The equine kick is a powerful force, but according to researchers, what we actually know about it is very minimal.
That's why Swiss and American scientists conducted a study to determine the force of a horse's kick.
To study kick strength, Anton Fürst, PhD, DVM, Dipl. ECVS, head of the University of Zürich's equine department and his fellow researchers fitted six horses trained to kick in response to a certain stimulation from a handler at the University of California, Davis, with a Tekscan F-SCAN force measurement system.
This measurement system works via a plastic in-shoe device incorporating ultra-thin plastic sensors in the shape of the human foot.
The sensors ultimately connected to a microcomputer with a software program for measuring force.
Some of the horses gave only "weak" kicks in response to the stimulus, Fürst said, and one refused to kick altogether. Still, they measured kick forces, in this setting, to be approximately equivalent to the horse's body weight, Fürst said.
While it's not a reliable indicator of actual kick force in a natural setting, it still opens the door toward more research in that area. Previous studies have only given estimates of kick forces, but this is the first time a study has attempted to use actual objective-measurement equipment.
Although recording kick forces during a natural kick is a great challenge, knowing the measurements in a simulated setting is critical in paving the way for safer interactions with 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 Fürst. "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."
Such information could also help better engineer the structures of stables, shelters, and other kinds of walls that could receive a kick, causing not only financial loss but also harm to the horse itself.
Have you ever been kicked by a horse? Let us know in the comments section below!
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