If you’re new to horses, you might consider them docile and defenseless creatures, or on the contrary, potentially dangerous animals. You may also believe some breeds are more dangerous than others.
In my experience, the truth lies somewhere in the middle – horses are generally peaceful animals, but any horse breed can become dangerous if they exhibit aggressive behavior.
If you want to find out more about why, in some cases, horses are dangerous and which are the most notoriously dangerous horse breeds, I’ve put together a comprehensive article on this topic.
I will discuss the ways a horse can put you at a serious risk of injury, the reasons behind aggressive behaviors in horses, and which are the most dangerous horse breeds.
5 Ways a Horse Can Pose Danger to You
Whenever confronted with an aggressive horse, there are at least 5 ways in which a horse can hurt or injure you.
Knowing what to expect from an aggressive or angry horse, can help you prevent some of these.
However, even with a horse that isn’t angry, accidents can happen, and some of the situations below will apply regardless of whether your horse is angry or relaxed.
Here are 5 ways in which a horse can injure you:
Your horse can accidentally step on your foot, hand or other areas of your body if you’re in its way or don’t clear its path fast enough, or you’re standing in a spot where they can’t see you (e.g., behind the horse).
A horse can accidentally step on you if it gets spooked and you’re in its way or if you’ve fallen off a horse that’s scared or aggressive.
Because horses are heavy, they can easily break bones in your hands, legs or anywhere else in your body. Most usually, however, you’ll just end up with some serious bruises or abrasions on your body.
Don’t get fooled by the fact that horses are herbivores. An irritated or angry horse will not shy away from biting your hand or arm.
And trust me, you don’t want to be on the receiving end on that bite! Horses can bite down with a lot of force, crushing fingers or bones in your hands.
Besides the crushed bones that a horse can leave you with, it can also cause severe cuts that can get infected post-bite because of the presence of a lot of bacteria in the oral flora of a horse.
There’s a reason why helmets are recommended when riding horses – a fall off a horse can be fatal. In fact, most deaths caused by horses are related to people falling off a horse.
An unruly or aggressive horse can easily throw you off its back. But your horse doesn’t need to be unruly or aggressive for you to fall off a horse. It can happen for a number of reasons including your own inattentiveness.
Your horse can also knock you over if you don’t watch out when leading your horse or when you’re trying to tie it.
Experienced horse riders know how to fall off a horse to minimize the risk of injury. And this is a skill that can be learned.
Likewise, it’s also useful to learn how to calm a horse down in case it gets spooked by something while you’re riding it.
All these techniques are meant to mitigate any risk of injury to you and your horse.
Getting dragged by a horse is another potential source of injury. Whether you get entangled in the tacks or try to stop your horse by hanging onto the reins, being dragged by a horse is just as dangerous as falling off a horse or getting knocked over.
Using protective footwear and stirrups can also mitigate some of the risks of being dragged by a horse and being severely injured in the process.
As far as severe horse injuries go, being kicked by a horse is right up there among the most dangerous ways a horse can injure you.
A horse’s kick has been measured to be at a speed of around 200 mph (about 321 km/h) and a force of 2000 pounds of force per square inch.
That’s a lot of force packed into a single kick. Now imagine getting kicked multiple times over with that sort of force.
If you’re thinking this could be lethal, you’re right. A horse kick can cause death if it’s strong enough and if vital organs are affected.
A horse can kick you because of a number of reasons including fear, stress, pain, discomfort and other annoyances it may have.
Luckily, there are ways to tell when your horse is preparing to kick. Learning the warning signs such as tensed body posture, widened eyes, flaring nostrils, baring teeth, stomping the ground, and raised head, can save you from getting kicked by a horse.
7 Reasons of Aggression in Horses
Horses can get aggressive for a number of reasons, some of which have to do with a lack of training and desensitization, others with being stressed or being in pain.
Horses don’t typically get aggressive for no reason. To temper your horse, you’ll always need to identify what’s it that sets it off to behave badly.
Knowing your horse’s triggers and managing these before things can escalate will make a significant difference in your relationship with your horse.
Here are the most common reasons of aggression in horses:
Horses are generally jumpy, especially those that haven’t undergone much training to become desensitized to noises, sudden movements, other animals, smells, and various other stressors.
A horse that’s afraid can become aggressive, especially if it’s in a confined space or somewhere where it cannot run freely away from what it perceives as a source of danger.
The flight response in horses is very strong, so it’s normal for them to become aggressive in a situation they perceive as dangerous.
In these situations, it’s important to learn to soothe your horse and calm it down. Leading the horse away from a perceived danger can also help it to calm down.
If you have no experience in calming a horse down, it’s best if you remove yourself from the dangerous situation to avoid any risk of injury to yourself.
A horse in pain can also become aggressive. Whether it’s dental pain, a leg injury, colic or a hoof problem, a horse in pain will often exhibit aggressive behaviors.
