Many of our riders are beginners to horseback riding, and are primarily here to visit Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. Because of this common experience level, the same conversation takes place quite often (and understandably so). I just thought I might as well post the general conversation right here on the Rising K Ranch website.
Question: If I stand behind a horse, will he kick me?
Answer: Some horses will kick you most of the time, most horses will kick you some of the time, a few horses will kick you every time, and a few will never kick you.
Horses are prey animals, so for the sake of the specie's survival, it is ingrained into their minds that anything and everything will knock them down and slit their throat and eat them for dinner. Our job as human partners is to build such a trust in the horse that he neither looks at us as predators, nor looks at us as peers. If a horse does kick, it is usually for one of three reasons:
1. The horse is afraid.
Maybe you sneaked up on your horse and startled him, maybe you made a sudden movement around your horse like a lion would make, or maybe the horse just is not used to people yet and has not learned to trust a horseback rider at all. With the horses you will ride at Rising K Ranch, as long as you're not purposely being an idiot, you should be safe with regards to your horse having this fear issue.
2. The horse is disrespectful of humans.
This usually happens when a well-meaning beginner to horseback riding with a very low experience level tries to "train" his own horse. A horseback rider at this experience level is often afraid to discipline the horse in any way whatsoever, and often will not even know how to tell when a horse is being disrespectful (their language can be somewhat subtle at times). Eventually, the horse looks at you like just another horse, and feels free to try to dominate you. This, too, will not be an issue at Rising K Ranch.
(Please note, "disciplining a horse" does NOT mean "hitting the horse". It means keeping the horse in the correct position in relation to your own, which requires a bit higher experience level to discern)
3. They are kicking at another horse but you are in the way.
This, I believe, is the most common reason people get kicked by horses. For this reason you do not want to place yourself in a situation where you are pinned too closely between two horses. You don't want to ride too closely to the horse in front of you. And you want to pay attention to any horse that you might have to walk behind. Often, if a horse is irritated at another horse, he will kick with his hind feet, regardless of where the other horse is. That is, a horse may be mad at a horse fifteen feet in from of him, but he will still lash out by kicking with his hind feet in a sort of temper tantrum, and if you happen to be behind him- "ouch!"
Finally, you don't want to just hang out behind a horse without paying attention. Whenever I have to walk behind a horse (which is many times each and every day), I first place my hand on the horse's hip so he knows I am there. I keep my hand on the horse's hip as I walk so that I can feel if he does tense up like he might kick, (in which case I won't walk behind him at all right then), I then walk behind him as close to his tail as possible so that in the off chance he does kick, he won't have near enough force to hurt me like he would if I were four feet behind him.
If you are ever visiting either Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon National Park, or just visiting Southern Utah, I hope you will drop by Rising K Ranch to take a horseback ride through our red rock country! Regardless of your experience level with horseback riding, we're sure to have something new to learn and plenty of new country to ride!