Stall Kickers and Trailer Kickers

 


Each year frustrated horse owners come to me for advice on dealing with a horse that chronically kicks the walls in its stalls, kicks in the trailer, kicks when it is fed. Barns are damaged. Nerves are frayed. Periodically kicking becomes so profound that horses create self-inflicted lameness and injury. There are several strategies to deal with stall kickers and protect them themselves and your barn from harm.

Simple strategies are changing stalls, feeding regiments or the size of your horse's stall. For some horses the kick is a result of chronic aggression between two particular horses. In these cases changing a horse's stall away from that horse can alleviate the kicking. Moving the kicking horse next to a more compatible horse can help or to one end of a barn aisle can help. For other horses stall kicking is related to feeding times. For these horses you can try free choice feeding. This is where hay is in front of the horses all the time so there is less tension about feeding times. In general this will not increase the food used as most horses will self feed about the same amount as they were normally getting. A third strategy that works in some horses is increasing the size of the stall. For some kickers going from a single to box stall and a half or double stall can alleviate the unwanted kicking. Others can be managed by giving them more work or more time in turnout.

For those horses who do not respond to the above techniques, other methods need to be employed. One simple method is kicking chains. These have a strap is placed above the hock from which hangs a chain. Each time the horse kicks out the chain hits its leg. Soon a horse learns that kicking leads to the chain hitting them and for many horses that is enough to stop them. Unfortunately even in horses where this works, if the kicking chains are not in place they may go right back to kicking. Another strategy is to live with the kicking but protect the horse and your barn from the behavior. If the horse typically kicks out at one or two walls, you can hang rubber mats a few inches from the walls and place old tires behind the mats. In this way, when the horse kicks it will hit mat and the old tires and mat will absorb the blow, not your barn or the horse.

Kicking Chain
 


Two other methods use devices with negative stimuli to modify behavior. One is a horse version of a shock collar. Called the Vice Breaker it is made by Tritonics of Arizona www.tritronics.com . It works just like a shock collar in dogs except that the settings are lower for horses. The results can be remarkable not only for stall kickers but for trailer kickers as well.

The collar is placed at a time prior to when the correction is needed so the horse does not get a chance to associate the collar with the correction. The collar is activated by a remote control that can be used up to a half mile away. This lets you correct a horse out of sight and so prevents the horse being able to associate you with the correction.

A Dr. Michelle A. Kennedy, DVM presented her results on a variety of problems using the Vice Breaker. For 5 horses aggressive with a barrier (i.e. kicking the wall), all horses responded to correction. The total number of corrections was 2-4 times to get a response. The collar was left on for a total of 1 week. In the month following the training no horses reverted to prior behavior. In another case Dr. Kennedy treated a mare that was aggressive when fed. It took just 4 corrections to stop the behavior and 1 month later the horse had not reverted back.

A final method I can suggest is the QuitKick Total Stall System (www.quitkickusa.com ). With this system sensors are placed in the walls that the horse kicks. When a horse kicks, the sensor sends a signal to the main unit on the stall door and the horse receives a quick squirt of water. The horse quickly learns that that kicking results in an annoying water squirt. The advantage of this system is that it requires no human intervention like the Vice Breaker so it is training your horse 24 hours a day. The disadvantage is that your horse associates the negative squirt of water with the device mounted on the stall door. If it is removed, your horse's bad behavior may reappear. I first saw this system in the Dover Saddlery catalog. When I checked out their web site www.doversaddlery.com I looked at the online reviews which were mostly quite positive.

 

Damage to your stall, damage to your trailer, damage to your horse and damage to your sense of well being are all problems associated horses that kick in their stall. These methods listed offer a number of alternatives toward controlling unwanted behavior.

Rider Safety

A note about rider safety. Real sports, an HBO program, profiled serious sometimes fatal injuries to 3-day event riders from falls which result in the horse rotating over a jump and falling on top of the rider. Among the other items advocated by Darren Chiacchia, a 3-day Olympic medalist interviewed for the story, is wearing a air-bag like vest. One manufacture is hit-air (www.air-vest.com). These vests inflate in a fraction of a second when you become dislodged from the saddle. The air-bag then acts as a cushion as you or hit the ground or an object hits you, like a horse. It appears they can be worn in addition to the safety vests already available. The vests at about $400 are not inexpensive, but then again neither are you.

Hit-Air Vest 

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