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  • Writer's pictureLouise Stobbs

Kicking the door

Today’s musing. Kicking the door is a common behaviour that we often see people wanting to suppress, rather than wondering why the horse feels the need to kick the door and what we can do to address the root cause.

“He’s just doing it for attention”, yep….

Kicking the door is a stress behaviour, he is confined in a space he can’t get out of and he doesn’t want to be in there, simple as that. I also wouldn’t like to be confined in a small space alone, they are completely justified in displaying frustration.

I actually saw a post asking for advice on this and some of the replies made my stomach turn, we’re one step away from telling people to use shock collars. Punishing a horse by spraying water in their face, screaming at them or adding something painful to the door may stop the behaviour but your horse is still going to be unhappy.

So how do we rectify it? We need to make sure his needs are being met. Is he getting enough turnout? Does he have access to forage at all times? Does he feel safe in there? Does he have company? Does he have enough enrichment in his life?

It is a completely natural reaction for a horse to kick the door anticipating feed time, turnout time or any time they’re feeling stressed, horses have no concept of rude, they just know how they feel in the moment. If you just try to suppress the behaviour you might be able to get them to stop but your horse will still be stressed and it will still affect them mentally and physiologically. Chronic stress is no good for any horse.

It has become so normalised to keep horses in a way that is convenient for us that we sometimes seem to forget how high our expectations are. We’re taking an incredibly social prey animal, confining them in a box for long periods of time, often without adequate forage, then getting at annoyed at them for expressing their stress and frustration? What kind of relationship is that?

I’m not saying that we all need to have perfect 24/7 turnout but a horse that is incessantly kicking the door is struggling and there are always ways we can do better. We can start by acknowledging what our horses are trying to express instead of trying to shut them down. 🐴

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