Serving Silicon Valley and Surrounding Areas
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.
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
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.
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.
If you would like
to arrange a lecture at your barn, please contact our office.
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