Is this aggressive or good horsemanship

I am confident I know the answer, however I find myself in a particular boarding situation in which I’ve been pegged as all wrong about my horsemanship. So basically I can’t say anything because I’m wrong, and this is why… [insert a condescending diatribe about how I have no idea what I’m doing].

We we’re doing a show prep clinic at my barn and I attends mostly to humor the BO/trainer. My young horse was not into having polish on hooves and kept picking up hind feet… not in a “I’m going to side kick you” way, but just a step to the side when the polish dauber gets close way. So the head groom/assistant trainer struts up and says “pass me the polish” and then boots my horse in the belly and my horse looks to me with sheer fear and then groom crouches down and applies the polish.

I mean, come on. We all have bad days and get impatient, but you can’t tell me this is good horsemanship. Would you jump ship or is this a known technique to solve behavioral issues. JUST WOW.

Mmmmm, my margarita and I are undecided…

I would need to have seen the whole incident to make a good judgement, because my first question is “why?” Why wouldn’t she stand for polish, because it’s a reasonable request, and I would not be pleased if she kept stepping away.

Next question “what” so how had you been working to solve the issue, again a reasonable request, what was your correction technique?

When you say “boots in the belly” literally a kick? A “get up” knee with little power?

The look of pure fear, are you sure it wasn’t outrage at someone putting their foot down, or up, over bad behaviour?

So can’t give you a good answer, but kind of tending toward the sometimes a short sharp shock is what is needed.


You fail to give us the most important part of the story: After the “look of fear” from your horse, did he or she stand quite still and allow the polish to be applied? Stand still for more than one foot to receive polish?

The good horseman always notices a horse’s response to pressure. If you don’t do that, you can’t possibly know if it’s too much, too litttle or just right. So none of us here can judge the appropriateness of the groom’s move.

But the bottom line is that if you don’t like what the groom did and it’s your horse, then you don’t need anyone else’s opinion. Do what you want.


I have a delightful young woman who works for me --teenager --good rider and good worker. I had my horse tied in the aisle and was cleaning his front hoof. As does now and then, he reached around and “lipped” my butt --he doesn’t bite, just lips on my butt --I growled angrily (“Watch it, Mister”) and he turned his head back. My barn girl said, “Doesn’t that hurt his feelings?” —one of the reasons I have her working is she is so kind to the horses --but no, I don’t think me growling at my gelding hurt his feelings.


Sorry folks, I don’t care in what manner the YOUNG (or old for that matter) horse was behaving, a wallop in the gut is absolutely uncalled for.

I’ve been around horses my entire life and my grandfather raised them - I NEVER saw him hit a horse in the stomach for anything.

A riding crop and a sharp “NO!” to the offending leg would have been sufficient, which is what I would have done as the horse did need a correction. If a riding crop was t available, then a hand smack would have worked.

I once got a farrier run out of my county for hitting my best and most compliant horse with a rasp under the belly because his little footy hurt after somebody else’s horse stepped on it earlier in the day — and he’d been drinking all day to “kill the pain”.

I was in a boarding situation for a few years and remember the BO’s knee jerk reaction of a slap alongside the head of the farrier who whapped her goat’s belly with the rasp during a trim. The goat deserved to be corrected but we were NOT raised to go around smacking critters in the belly.

Since the subject has been brought up, I am also dead against kneeing a horse in the stomach when it’s being cinched up —- no wonder people have discipline issues with their horses ——

Discipline the offending part of the horse and let the severity fit the crime ——-


Yes, I was surprised when some old cowboy told me, to keep a horse from blowing up when cinching, knee it in the belly.
No wonder his horses were telling on him, always jumpy, not knowing what to expect from, to horses, that unpredictable human that would haul off and hit them when less expected.

There are plenty of ways to teach a horse to quit an unwanted behavior.
One to install a suitable growl or hiss for a horse to stop, to be used as there, where a horse is just impatient or wiggly or distracted.

I watched a trainer that was teaching 4H kids haul off and kick with his pointy boot, hard, in the belly, a yearling filly.
That was in the aisle at a show, preparing her for an in hand class.
The filly was tied to the stall grill and worried looking around with big eyes at all horses coming and going,

Seems that happened before, the yearling stood still, didn’t pull back, stood like it was used to being kicked around.

That filly then was so jumpy, she didn’t show well, every time the trainer got close to her while in the line, she tried to pull away.
That was giving him away as less than a nice person, in her eyes, the judges I am sure recognizing that.

Horses will misbehave, we are the smarter ones.
It is up to us to learn skills to tell a horse what we want, without needing to haul off on them with kicks to the belly.


I think there were steps I would have taken before what happened, but I really think there are things in this story missing that make it impossible to know that this person is horrible.
(In other words, I agree with KBC and such above.)

I am confused why you seem to think that dancing to say no to hoof polish is OK. It not like hoof polish is painful or anything.

