How Hard Can A Horse Kick?

While grooming one of my geldings the other day I somehow managed to get my foot under his and boy did it hurt, especially as the weather was so cold. I know he didn’t kick me but this started me thinking about just how hard a horse can actually kick. I asked a few friends but they didn’t seem to know so I decided to do some research into this and was amazed at what I found.

How hard can a horse kick? With an approximate speed of 200mph, an average horse can kick with a force of around 2,000 pounds of force per square inch. To put that into perspective that’s more than the hardest punch any professional boxer could ever punch.

I know that might sound like a frightening amount of power and obviously is but that doesn’t really tell you much about the strength of their kick, what it feels like or the sort of damage a kick can do. Of course, the best thing to do is avoid being kicked in the first place though.

How strong is a horse’s kick?

Saying that a horse’s kick can deliver 2,000 pounds of force doesn’t really tell us much though, yes it sounds like a lot but until you compare it with other forces it’s difficult to understand what the number really means. I found the most tangible way of demonstrating their power was to compare its force to other forces, the table below shows the power of a horse’s kick compared to a variety of other forces.

T-Rex bite13,000
MLB player swing8,314
Crocodile bite5,000
PGA golf swing4,000
Great White Shark bite3,800
Horse kick2,000
Hippopotamus bite1,800
Heavyweight boxer punch1,420
Gorilla bite1,300
Lion bite1,235
Polar Bear bite1,200
Grizzly Bear bite975
Horses are more likely to give you a warning before they actually kick

You might think that a kick will be more powerful if the horse is wearing shoes but, while it will obviously hurt a lot more, the amount of force won’t be any greater.

As you can see a horse’s kick has an awful lot of power to it and certainly not something you’d want to be on the receiving end of. That said though horses prefer not to kick and will normally warn you before they do, if you ignore these warnings then the horse will kick but even then they don’t necessarily use their full strength to do so. At some point in their life, most horsey people will have been kicked by a horse but the percentage of those that have been ‘properly’ kicked is thankfully low.

What does it feel like to be kicked by a horse?

Sadly a lot of horse owners know what it’s like to be kicked by a horse and how much it can hurt. Most of these kicks though are accidental where the horse wasn’t trying to ‘hurt’ the recipient. That said though they can still be pretty painful and many ER medics liken the injuries sustained from a horse kick to that of the sort of injuries they see when somebody is hit by a car traveling at 20 mph.

How dangerous is a horse’s kick?

A horse kick can give you a very nasty bruise

Horses very rarely mean to kick us, it’s normally a case of wrong place wrong time but that doesn’t mean that the kick will be any less severe. If you’re lucky you’ll end up with a very bad bruise which can last a long time (the longest I’ve had a bruise for is just over a month). If you’re not so lucky though you can end up with shattered bones as well as a lot of soft tissue damage if not worse.

The biggest question though is where the horse kicks you, a kick to the chest could be enough to cause the person to go into cardiac arrest while a kick in the head (which is thankfully rare) has a high probability of being fatal. The vast majority of horse kicks will result in broken bones though.

How many people die from a horse’s kick every year?

While a horse’s kick can be extremely dangerous and even fatal that doesn’t mean to say it’s a common occurrence. Every year around 20 people die in horse-related incidents but while this sounds like a lot the vast majority are due to accidents rather than kicks. In fact, less than 15% of those deaths are due to kicks with, on average, 0.6 people dying every year after being kicked by a horse.

To put this into perspective there are around 30 million horse riders in the United States alone so the chances of being killed by a horse kick are very low. And when you consider that there are 1.35 million deaths from RTAs a year you can see just how low the chances are. That doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t worry about a horse kick though.

How can you protect yourself from a horse’s kick?

We all know that you should be careful around the back of a horse but is there anything else you can do to protect yourself from a horse’s kick or at least minimize the effect?

Wearing a riding helmet while being around horses will help to protect you if you receive a kick to the head

If your horse doesn’t need to wear shoes then having them removed would reduce the effect of the kick, but wearing a helmet would help to diminish the severity of a head kick and a body protector would also give your torso a certain amount of defense. You can, of course, wear boots but while there is a lot of riding boots with steel capped toes there aren’t any that will protect your shin or legs.

The best thing that you can do is, until you know how to read your horse’s body language, avoid walking directly behind your horse and when you do need to brush his tail or pick out his rear hooves make sure you’re standing to the side. This will make it much harder for him to kick you, even inadvertently.

If you’re looking to buy a new helmet or body protector I always buy my kit from horse.com, their customer service is great and they offer free delivery for orders over $75, and best of all they’re offering a 15% discount at the moment!

How likely are you to be kicked by a horse?

Every animal has its own ‘weapon(s)’ that they can use to protect themselves, cats have their claws and teeth, rhinos have their horns, and horses have their teeth but they also have their hooves, but that doesn’t mean to say that they wield them like swords. Instead, horses are gentle animals that don’t tend to be aggressive, as such they’re far more likely to let you know they don’t like what you’re doing or aren’t happy about something before they will actually kick.

If you keep your distance from the weapon in question and pay attention to the warning signs you’re far less likely to be kicked. That said though if a horse is frightened, panicked, or in a lot of pain they may kick without warning, but this is rare.

Even a play kick can be extremely playful

Related questions

How fast can a horse kick?

At a maximum speed of 75 mph (121 kph) a horse can kick pretty fast which is why you need to be careful around them, especially if you don’t know the horse very well or if you’re not experienced in reading and understand a horse’s behavior.

Can a horse kick sideways?

Horses can, and do, kick sideways but these kicks, which are called ‘cow kicks’ aren’t as powerful as normal kicks. That said though they can still do you a great deal of damage and are likely to break your leg you happen to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Can a kick from a horse kill you?

A horse’s kick (even a sideways kick) can deliver enough force to kill you if it hits you in the wrong place. Thankfully though while it certainly is possible for a horse to kill a human just by kicking it’s a very rare occurrence.

Further reading

Recommended products 

Over the years I use have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.

  • Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
  • TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
  • Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
  • Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.

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