves.

Perhaps it is time to make the decision to PTS.
 

be positive

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I'm probably going to get lynched here - but I think there's a place for discipline with all horses, preferably starting from day 1 of their time on earth. If any horse I have owned/handled kicked out at me, it would get a smack and firmly told off. It's much better than putting people, and ultimately the horse's future, at risk. If I was poo picking and a horse kicked at me, I'd smack it (perhaps have a rope or have a lunge whip handy in case), and chase it round the field until it was puffing. Instant consequences.

On the other hand, you need to praise and reward good behaviour generously and clearly. I praise, and reward mine 99 times for every 1 time they get told off. Horses aren't stupid, and if you make the rules clear, and reward them for obeying them, the naughty occasions diminish rapidly.
I do notice that many people only speak to their horses to shout, and ignore the good behaviour.

I do feel for the OP as through no fault of hers, this horse has never had clear boundaries set and thinks it's ok to be a brat when someone wants to do something he doesn't fancy (working on the lunge or long reins, or when he has leg straps put on). Clever horses like him are often easy to train for reward though...
I would be exactly the same and have reacted when any horse in my care has aimed a kick in my direction, intentional or otherwise, and for most it has been enough if the timing is right but it is not something I would advise without knowing the horse and handler, not suggesting you are in your post but it may be read that way, as the situation can escalate so quickly and once started the handler must 'win', from reading the responses by the OP I would guess that this horse may have been disciplined in the past but incorrectly, badly timed or while he was in genuine discomfort and he has now learned to get in first and reacts as a defensive measure even if he is not threatened in any way he just reacts without thinking, his last owner 'worked around' his behaviour which probably compounded it unintentionally.
The OP is in a very difficult place as it will always be a horse that requires careful handling even if a behaviourist can help they are only likely to find ways to work with the issue rather than eradicate it, I would find it hard to pts an otherwise fit and healthy horse but would do so rather than pass it on or put other people at risk who are involved in his care.
 

Shilasdair

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Good points, be positive.
I worked in the equine industry for decades - and I forget that not everyone has.
I should also point out the necessary safety measures for a horse like this -
  1. Always wear a riding hat, and gloves when handling him (and lunging/longreining).
  2. Lead in a headcollar, control headcollar, chifney or bridle if they are a pain to lead.
  3. Carry a whip.
  4. Turn out by turning him to face the gate before releasing him (helps to give a treat at this point if he's not a pig).
  5. Catch by encouraging him to come to you at the gate - never follow behind him.
  6. If he's galloping around and clearly going to be a fool when you go to catch him, leave him with hay and don't catch until he's calmer.
  7. Tie him up in the stable to do anything - change rugs, groom etc.
  8. Don't feed him until he backs away from the door politely. If he comes over the door like a shark at feeding time, say 'back' repeatedly until he does it, then feed him.
 

TPO

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I've been where you are and even my then vet suggested to me that if I made that decisions they would support it. He was a "healthy" 7yr old at that point.

I think being partially ignorant helped me. I was 25 and fairly hardy; I was used to 600kg of feral cattle wanting to kill me so I thought a scrawny TB couldn't do as much damage....

No one (ie vet) would deal with him so I made the decision just to suck it up and get in with it. My dad put up tie rings either side of his stable and I'd have to tie him up very short directly to them to muck him out one side at a time or he'd have had me. The one time I hand walked him I stupidly waited until no one was around so that it would be quiet and I can hand in heart say it's the only time I've seriously thought I was going to die around horses. By some miracle I got him back in his box and then just shook for about an hour.

I was lucky that I had a very supportive best friend who ended up on the same yard as me and that helped no end.

I bought him Feb 2008 and sold him July 2009. When I advertised him he was a completely changed horse so less than a year to turn him around and I'm how you described yourself. I've been around horses and keen to learn but I'm no expert by any stretch and I'd never met a horse like him before. It was an experienced home that bought him and I lost a lot of money but it was the perfect home. I told them exactly how hed been and they said that nothing could be worse than what I described as how he had been so they trusted what I told them and bought him unseen (had google the life out of them and knew people who knew them through showing and hunting, 5* home for him). The new owner said he never put a foot wrong with them and his behaviour was good - I was worried hed revert on the lorry as he had a long journey with a transporter.

So in my case he did improve. He might have changed quicker with someone better than me or he might have become even worse without getting time, MOT and TLC.

