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Q: I have just started fox hunting on my green mare, and when another horse and rider come up beside her, she kicks out at them. One trainer says ignore it as the mare is green and another says smack her hard. Your opinion, please! – Helen M.
A: You most definitely don’t want to ignore this problem – it’s very dangerous for you, your friends and their horses. Make no mistake about it, a well-placed kick can easily kill a human being and severely injure a horse. I would nip this behavior in the bud quickly.
When your horse is kicking out at other horses, it’s a sign of two things: 1) she isn’t paying attention to you and 2) you’re not in control. She’s basically telling you that she has nothing to do and all day to do it in. A big part of the solution is keeping your mare focused on you during your rides by moving her feet and suppling her five body parts. If the horse does kick, reprimand her by really hustling her feet. Bend her head to the side and yield her hindquarters quickly, then bend her the other way and yield her hindquarters quickly on the other side. However you make her move her feet, do it with a lot of energy. Make it very clear to her that she made a mistake.
After you’ve hustled her feet, then put her back on a loose rein and immediately go back to the other horse. Dare your mare to make the mistake of kicking out again. If she even hints that she’s going to be cranky, immediately hustle her feet.
What’s the difference between an action and a thought? Not much. If she’s pinning her ears and getting snarly, she might as well be kicking, because that’s what’s going to happen next.
The mistake most people make is their horse kicks out at another horse and they don’t reprimand the horse. Instead, they take him away from the situation and give him exactly what he wanted. They end up teaching the horse that if he doesn’t want to be around other horses, all he has to do is act snarly and kick out.