Scientists Study How Hard Horses Kick

Knowing those forces could pave the way for safer stables and interactions with (and between) horses, researchers say.

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Scientists Study How Hard Horses Kick
The equine kick is a powerful force localized in one small area, and its effects can be debilitating and even mortal, for both humans and horses. | Photo: iStock
You’ve got helmets and protective vests to cushion the blow when you fall off your horse—the primary kind of equestrian accident. But what do we have to keep us safe from the second-most common kind of equestrian accident? The equine kick is a powerful force localized in one small area, and its effects can be debilitating and even mortal, for both humans and horses. What we know about the science of the kick is actually very minimal, researchers say.

That’s why Swiss and American scientists have begun studying the force of the kick itself—not an easy task. Getting measurement equipment lined up in just the right place at just the right time to record forces during a natural kick is a great challenge, the researchers said. But knowing those measurements is critical in paving the way for safer interactions with (and between) horses.

“People really need to be aware that every horse can kick—even those we think are ‘nice’ or ‘good’ or would never kick, and this presents a serious risk to handlers and other animals within kicking distance,” said Anton Fürst, PhD, DVM, Dipl. ECVS, head of the University of Zürich’s equine department, in Switzerland.

“Knowledge of the forces behind a kick could give us information that would be very helpful in preventive management and could lead to the development of effective protective equipment that handlers could wear if they’re at risk,” he said

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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