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Horse that kicked

From: Debbie Hi, I am impressed with the informaton given it is imformative and kind. I bought a mare last year befofe Christmas. When I got her she was fine the first day but after a few her legs began trembling and she constantly walked the paddock, she seemed so nervous and hyped up I got nervous.

That lasted a week or so, after much discussion with the old stud owner, I decided not to call the vet. She had a foal four years ago now, and still sucks in through her vulva, although I got the vet to sew her up, (it was his first).

She was coming into season (it seems) like all the time, I have another mare with her and you can hardly notice her coming into season and I bought her back from stud a month after I got this new one. When my friend bought her gelding over, I caught this new horse and left my other mare loose, I let the gelding and the new mare sniff and walked on about 5 metres away from this gelding and slightly in front of him. She then reversed back and kicked twice, breaking the girls ribs. I slapped the mare, and we walked on.

The question is do I treat her like a kicker from now on and never ever show her, which is what my original intention was. The fact that a month earlier the vet and I stood behind her without any protection and sewed her vulva-proves that she would not intentionally kick a human???Her old owner was 65 and a dressage instructor who has taken a few clinics with people, and had hunting groups there.

Has she got some kind of infection which makes her moody from her sucking??? thanks for listening!!! debbie

Hi Debbie! This should remind all of us of something we sometimes forget: ANY horse can kick. There's a difference between a horse that reacts to everything by kicking, and a horse that kicks once in a while, but any horse can kick, and we should handle our horses in a way that takes this into account. All of us need to respect what our horses can and could do, and act in ways that will allow us to remain safe.

It seems to me that you have several different things to deal with here: let's take them one at a time.

First, whether your mare has an infection is something that your vet will have to determine. It's possible, yes -- but it's also possible that she has some other physical problem such as cystic ovaries. This is a case for a professional diagnosis, tests, etc. -- you need to know what is going on.

Second, horses aren't prone to moodiness -- but when they are in pain or frightened, they often act in ways that we don't like. If your mare is unpleasant to be around and appears to be in season all the time, have her checked by the vet, because there may be a simple physical cause amenable to a simple medical or surgical solution.

Third, YES, treat your mare like a kicker, if that means paying great attention to maintaining a safe distance between her hindquarters and anything or anyone that you would prefer not to see kicked. I would like to point out, though, that this is how we should ALL handle ALL horses, ALL the time! A horse that has kicked out once may not do it again; a horse that has never kicked out may someday kick out. It's not safe to make assumptions around horses; it's better to handle them and respect them according to their size, reflexes, and physical potential. Even the most placid elderly pony can kick out if the provocation is sufficient -- and one fly bite in a sensitive area would constitute sufficient provocation.

Fourth, your mare did not kick at a human. She kicked at another horse, and the human was in the way. Just as a matter of principle, it's a very bad idea to try to introduce horses by putting them together suddenly. If both are under control and you keep them at a safe distance from one another, they can become familiar with each other's appearance, sound, movement, and smell -- and even THEN, if you put them in close proximity to one another, you have no guarantee that they will greet each other politely, in a way that will be safe to the humans involved. Horses have their own way of sorting out their relative places in the herd hierarchy, and the process involves threat-display. When you introduce a new herd member, the threat-display will VERY often be followed up with active hooves or teeth. If there are no humans present to interfere, the horses will focus on one another and sort out their relative positions; if you toss a strange horse into a field where the horse inhabitants are running free, they will definitely put the interloper in its place, and the sensible "new boy" will stay as far from the others as possible until everyone begins to relax a little and he is accepted as harmless, if not actually made welcome.

Quite apart from the fact that putting mares and geldings out together is usually a Very Bad Idea, here are a few other things for you to keep in mind.

Don't put horses into this situation unless you are willing to accept the NATURAL consequences; don't ever put horses into this situation when some are under saddle, some are not, some are under control, some are not, and there are humans involved to complicate the issue. If he hadn't had a rider or handler to distract and interfere with him, this gelding might have been able to register and respond to the mare's threatening behaviour -- and he would have turned tail and run when she began backing toward him. If you hadn't brought your mare TO this gelding and asked her to interact with him, she might not have felt that she should to do something about him at that particular moment. You didn't mean to do it, but you created the situation that resulted in the kick -- and now that you know how quickly damage can occur, I'm sure you won't do it again.

Talk to your vet, talk to the mare's previous owner, who can probably help you with your plans for competing your mare. Get as much information as you can. Have your mare checked for hormonal or physical problems. If you determine that your mare is a "kicker", put a red ribbon in your mare's tail: it's the traditional warning to others, and it will serve as a reminder to yourself.

Above all, remember that your mare, like every other horse on the planet, is LARGER than you, is FEARFUL, has FASTER REFLEXES than you, and has HARD FEET. The better you understand how horses function, body and mind, the safer you will be. ;-)


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