It’s important to monitor the health of your horse and ensure regular health check-ups, especially when it comes to dental problems.
A horse’s teeth also need regular filing. To make sure the dental health of your horse is optimal, make sure to have them checked out every 6 months for horses under the age of 5, and annually for horses that are older.
Also, make sure your horse gets all its needed vaccinations and deworming medications on time.
Likewise, if you notice that your horse is in pain for no particular reason, make sure to make an appointment to the vet.
– Hunger or Thirst
Horses need access to food and fresh water around the clock. The digestive tract of horses is set up so that their metabolism is fast, but their stomachs cannot hold a lot of food at any one time.
That’s why horses need to be grazing or eating hay so their stomachs won’t go empty, which can cause them discomfort and pain.
A horse that’s hungry or thirsty can exhibit aggressive behaviors. Ensure that your horse has regular access to pasture grass or hay. Keeping your horse well-hydrated is just as important.
Besides the stress involved by getting spooked, horses can get stressed by a number of other reasons too.
For example, horses that are stabled for long and don’t get enough exercise can become stressed and aggressive.
Lack of mental stimulation and boredom can also become stressed and depressed, both of which are risk factors for aggression.
Horses can also become stressed by being put in new situations, such as meeting new horses or being introduced to other animals, etc.
– Lack of Training
Enrichment training, desensitization training, and obedience training are all crucial in raising a well-behaved horse.
Lack of training can lead to an unruly and aggressive horse that will cause trouble. Most horses are intelligent and easy to train. Other horses are a bit more hard-headed. But even with hard-headed horses, persistence is key.
Training also helps in the development of a stronger bond between horse and owner. The better you know your horse, the better you can manage its behavior in unexpected situations.
High-energy horses or breeds with a temper need even more training to curb their aggressive behaviors and short temper.
Spending time with your horse on training and exercise are the only way to prevent bad behaviors and manage horses with a big personality.
– Breeding Season
The reproductive behavior of stallions during breeding season can be uncontrollably aggressive. Aggressive behaviors can be exhibited towards the mare but also towards the handler.
Biting and kicking are often exhibited by stallions during the courting and mating process. To prevent aggression in stallions during the mating season, stallions are usually kept separate from mares.
Access of stallions to mares is controlled and allowed only to mares that are to be bred. Even then, measures to protect the mare from aggression are taken.
For example, wire baskets or plastic buckets are used over the nose and mouth of the stallion to prevent the stallion from biting the mare or handler.
A breeding cape may also be used to protect the mare and prevent the stallion from grasping the mane crest or neck with its teeth.
– Maternal Instinct
A mare may also become aggressive after foaling. This aggression can be directed toward other horses but also the handler.
Your normally sociable mare can become aggressive and standoffish. She will be most aggressive with other horses if she believes her foal to be in danger. But she can be aggressive with you too.
To protect yourself, position yourself in a way to keep the foal between you and the dam.
While these changes can be accounted for because of the maternal instincts of the mare kicking in, behavior that’s dangerous needs to be corrected through discipline.
5 Most Dangerous Wild Horse Breeds
Domesticated horses aren’t usually dangerous, but as I explained above, they can become dangerous under certain circumstances when they exhibit aggressive tendencies.
Even then, if you have a strong bond with your horse and have been training it, you can usually calm them and soothe them to curb their aggressive behavior.
The situation is different with feral and wild horses, however. Wild horses are those that haven’t been domesticated, whereas feral ones have their origins in domesticated horses that have escaped and adapted to life in the wild.
Both can be dangerous and unpredictable.
Here are the most dangerous wild horse breeds:
Brought to the Americas by Spanish colonial settlers, the Mustang is a feral horse breed found roaming in large herds in the western parts of the USA.
The Mustang is a mix of different breeds including American Quarter horses but also Draft horses.
Their population is protected by the USA Bureau of Land Management (BLM), although over-population has become an issue.
If you accidentally wander into their territory, it’s recommended that you keep a distance of around 100 feet.
There are laws in place that forbid the capture, feeding, watering or touching and interacting with Mustangs. They’re a dangerous breed known to attack humans when approached.
A horse breed that has never been successfully domesticated, the Przewalski is named after the Russian explorer N. M. Przewalski.
They’re the last wild horse breed still standing today, although their population has declined. In ancient times, Przewalski horses roamed the steppes of East and Central Asia.
Today, re-introduced populations can be found in China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan. Today, their population is believed to be around 1900 specimens.
They’re stocky, short horses that are believed to be holy by Mongolians, who call them Thaki horses.
Przewalski horses are not used to human contact and can react aggressively when approached.
Native to Australia, the Brumbies are free-roaming feral horses. Their population is believed to be around 400,000, with the largest numbers found in the Northern Territory of Queensland.
Culling efforts to try to manage their population as well as their feral nature, makes Brumbies avoid human presence, which they associate with danger.
