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Controlling the Kicker

EQUUS medical editor Matthew Mackay-Smith, DVM, offers suggestions for stopping this bad habit in the stall and in the trailer.

QUESTION: I recently purchased a five-year-old Quarter Horse mare. She is fine with people but pins her ears and kicks the stall wall if another horse comes near. In addition, she incessantly kicks the divider in the trailer when we travel.

I would especially like to stop her from kicking in the trailer since it is not only annoying, but also very damaging to the vehicle's interior. On a recent Sunday trip, for example, the mare kicked the trailer divider almost continuously during the 120-mile drive.

What measures can I take to control this horse's behavior?

ANSWER: A: Like most other vices, your mare's behavior is probably more genetic than acquired. In this particular case, severe behavior-modification procedures to make the mare's actions self-punishing are unlikely to prove successful.

Physical prevention by sidelining or cross-hobbling is a possibility, but use soft materials, such as a burlap sack or inner tube, to prevent injury. A built-in, quick-release feature will also enable you to disencumber the mare if she "goes crazy" from such restraint.

In the trailer, change the center divider to a pole and haul her by herself. If she kicks the sidewall, center her in the box and put a pole on each side. Rig a covered butt chain or board two feet from the tailgate about 30 inches off the floor.

If you can avoid stabling, do so. If you cannot, fix a 16- by16-foot stall with a kick rail two and a half to three feet above the floor and two and a half feet into the stall.

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If the mare kicks over the rail, put a solid "counter" between the rail and the wall so that her hoof won't get caught. Then when she kicks, the blow will be taken on the back of her gaskin, harmlessly preventing her from hitting the wall.

Matthew Mackay-Smith, DVM, is the medical editor for EQUUS magazine.

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