The True Nature Of Horses, Peace Loving or Formidable Killing Machines? 2

Part 2

The Strike

Everyone will accept that horses kick, and most assume the back legs of the horse are the most dangerous area of the animal. Yet the front legs are equally as lethal, the power and destructive forces of a strike can inflict deep tissue wounds and shatter bones. A strike, striking and striking out are all terms associated with the horse using the front hooves to kick. There are different forms of striking, each depending on the level of threat, and the amount of force the horse needs to apply. In the last article we saw that a horse starts with gesturing by raising one front hoof, this would be the same as a boxer raising his fists, the gesture is both defensive and threatening. If neither party backs down, then the only course of action is to use those fists, or hooves in this case.

Low Level Striking


This action is applied with three hooves remaining on the ground, with the fourth aiming to inflict damage to the shoulder or front legs. Low level striking is more likely to occur when each horse is facing one another for a number of reasons. To start with, this would be the next stage after hoof waving, so it’s a natural progression, the hoof is already locked, loaded and ready to be used. Another reason is universal for any species, in that energy should not be expended uselessly. A serious wound to the shoulder or leg at this point could render the opponent incapacitated, and the fight would be over sooner rather than later.

Low level striking can also occur when a horse is attempting to kill or maim predators such as snakes, coyotes and even crocodiles. In this case both front hooves can leave the ground and quite literally pummel the intended target. In theory this action could still be thought of as striking, but stomping would actually be a more descriptive term.


Image credit – photographer Rob Palmer  (the dog survived)

This particular manoeuvre causes catastrophic injuries due to the speed that stomping can occur, along with the full body weight of the horse bearing down on its intended target. Furthermore the forward action of the horse will result in all four hooves trampling its prey, finishing by kicking out with the back legs as the horse moves away from the animal. It is very unlikely an animal without the speed and agility of a dog would escape unharmed.

Mid-Level Striking


With both front hooves off the ground the horse is partially rearing, and putting more body weight into the downward motion of the strike. Damage can be inflicted with either or both hooves simultaneously. The opponent’s defensive response would be to also rear to avoid injury to the head and torso. Thus, the fight escalates to full rear high striking.

The High Strike


While many animals display deimatic behaviour as a defensive mechanism, it’s more likely the horse is standing (rearing) in this image to not necessarily to look larger but to utilise its front hooves, while attempting to avoid the opponent’s hooves. Additionally the posturing and attempts at intimidation was initially demonstrated pre-fight, but to no avail. Each, at this stage, will attempt to be higher than the other. The horse using his weight in the downward motion post rear is also used to inflict injury. So while the horse is attempting to strike at the full rear, he also has the opportunity to use his teeth and hooves while bearing down on his opponent, powered by the full weight of his body. Therefore it is important in this case, to be higher than the opponent, to both avoid, and to inflict injury.



Next Time – Biting!

Further reading – Part 1

The true nature of horses, peace loving or formidable killing machines?

Images: By kind permission of photographer Gary Odell


5 thoughts on “The True Nature Of Horses, Peace Loving or Formidable Killing Machines? 2”

  1. Fantastic photos!!! I just talked with a longtime horse friend in Hawaii, where I previously worked as a farrier for 14 years. In telling me about her beloved mare, she shared the following.

    The mare, was recently turned out, on her own, to go from her back pasture to the front one, as she usually does. In the mid-yard area, however, for some reason, a chicken was tied out by its leg to a stake (they do these kind of things over there . . . most likely to confine the animal for transport to another location).

    So what did the mare do when she passed through the yard with the tethered chicken? SHE KILLED IT!!! Just reiterating your point!

    (My friend pointed out that when her mare is fed, feral chickens that live in the area swarm her feed and eat out the grain — irritating the mare. She finally gave them some payback!)


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow poor chicken!! Although I’m not overly surprised, my own mare has psychopathic tendencies, especially toward small animals. She chased a fox once when I was on her, kicked numerous dogs, and been caught red handed stomping small bunnies 🙈

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Horses are simply AMAZING! I rode my first horse solo into the Los Padres National Forest as an 18-year-old for ten soul-searching days, from June 1-10, back in the early 70s. (Swore then that every first ten days of June I’d stop and remember that younger me, the lessons, and the adventure — and I’ve been honoring her again this year!) On the last day there I spent three hours in a ranger hut, ten miles into the back country, laughing and sharing sharing stories with the local ranger muleskinner. He told me how once he’d observed a strange behavior of a deer, jumping in and out of a small circle, through his binoculars. He went to the spot, and there was a dead rattlesnake. I’ve always remembered that!

        We don’t really know what the animals around us are capable of — and too many people adapt a cartoon type assumption as to animals. Thanks for telling it like it really is!

        Liked by 1 person

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