I was recently on a forum when I ran across a topic about a horse that would occasionally cow kick when
having its back feet worked with.
One of the respondents mentioned how his horse with the same name had done something similar to his
farrier, so the farrier hit him with the rasp on the belly. Actually he used a worse term than hit, but we will
leave it at that for here.
I added a reply to the original problem, and then mentioned that I would run any farrier off my property
who thought hitting a horse with a rasp on any part of their body was acceptable! (Not only would, but I
I was dismayed to read how many replies there were by the next day saying how it was acceptable for the
farrier to beat the horse with the rasp...the classic argument being that "horses in the field kick each other
with more force than a person can".
This seems to be a common argument for being physically abusive towards horses, and it is very sad.
1) A horse in a field is not wielding a sharp edged metal stick.
2) A horse in a field will kick a horse in its side which is well protected, not the underside of the horse's
belly which is not. Occasionally a mistake will occur, and a leg or head will be kicked, but I have never
seen a horse aim for anything but a shoulder, side, or hind quarters. Usually a strong warning is issued
before any force is given.
3) A horse in a field is usually kicked for trying to take an alpha horse's feed, or for getting in an alpha's
way. I have yet to see an alpha horse ask horse B to give it its foot, stand still, too a fancy turn on the
haunches or such, and then lay into it for not performing as requested. Other than in a man made situation
where the horses are kept in too close of quarters, an alpha horse will not corner a horse and kick it...the
alpha will usually give the horse the option to flea first.
4) A horse in the field is not planning to ride the other horse later, and so isn't concerned with the massive
haematoma growing under the horse's belly.
So then the argument progresses to, "well the horse never tried to kick out after the farrier hit it". So that
must make it right.
If you wallop me for sitting on your favorite chair I likely won't try to sit on it again either. I likely won't
want to be around you much either though.
If you hit your dog for going on the furniture, it likely won't jump up on the chair in front of you...but I
don't want to be around when Fido suddenly becomes afraid he is going to be hit again for something and
snaps and bites someone's child.
Same thing applies to the horse. Yes, the farrier showed the horse that he better not kick "or else", but
you have done nothing to gain the horse's trust and confidence. You have done nothing to gain his respect
either. All you have allowed to have happen is for your horse's trust in you to be broken. You have
replaced mutual respect with fear. When the horse listens out of fear, you need to be afraid that at some
point the fear will get to be too much, and little horsey might just snap.
First off, horses are extremely sensitive. Just because they kick and bite each other and leave huge welts,
doesn't mean that they actually need that amount of "punishment". A fly annoys them as much, if not more,
than the welt! A stern voice may be all that is needed to bring the horse's attention around.
When riding I do occasionally carry a whip; horse's don't always understand the need to come forward,
and having a horse use itself incorrectly can do damage to the horse in the long run, but more often than
not, it isn't the horse I slap; it is my leg. The quick motion and loud sound of the whip against my boots
gets the horse's attention to my leg and is more often than not all that is needed.
If a horse requires regular pushes with the whip, or corrections in the barn, then there is likely something
else going on; a rider/handler that is confusing the horse, a horse that is not mentally or physically ready to
handle what is being asked of it, or a physically pain that the horse is trying to tell its handler about.
Although I don't want readers to feel guilty about correcting their horses...after all they are large,
potentially dangerous beasts, I do hope you will think about how and when you use physical punishment. I
hope to that you will make sure that others who work with your horse are on the same page as you.
Horses & Corporal Punishment - Sept 2007