Kicking is the most harmful and most destructive vice a horse can have. There are a couple of different types of stall kickers. Some horses may kick the stall walls or door with one foot, almost methodically. Some may kick with both back feet multiple times in a row. Either of these “types” of kickers will destroy their stalls and could very possibly harm themselves.
Horses can become stall kickers for a number of reasons. Some will kick due to boredom, others may kick because they do not like the horse in the stall next to them, and some will kick because they have too much energy and not enough exercise. As an owner, as soon as a horse shows the tendency to kick, this vice needs to be corrected.
Stall kicking can not only damage the stall, but it can also do significant damage to the horse. A horse that repetitively kicks the stall walls or doors can cause significant damage to their legs. Capped hocks (soft, fluid-filled swelling on the hock); carpitis (common acute or chronic inflammation of the joint capsule of the carpus); and curbs (a collection of soft tissue injuries of the distal plantar hock region) are all associated with stall kicking.
Stall kicking can and should be stopped as soon as possible. Even if the horse does not seem to be a chronic stall kicker, it is best to stop the action before it becomes a habit.
Tips to stop stall kicking:
1. If the horse is kicking the walls because they find the sound it makes soothing or because it has become a calming habit, then padding the walls could be all that has to be done.
2. Change the horse’s feed and exercise routine. Often a horse will kick due to pent-up energy. By lowering the horse’s feed intake and/or providing the horse with more exercise, the horse may stop kicking on its own. In this instance, turning the horse out for longer periods of time is not sufficient. When a horse is put out to pasture or put in a turn-out pen, it will usually jump, buck, and/or play for a short amount of time before it settles. This small amount of exercise will not do the trick. Instead, the horse should be lounged, driven, or ridden 2 – 7 times a week depending on the horse’s energy level.
3. If the horse is kicking due to boredom, owners may want to supply stall toys or a stall buddy.
4. Try the “Quitkick total stall system.” This system comes with sensors that are applied to the walls of the stall. Whenever the horse kicks the walls or door, the system picks up the vibration and sprays two streams of water. This happens twice at one second intervals. There is no pain or fear associated with the correction process. Instead, it is bothersome to the horse. Thus, the horse stops the activity that is causing the nuisance.
5. Placing/securing horizontal boards along the inside of the horse’s stall. Place one at rear height and one at hock height. When a horse kicks, they will make contact with the boards. This will be uncomfortable for the horse and will stop the kicking. However, if the horse continues to kick through the pain, the boards should be removed from the hock level. Repetitive abuse to the hocks can cause additional damage.
6. Although some owners may disagree with the use of chains, it is a common option. These chains are specially made for horses. They are leather legging bands that have chains attached to them. They are secured above the hock and whenever the horse kicks, the chains bang against the horses’ lower leg. This is also a pain deterrent.
Do not try to use leg restraints as a “cure” for this habit. If left unattended hobbling, scotch hobbling, side lining, or cross hobbling can cause more damage to the horse than the kicking itself. By using one or more of the methods above, it’s possible to stop this habit and doing so will be beneficial to both the owner and horse.