Unlike the restrictions in place in the USA regarding the interaction with Mustangs, Australia has no such rules in place.
– Welsh Pony
Not to be confused with domesticated ponies, the Welsh Carneddau ponies are a wild breed roaming in the mountains of Snowdonia National Park, with peaks soaring more than 3,000 feet.
Once in the thousands, today the Welsh Carneddau pony population is barely over 200. One of the biggest threats to their lives is the harsh winter climate of North Wales.
The bitter winter temperatures and snowstorms can often half the population of ponies, working as a natural culling, with only the strongest and most resilient ponies remaining.
Some of these ponies can be gathered annually by local farmers for health check-up. The tails of such ponies are clipped before they are returned to the mountains.
Ponies whose tails aren’t clipped have never been rounded up and are extremely avoidant of human presence.
The Konik is a primitive breed that’s native to Poland but has been introduced in other areas of Europe as well with the goal of conservation grazing on national reserves throughout Europe.
The Konik features a blue dun (gray with lighter and darker sections in it) coat, dark legs and faces, as well as a black stripe along their backs and sometimes legs, making them clearly distinguishable from other horse breeds.
Because of their feeding habits, Konik horses have proved useful in European conservation grazing projects, increasing biodiversity and helping other wildlife to thrive.
Are any Domesticated Horse Breeds Dangerous?
While wild and feral or primitive horse breeds are considered by far the most dangerous breeds, there are a few hot-blooded domesticated horses that can be dangerous too, especially for first-time owners.
Here are some potentially dangerous domesticated horse breeds that need a lot of training and an experienced handler:
Bred as racehorses for their strength and stamina, Thoroughbreds are often described as temperamental and high spirited.
They’re also very focused horses that show determination and bravery, but they can often be high-strung and spirited.
For these reasons, Thoroughbreds – like many other hot-blooded horses – are not recommended for beginner riders.
An experienced rider, however, can turn the Thoroughbred into a spectacular racehorse. These horses are extremely intelligent and love a challenge, so a lot of training and mental stimulation can help in diverting their feisty energy towards other, more useful endeavors.
Among the most notable features of the Akhal-Tekes is their often exessive loyalty. With their origins in the deserts of Turkmenistan, where they were bred by nomadic people for their athleticism, strength, and intelligence, Akhal-Tekes horses are loyal to a fault.
They’re often referred to as the guard dog horse, because they form a strong attachment to their owners and will lash out at other people if they perceive them as a threat to their owners.
For this reason, the Akhal-Tekes breed can be considered dangerous. I would never recommend this horse to a beginner.
They’re extremely intelligent horses but also energetic and will not obey people they do not respect. Therefore, beyond experience, your personality must match the strong personality of the Akhal-Tekes breed.
Another racehorse favorite, the Arabian is a strong, extremely intelligent, and often intense horse that will need an equally strong and intelligent rider to keep them disciplined.
Arabian horses are preferred also for endurance races because of their excellent stamina and endurance.
Once again this isn’t a horse I recommend for a beginner. Arabians will not respect an inexperienced rider, which can put the rider in a dangerous position.
Any horse that you can’t command or that won’t listen to you can pose a danger to your safety.
Warhorses like the Andalusians or Friesians can also be a dangerous choice for riders that don’t understand the personality of these horses and don’t have the experience to deal with these horses.
Besides their strong personalities and intelligence, they’re also large breeds that can cause injuries if they throw you off their backs, knock you over, kick or bite you.
Here’s how you can ward off injuries and stay safe if a horse becomes aggressive:
- If you’re inexperienced, remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible.
- Never stand behind a horse unless you want to be on the receiving end of a kick.
- Learn the signs of aggression (pinned back ears, flaring nostrils, tensed posture, pawing the ground, etc.) and learn how to de-escalate tense situations.
- Learn your horse’s triggers and how to calm or soothe your horse.
- Spend a lot of time on obedience training and desensitizing your horse to unusual noises, strong smells, other animals, etc.
- Choose horse breeds that match your personality and which you are confident you can handle.
Hopefully, with these skills up your sleeve you can avoid dangerous situations and curb aggressive behaviors before it’s too late.
And as for the most dangerous horse breed, it’s clear by now that the most dangerous breed is always the one that you’re too inexperienced to handle.
Domestic horses are not aggressive for no reason – usually, there’s always a reason why a domestic horse will show aggression towards its handler or towards other animals.
Knowing your horse and having a bond with it, can help you to zero in on the problem and calm your horse down before things can escalate.
Wild and feral horses are more aggressive because of their elusive and fearful nature. Not accustomed to human contact, they view us as a threat.
Therefore, it’s never a good idea to approach horses in the wild. Their behavior is unpredictable and any attempts to interact with them often results in getting injured.
There’s a reason why we failed to tame these horses – they’re not friendly towards humans and don’t take well to being handled by humans.Horse Breeds