Why do horses attack

Sep 10, 2023 | Super Equestrian


Why do horses attack

What could be worse than a horse attack? It is hard to believe that such a beautiful, friendly, and intelligent creature like a horse can attack anyone! Sounds more like a nightmare! 

This hoofed mammal is the most gentle and obedient creature. Horses are highly social and domestic animals. They are really amiable and loyal to their human friends. But this beautiful creature can be aggressive due to certain circumstances.

One of the main reasons horses become aggressive toward humans is abuse or inappropriate handling. There are other causes that may lead them to attack living things. Such as their fear, defensiveness, protecting herd position, discomfort, pain or trauma, maternal aggression, or mental disorder. If you try to handle them improperly and at the wrong time, it may provoke them to attack.

So now we know why horses attack us. You may be curious to know how to understand their behavior and prevent that action!

Don the armor and advance.

Understanding horse behavior

Horses have a keen sense of hearing and smell. They run away whenever they sense or detect any danger. Besides rearing, kicking, bucking, and biting are their natural instincts and behaviors. 

Horses become aggressive when they sense any unfamiliar smell or circumstances. They start kicking or striking the attacker if escaping is impossible.

Domestication and training can affect a horse's behavior. They have the ability to understand the behavior of people or other living things. Owners’ or other people's misbehavior or harshness makes them aggressive as well as lose interest in any interaction. 

While training horses, using a whip or stick can frighten them. They see these things as weapons and feel attacked or tortured. Therefore, horses start to become restless and disobedient. Sometimes a bad word can affect their behavior. 

Though they can't understand what you say, they can read facial expressions. 

Common triggers for horse aggression

Horses are highly social and gentle animals. But there are some circumstances that provoke them to be aggressive and attack.

Fear and defense mechanisms: horses become frightened when they sense unusual feelings or danger. The first thing they do is flee from that situation. But sometimes it becomes impossible for them to escape. So horses turn to an aggressive mode to defend themselves and fight back. 

Horses also start to rear, and strike threatening objects or living things for protection purposes.

Pain and discomfort: As human beings, our behavior changes when we feel pain or suffering. Sometimes we lose our senses and behave abnormally. Thus the same goes for horses. 

When horses are in pain, they act quietly, keeping their heads down as a sign of discomfort. That's a sensitive moment for them. So if you treat them in an improper way or handle them inappropriately, that might trigger them to become rough and aggressive. Which can lead to attacks like kicking or pushing back with their head. 

Territorial behavior: Herding and socialization is a part of their natural instinct. They prefer to graze in groups and interact with other horses. Like other social mammals, they prefer to have alpha mares who will lead and dominate others. 

Horses tend to mark their territory and rank position. So naturally, they become aggressive when it comes to defending their zone or dominance. As well as toward other horses to protect food, water, and valuable resources. 

Maternal instincts: Humans tend to be protective of their newborn baby. So do mares. But their aggression toward humans lasts for a few days. Make sure to familiarize them with caretakers before foaling.  

Prevention and management

Despite being friendly and social, they can be aggressive and attack other living beings. So before getting injured, you can take some steps to prevent horse attacks. 

The first thing you need to do is know your equine properly. Avoid those activities that provoke them to be aggressive. As a keeper, it is your responsibility to lead and guide them. Make sure you have a good understanding with your horse.

There are some steps you may consider to prevent horse attack as well as safely approaches to handle them, such as-

  1. Avoid the horse's blind spot: Horses are highly cautious animals and always look for threats. So they can be aggressive and attack anytime. Make sure you are not standing directly in front of them or behind. 
  2. Step back in aggression time: Observe their body language such as mouth or feet condition. Lowering the head and pulling back its lips or ear, stamping ground could be the sign of  kicking or biting. At those times, slowly move away from the horses.
  3. Avoid using hands while feeding: It is better no to use hands directly when you feed them. Because horses may think of your hand as food, and that could lead you to get bitten. So use a horse feeder, bucket or bag. 
  4. Approach friendly to your equine: Friendly approaches can create a positive atmosphere. Make sure you are not harsh with them. Pet their head, shoulder and neck and treat them well. An affectionate attitude and gentle act can reduce their aggression. 
  5. Create a trust relation with them: Build a trustworthy relationship with your horses. It will take some time to create a bond between you and the equine. There is a saying that “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet,” so keep patience and give them time to get used to you.
  6. Managing their aggressive behavior: You should follow some techniques to manage aggressive behavior in horses. For example, create leadership between you and the horse. Gain control of their feet and establish their movement according to the appropriate way.

Conclusion

In the end, it is true that horses are amazing creatures with their vigilance. They can attack when they feel threatened. Fear of invasion, defensiveness, pain or discomfort, and protecting their kind or territory can lead them to attack other living beings. 

But handling them with care and affection may help you to manage their behavior. Besides, it helps to build trust and friendly bonds between you. Although there is no guarantee when they can attack. So make sure you are aware of how to prevent and manage horses. 

I hope our small guidance may be helpful for you to understand why they attack and how to prevent that. 

Please share your valuable thoughts with us about how you think about their aggressiveness!

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