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Horse Training, Horse Care, and Riding Books and Videos from Cherry Hill at www.horsekeeping.comHorse Training, Horse Care, and Riding Books and Videos from Cherry Hill at www.horsekeeping.com   Horse Training, Horse Care, and Riding Books and Videos from Cherry Hill at www.horsekeeping.com  

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May 3, 2008

"Cow Kicking" During Grooming

  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

 

Hello Cherry,

We have a 20-year-old gelding, he's been with us for 5 years now and just 2 weeks ago he started cow kicking. My daughter was brushing his flank and he obviously didn't like it. Two days later, he did the same thing. Is there anyway to cure this nasty reaction to being brushed? I hope you can help. I don't want to sell him.

Thank You,

Deb Slavish

 

Hi Deb,

For those of my readers who don't know what cow-kicking is, here is what it is not.

It is NOT when a horse kicks out behind like a mare does when she is trying to keep a stallion from breeding her (often double-barreled, that is with both hinds straight back) or when she is trying to keep another horse from messing with her foal.

It is NOT when a horse kicks straight forward like he would if a fly was on his belly or if he had colic and was kicking at the pain in his abdomen.

Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping AlmanacCow-kicking is when a horse (or cow!) kicks out to the side with a hind leg. It got its name from cows that kicked when being milked. Perhaps their udder was sore or they were anticipating that the milker would soon be attaching the dreaded milking machine ! In any event, the cow would take a sideways swipe with the hind leg which was basically saying "Get out of here, I don't like that". Most cows get over cow kicking once they become familiar with the milking process and are desensitized to the sensations of being touched in their very sensitive areas. Those that didn't get used to it would require the use of "cow kickers" which is the name given to a set of metal hobbles that slip over a cow's hocks. That's a little history for the term "cow-kicking".

Now onto horses that cow kick. It is basically for the same reason. The horse is saying, "Get out of here, I don't like that."

How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry HillSo, if a normally good horse all of a sudden cow kicks, you can be sure that there is a logical reason - tender skin, a cut, scab or sore, rough grooming, or use of harsh tools. If you are like me, when spring comes, I want all that old winter hair to come off right now !! So maybe we get a little vigorous with our grooming or use tools that are quick but not as comfortable for the horse.

First be sure there are no cuts, scrapes, scabs or other sores in the area.

Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry HillThen take a look at the grooming tools your daughter was using. In the flank and belly area, the skin is thin and sensitive so on those areas (as well as the face, legs, girth and udder or sheath areas) you should never use metal curry combs, shedding blades, stiff bristle brushes or the like. I like to use the soft, gummy curries in a circular motion. They require a little more elbow grease than using a shedding blade but they are healthier for the horse's skin and most horses, by their body language, tell us that they are more comfortable too.

Excellent horse grooming gloves.Now that this gelding has it in his mind that he is going to be groomed somewhere he doesn't like, you'll have to desensitize that area just like you would with a new colt. Start with just your gloved hand at first. (I like to use the ones with the rubber bumps on them.) Begin in the shoulder area and work your way back.

Each time you sense resistance, work on that area before you move rearward toward the flank. Once you can rub the horse all over, including his ticklish spots, with your Horse For Sale by Cherry Hillgrooming gloves, do the same thing with a soft rubber curry. It might take a few sessions to thoroughly desensitize him again, but if he has been with you for 5 years, he is obviously a good horse and it would certainly be worth your time to work on this rather than sell him.

If you have a minute, let me know how you make out with your
"re-desensitization" program !

 

May 31, 2008

Hi Again Cherry,

Thank you for your advice, it has taken awhile and a lot of desensitizing but the stubborn old man has finally given up his bad habit (hopefully for good!) I am grateful to you, I would never have guessed that would work, and being able to keep him in the family is worth more than I can say! He was a rescued animal, who has become a friend to myself, my children and my grandchildren. We have all learned a great deal from him. Keep up the good work and thank you again.

Sincerely yours
Deb Slavish and Willy

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