I keep trying to think of what I did as they sound so similar. He wouldn't have tolerated being hit, it would have been a massacre. Ince he was better he responded well to verbal reprimand and would huff rather than go into savage mode.

With hindsight I dont know what I'd do differently other than not buy him!!

I was lucky in that he was really good with other horses in the field. On the livery yard he was out with >5 other geldings. In fact when he first arrived he was turned out with shetland and the wee gangster one, who barely came to Rocco's knees, didnt take any nonsense from him. When I moved to a rented place he was out with my 2 mares. One time the farrier had a cancelled appointment so went to my place without letting me know. I got there to find him shaking in his van...he thought he had nothing better to do than catch Roc and start doing him without me; Roc had other ideas and chased him out the field teeth bared 😳

Sorry, I am aware that I'm rambling but I'm trying to think what I did with Rocco since they sound so similar in case it can help you.

I did, after box rest and near death leading in a bridle, use a chifney to and from the field. I'd like to think I wouldn't use one now and am more clued up with groundwork but it did help massively to get him to respect being led and keep feet on the ground.

It might be that hes the sensitive type and a year hasnt been long enough for him to adjust to a new owner/regime/yard especially if there have been changes in that year with different folk handling him and turnout buddies initially then none.

I'm so sorry that this ramble has pretty much been for nothing. Just want you to know I've been where you are. We did get through it but in teo occasions I did seriously consider pts.

Maybe you need a gangster shetland to sort him out (Fergus putting Rocco in his place)
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TPO

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Good points, be positive.
I worked in the equine industry for decades - and I forget that not everyone has.
I should also point out the necessary safety measures for a horse like this -
  1. Always wear a riding hat, and gloves when handling him (and lunging/longreining).
  2. Lead in a headcollar, control headcollar, chifney or bridle if they are a pain to lead.
  3. Carry a whip.
  4. Turn out by turning him to face the gate before releasing him (helps to give a treat at this point if he's not a pig).
  5. Catch by encouraging him to come to you at the gate - never follow behind him.
  6. If he's galloping around and clearly going to be a fool when you go to catch him, leave him with hay and don't catch until he's calmer.
  7. Tie him up in the stable to do anything - change rugs, groom etc.
  8. Don't feed him until he backs away from the door politely. If he comes over the door like a shark at feeding time, say 'back' repeatedly until he does it, then feed him.
Yes to all of this too. No.8 was a big one too and why I was so annoyed that YO was fussing him over the door and giving treats.

Echo the previous post about not backing down/winning. Dont get me wrong there were at least 2 occasions I made for the door (ALWAYS make sure you can get out, never let horse between you and stable door) but other than that I stood my ground. I wore a big puffa bomber for padding and to look bigger, gloves and hat. When I was changing dressings I usually had someone wait outside his stable initially and then be within shouting distance. When I moved to the rented place on my own my amazing superdad used to come up just for the 20mins it took for acps to kick in and for me to apply the cream to his leg.

Always be safe and have a plan. Whatever you are doing with him.have a plan, if you dont these clever horses take advantage of the situation.
 

Wheresthehoofpick

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There are so many good horses out there.

We lived in terror of our kicker. Trying everything we could. When he was shot it was like a weight lifted. We have a calm yard. Happy responsive horses and family riding has resumed.

Imagine the scenario if
a) there was an appalling accident that you know is brewing and you could have prevented
b) what life would be like without managing this horse and its behaviour.

Having come out the other side it's a no brainer.
 

Lammy

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The horse that kicked me in the head was like yours OP. I’d never call a horse malicious but that was a calculated kick, it even looked back as it cantered past and kicked me, all because I’d waved him off trying to bite my arm! That horse would kick out at his owner whilst on the lunge (he would really go for her) and it also once escaped, naturally didn’t want to be caught so was happily trying to double barrell anyone that came close. I’m sure it did a lot more too.

If that had been my horse it would have been shot before it got the chance to kick anyone in the head. I agree with you keeping him on individual turnout, his increased potential happiness is not worth anybody else’s safety, horse or human.

Do as little as you can with him, it’s summer he doesn’t need a rug on, he can stay out 24/7 (unless he starts bringing himself in?) and if it’s what you want try a behaviourist. If you don’t want to deal with it and can find another like him with a much improved temperament then call the hunt to dispatch. Someone may have failed him down the line but it won’t have been you.
 
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