Skip to content

Why Do Horses Kick When You’re Behind Them

Why Do Horses Kick When You’re Behind Them

Interacting with horses can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, but it is important to understand their behavior and instincts to ensure safety. One common behavior that can be dangerous is when horses kick, especially when someone is positioned behind them. This article will explore the reasons why horses kick when you’re behind them, backed by research, expert opinions, and real-life examples.

The Instinctual Nature of Horses

Horses are prey animals with a strong flight response. Their survival instincts are deeply ingrained, and they rely on their ability to flee from potential threats. When a horse feels threatened or uncomfortable, their natural response is to either fight or flee. Kicking is one of the ways horses defend themselves from perceived danger.

It is important to note that not all horses kick, and some may be more prone to this behavior than others. Factors such as breed, temperament, training, and past experiences can influence a horse’s likelihood to kick.

Reasons Why Horses Kick

There are several reasons why horses may kick when someone is positioned behind them. Understanding these reasons can help horse owners and handlers take appropriate precautions to minimize the risk of injury.

1. Self-Defense

When a horse feels threatened or cornered, they may kick as a means of self-defense. This can happen if they perceive a person or another animal as a potential threat. Horses have a blind spot directly behind them, making them vulnerable to attacks from that direction. Kicking is their way of protecting themselves from what they perceive as a potential danger.

2. Pain or Discomfort

Horses may also kick if they are experiencing pain or discomfort. This can be due to an injury, illness, or an ill-fitting saddle or tack. Kicking in this context is a way for the horse to communicate their discomfort and try to alleviate it. It is crucial for horse owners and handlers to regularly check for any signs of pain or discomfort and address them promptly to prevent potential kicking incidents.

3. Lack of Trust or Respect

Horses are highly perceptive animals and can sense when someone lacks trust or respect towards them. If a horse feels that their personal space is being invaded or that they are being treated unfairly, they may resort to kicking as a way to establish boundaries and protect themselves.

4. Startle Response

Horses have a strong startle response, which means they can react quickly and forcefully to sudden or unexpected stimuli. If a horse is startled while someone is positioned behind them, they may instinctively kick out of fear or surprise. It is important to approach horses calmly and avoid sudden movements or loud noises that could startle them.

5. Past Traumatic Experiences

Horses, like humans, can be affected by past traumatic experiences. If a horse has been subjected to abuse, neglect, or any other form of mistreatment, they may develop defensive behaviors such as kicking. It is essential to approach these horses with patience, understanding, and professional guidance to help them overcome their past traumas.

Preventing Kicking Incidents

While it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of a horse kicking, there are several measures that can be taken to minimize the likelihood of such incidents:

  • Always approach horses calmly and confidently, avoiding sudden movements or loud noises.
  • Respect the horse’s personal space and avoid invading it without their consent.
  • Handle and train horses using positive reinforcement techniques to build trust and respect.
  • Regularly check for signs of pain or discomfort and address them promptly.
  • Ensure proper saddle fit and use appropriate tack to prevent discomfort or injury.
  • Provide horses with a safe and secure environment that minimizes potential stressors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Can all horses kick?

No, not all horses kick. However, it is important to remember that kicking is a natural behavior for horses, and any horse has the potential to kick if they feel threatened or uncomfortable.

2. How can I tell if a horse is about to kick?

Some warning signs that a horse may kick include pinned ears, raised tail, a tense body posture, and a backward shift of weight. However, it is crucial to remember that each horse is unique, and their body language may vary.

3. Can kicking cause serious injuries?

Yes, kicking can cause serious injuries to humans and other animals. Horses have powerful hind legs, and a kick can result in broken bones, internal injuries, or even death.

4. Should I punish a horse for kicking?

No, punishing a horse for kicking is not recommended. It is essential to understand the underlying reasons for the behavior and address them appropriately. Punishment can lead to increased fear and aggression in horses.

5. Can training help prevent kicking incidents?

Yes, proper training can help minimize the likelihood of kicking incidents. Training should focus on building trust, respect, and clear communication between the horse and the handler.

6. When should I seek professional help for a kicking horse?

If you are dealing with a horse that has a history of kicking or displays aggressive behaviors, it is advisable to seek professional help from an experienced trainer or behaviorist. They can assess the situation and provide guidance on how to address the issue safely and effectively.


Understanding why horses kick when someone is positioned behind them is crucial for ensuring the safety of both humans and horses. By recognizing the instinctual nature of horses, the reasons behind kicking, and implementing preventive measures, horse owners and handlers can minimize the risk of kicking incidents. Building trust, respect, and providing a safe environment are key to fostering a positive and harmonious relationship with these magnificent animals.