why do horses stomp their feet

Why Do Horses Stomp Their Feet?

Horses are magnificent when they gallop at lightning-fast paces across fields and meadows. They are also elegant as they enter a ring and gracefully prance during dressage competitions. But sometimes you will see a horse stomping its feet on the ground. Is this like a two-year-old’s tantrum? What are the reasons for the stomping feet?

Animals don’t have words to communicate, so they use body language, stances, and actions. A horse’s body language speaks volumes to anyone willing to listen and observe. Let’s delve into the reasons why your horse is pawing or stomping and what you can do to help.

What Is Pawing And Stomping?


Pawing is a gentle motion where the horse reaches out with his foreleg and digs a trench in softer ground. Horses paw because of irritation but rarely out of anger. Once you have found the source of the irritation and removed it, the pawing should stop.

However, if you see a horse pawing at the ground with his ears pinned back, you can suspect that the horse is angry. If there are other horses around, rather get out of the way, because you don’t want to be in the middle of that fight. If it’s possible and safe to do so, give your horse a firm “no”, and it should stop pawing.

There are also times when horses paw during feeding time. This could be attributed to their enjoyment of their meal.


Stomping, on the other hand (or hoof, rather), is the upwards and downward motion of the hoof onto the ground. It’s a strong, forceful movement that is usually due to a strong emotion like anger or irritation. Stomps can vary in degrees of intensity, from softer, attention-seeking stomps to harsh, powerful, and angry stomps.

When your horse stomps, it will usually use its front leg but it can also use its hind legs. When it uses its hind leg to stomp, it might be time to get out of the way. While it could be as simple as a fly irritating your horse, there could be someone or something behind it. And a kick from those hind legs can be extremely painful.

Why Is Your Horse Stomping?

Here are the top reasons why your horse’s legs are stomping:

Insect Irritation

Irritation is a pretty obvious reason why horses stomp. This is mostly because of the irritation of pesky insects and flies! Horses have limited options when it comes to getting rid of this irritation. When these bugs bother horses, temperatures rise and hooves start stomping.

Insects often love going for the lower legs. The long hair on the feathers is the perfect hideaway for these irritants, and horses can do nothing about it except stomp to try to dislodge them.

The best way you can help your horse is by using a fly spray or fly boots. Fly sprays can usually get rid of the pests for a while, but they may need frequent application. Fly boots will cover their lower legs, protecting horses from flies and other insects. They are normally made from a breathable material so that the horses can stay cool and be protected.

Dominance and communication

Horses often need to show dominance to establish their place in the herd. By stomping their hooves on the ground, they make an obvious display of who is in charge!

Boredom, anxiety and impatience

Boredom: A horse that has been tied up for long periods could be getting bored. Horses stomp on the ground to express their disdain for the situation and their desire for some mental or physical stimulation. If it’s possible, let your horse roam free or take it for a gallop to dispel some of his excess energy.

Anxiety: Equines also get anxiety, which may cause them to stomp to express their stress. Perhaps the horse is in unfamiliar surroundings or is being groomed. It may stomp on the ground with its front hoof to communicate. Look for other signs of anxiety, like perspiring or nipping. Calm your horse by talking to it or using another effective calming routine.

Impatience or hunger: And, like humans, horses sometimes want things, and they want them now! This may be especially true at feed-time. Just as humans feel those rumblings in the tummy, a horse stomping could indicate its hunger. If it isn’t mealtime, perhaps even an apple will make your horse happy for a short while.


A horse will stomp when it’s experiencing discomfort or pain. There are often other accompanying signs, like rolling, sweating, or even biting, when a horse is in pain. In instances like these, seek out a vet’s advice on how to treat your horse.

Anger and frustration

Sometimes horses stomp because something has upset them. They get frustrated and angry, especially when their efforts to solve a problem aren’t working. Stomping is their way of showing their frustration in a situation where they feel helpless.

Stomping Damage

Horse trailers, stalls, and stall doors

Average-sized horses weigh between 900 and 1,200 pounds, while larger horses, such as Percherons and Clydesdales, can weigh around 1,800 pounds. There is a whopping 2,000 pounds of force behind a horse’s kick. So, it’s no surprise that a powerful kick can cause damage to horse trailers, stalls and doors.

Stall floors are not immune to a horse’s hoof either. A horse stomping on the ground of its stall can create trenches and holes in the stall floor, and if these aren’t regularly filled, the uneven ground can become dangerous.


When a horse stomps the ground, they could damage or even hurt their hooves, particularly the hoof wall. It can crack or chip the hoof, which would cause additional unnecessary pain for the horse. Some horses have even lost shoes because of stomping, as the motion can dislodge the shoes over time.


Stomping is also bad for joints, as the jolts can cause long-term issues like decreased performance or limited mobility. Many horses have even had bone injuries because of angry stomping, which means that they require long-term treatment and rehabilitation.

Top Tips And How You Can Help

  • Take note of all the subtle cues the horse is giving you and the circumstances in which they occur. For example, if a horse is tied up but wants to go trotting in the fields, it will start stomping to request its freedom.
  • Horses paw or stomp for a reason, but you can try to relieve the cause of the irritation or stress. Once the cause is removed, the horse-stomping should cease.
  • Be consistent with your horse, and it’ll learn how to better behave over time.
  • Don’t make a habit of reacting to stomping. Your horse will soon understand that this behaviour gets attention if you react every time.
  • Don’t leave your horse tied up or in its stall for a long period of time. They don’t like to be left tethered, and this can cause them to start pawing or stomping. Perhaps put your horse out to pasture and let it enjoy some fresh air.

When To Seek Professional Help

If the stomping behaviour continues, it’s advised to consult a veterinarian. The vet will examine your horse and provide a proper diagnosis and treatment to address any underlying health issues.

Final Thoughts

Stomping is a trait that can be controlled with patience and consistency. For example, you can reward good, calm behaviour with a treat, or if your horse is anxious, you can use calming routines.

Horses are unique, and so are their stomps. Firstly, find out what is causing the behaviour. Decide if it’s related to boredom, irritation, or discomfort. Once you have eliminated the obvious and if those legs are still stomping, you may need to seek advice from a professional.

Remember that a stomping horse is trying to communicate something, and if you are observant of the situation and surroundings, you can assist your horse quickly. Working with your horse to find the problem will lead to a solution and a lot of happy neighing instead of leg-lifting and stomping.


Is stomping always a bad sign?

No. While stomping often indicates frustration or anger, it can also just be a friendly greeting or signify excitement or anticipation.

How can I tell if my horse is stomping or pawing?

Pawing is often done with the forelegs. It is a gentle motion. Stomping can sometimes be done with all four legs and is a more forceful movement. The intensity is the most obvious difference.

Should I call a vet when my horse is stomping?

First, try to establish what the cause of the stomping could be and try to find a solution. If the stomping is accompanied by other signs like intense neighing or sweating, it may be wise to call in the vet.

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