I also agree that it sounds like right or wrong, this barn is not the right fit for you so it is probably best to go looking for a different place.


I’m going to take a different spin on the thread and ask: What were YOU doing to help teach/show the horse that the polish was okay and that the horse should not step away?


Agreeing with both @KBC & @trubandloki Not enough info to brand BO as Pure Evil.

Hoof polish s/b a non-issue, so I do think some sort of correction/teaching was due your horse, OP.
But BO seems to have gone from 0-60.

A knee to the gut from a human can hardly have the power to do more than surprise a horse, a boot toe is something else & not anything I’d ever do.

But in your very first sentence you inform us you are feeling the power of negativity at this barn.
Are you such a Newb to horses that others feel they are doing you a favor by adding to your knowledge?
If so, take any advice with a huge spoonful of salt, thank whomever & file away or discard the “help”.
Or look elsewhere to board, or grow a much thicker skin.


Wow, that’s rich? Welp, my horses belly isn’t a soccer ball and she punted it like one. She is also incredibly sensitive there and I had been working on getting her used to that area (young horse).


For me personally, snatching feet up/away is a very easy way for a horse to nab you and is never tolerated. Ever. Especially something as benign as applying hoof polish. That is not painful in any way. Horses have approximately 20 hours a day (give or take) in the pasture where nothing is expected of them. When I am handling them, they need to pay attention.

If I’m working around hind feet, they better stay on the ground unless I specifically asked the horse to pick it up. So no, I don’t think that discipline was out of line. From the OP, it sounds like it got the horse to pay attention and straighten up.

However, if YOU as an owner are not comfortable with that and consider it just another red flag in a succession of other things you don’t care for, then maybe that barn isn’t the best fit. And that’s ok. That’s really only something you can decide. Horses and discipline are definitely not a one size fits all thing and what works for one may not work for another.


Your instincts were right. Yes it’s aggressive. There were a dozen small steps missed to teach your horse to stand without resorting to a boot to the belly. That’s just a frustrated groom taking the lazy way out.

Not cool.


Yes, and the toe punt kick to the belly is just a small part of the whole piece. Just a few days ago the farrier, in anger, struck another horse multiple times with the rasp. And no ladies, it was a quick, corrective swat to the shoulder, it was an “I’m so fucking mad at you and can’t do this shit anymore I’ve lost all patience” beating.

I guess a large issue too is that this horse of mine is in a training program here, full time, and has been for over a year. Like is this how they train?


Yes I agree and she picks her feet up fine for me, she just want having it with the polish this time. Typically in the rare occasion she needs it, I will give her a corrective swat to her hind. but the toe of your tough gal cowgirl boot near her udders, Please.

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If you feel it was aggressive towards a young horse then perhaps this barn is not the place to have your youngster. Good horsemanship, IME, tends to be quiet, thoughtful and generally doesn’t involve violence.


And that’s where I’m at with it. This is a training facility and now we have to figure out where the holes in training are.

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That is my philosophy. And so this snippet was a view into well what else goes on? I’m around often, however not enough to always watch them handling my horse. And in the spirit of making a partnership, I don’t see these methods as supporting a partnership, but rather coercion.


I personally do not like when other people take it upon themselves to discipline my horse. I haven’t been back in horses for very long (about 3.5 years), but I find that the methods I use (a lot of positive reinforcement, cookies for good behavior, etc) and gentle handling are working great for me, and my horse is overall a well-mannered and polite 6 yo.

I try not to respond to little misbehaviors, I just reinforce the good behaviors. The only time I have smacked my horse is when he bit me (really hard and it hurt!) and I regretted it instantly. I would be very upset if someone kneed my horse in the belly, or anything of the sort.


It is, provided the horse has been schooled correctly. If not then the first time someone wants the horse to become more attentive and obedient, it can look a little violent.

As to the boot in the belly. Meh, I think you can pick a better “shock and awe” method or weapon or place to get into a horse. But these are large, stout animals and I don’t think the average person is going to do damage to a horse with a single boot to the belly.

OP, if you have been there for a year and your horse hasn’t been taught to stand and accept hoof polish, I think that alone signals a problem. But you don’t need to get mad at someone else for getting mad at the fact that your horse is so uneducated. Just fix the training issue.


I was of two minds about this.

First is in line with @KBC and @trubandloki; I would want more details before passing judgement, like what were you doing to resolve the issue, how well behaved is your youngster usually - is she a problem for barn staff? How competent or assertive a handler are you? For instance, does the barn staff view you as someone who let’s the horse get away with bad behavior that they have to deal with later?

Second mind, after reading that your horse has been in training at this barn for over a year is, if this is what the barn staff feels comfortable doing in front of you, what the heck are the doing when you’re not around? And if your young horse is “in training” with them, what are they working on, if not ground manners?

Second mind says it’s time to find a new facility.