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Understanding Horse Fears: Signs Causes and Training Tips

Horse Fears: Understanding Equine Phobias

Horses are majestic creatures, beloved by many for their beauty and grace. Whether you own or interact with horses, it is essential to understand their fears and anxieties to keep them safe and comfortable.

In this article, we will delve into common horse fears, their underlying causes, and ways to alleviate them.

Signs of Fear in Horses

Horses may show different physical and behavioral responses when they encounter an object or situation that they perceive as a threat or danger. Knowing these signs will help you identify when your horse feels uncomfortable or scared, and you can then adjust your approach to avoid triggering their fear response.

Let us discuss some of them.

Ears And Eyes Locked Forward On The Object

When horses focus their ears and eyes on a specific object, it means they are fixated on it. They may feel threatened or curious and want to investigate further.

If they stare for an extended period, they may be scared and unsure of how to react.

Heavy Breathing Or Snorting

Horses may breathe heavily or snort when they are scared or excited. This behavior can indicate a heightened state of arousal, and they may act impulsively or erratically.

Arched Neck

When horses arch their necks, it signifies tension in their muscles. They may also hold their heads high or duck them down, depending on the context.

If they do this while their ears and eyes are locked on an object, it is a sign of fear.

Showing Eye White

Horses may show the white part of their eyes or roll them back when they feel stressed. This behavior is a way to protect their eyes from potential harm and can indicate that they are in a state of distress.

Zig Zag Movement

When horses move in a zig-zag pattern, it is a sign that they feel threatened and are looking for a way to escape. This behavior is also known as shying and can be risky for riders.

Stomping Or Pawing

Some horses may stomp or paw the ground when they feel threatened or angry. This behavior shows that they are ready to fight and defend themselves.

Bolting Or Running Off

The flight response is common in horses, and they may run off or bolt when they perceive danger. This behavior can happen suddenly, and riders may find it challenging to control their horse if they are in a panicked state.

FAQ About Horse Fears

Apart from the signs of fear, some environmental triggers can cause horses to have phobias and anxieties. Here are some commonly asked questions about horse fears and their underlying causes.

Why Are Horses Afraid Of Spiders? Horses may not necessarily be scared of spiders specifically, but they have an innate fear of things that move suddenly or unexpectedly.

Spiders can trigger this reaction because of their quick movements and unpredictability. Why Are Horses Afraid Of Camels?

Camels are not a common sight in most western countries, and horses may not be familiar with their appearance and behavior. This lack of knowledge can cause stress and anxiety in horses, which can result in them being fearful of camels.

Why Are Horses Afraid Of Snakes? Like spiders, snakes can catch horses off-guard because of their slithering movements.

Horses may also be scared of snakes because some species, like the rattlesnake, can make a loud rattle sound that can startle them. Are Horses Scared Of Pigs?

Pigs have a distinct appearance, and their movements can be unpredictable, making them a potential threat in a horse’s perception. Horses may also be afraid of pigs because of their size and strength, which can be intimidating to them.

Horse Scared Of Farts? Loud sounds can trigger the startle response in horses, and farts can be one of them.

Horses may not understand the source of the sound and may perceive it as a threat, especially if they are in a dark or quiet environment. Horse Scared Of Storms?

Thunder and lightning can be scary for horses because they are unfamiliar stimuli that horses cannot control. The loud noises and flashes of light can also trigger the startle response, which can cause horses to run off or bolt.

Horse Scared Of Water? Horses have poor depth perception, and they may not be able to distinguish the depth of water from the surface.

They may also be scared of the sound of moving water or the feeling of wetness on their skin. Horse Scared Of Fly Spray?

Fly sprays have a strong smell that can be overpowering to horses. Horses may also be scared of the spray’s noise or the feeling of the applicator on their skin.

Some horses may have been sensitized to the spray, which can cause an allergic reaction. Are Horses Afraid Of The Color Red?

Horses cannot see the color red the same way humans do as their vision is limited to the blue and green spectrum. However, they can associate objects that are red with past traumatic events or experiences and be scared of them.


In conclusion, understanding horse fears and phobias is crucial in maintaining horse welfare and safety. The signs of fear that horses exhibit are physical and behavioral, and it is essential to learn to recognize them.

Moreover, knowing the underlying causes of their fears can help us avoid triggering their anxiety. By giving horses a safe and comfortable environment and properly training and caring for them, we can help alleviate their fears and build a strong bond of trust between us and them.

How to Train a Scared Horse

Training a scared horse can be a challenging and rewarding experience for horse owners and riders. With patience, persistence, and the right techniques, you can help your horse overcome its fears and develop confidence.

Here are some tips on how to train a scared horse.

Training Horses Afraid of Animals

One of the most common fears that horses have is with other animals. Whether it’s dogs, goats, cows, or any other animals, it’s essential to expose your horse to them gradually.

Here are some techniques that can help:

Repetition: Repetition is essential when training horses. Start by exposing your horse to the animal from a distance and gradually move closer.

Repeat the process several times, always starting at a distance, and increase the proximity gradually. Establish Familiarity: Horses feel more secure with animals they are familiar with.

If possible, stable horses in close proximity to each other to help them get used to each other’s presence. This can help build a sense of comfort and reduce anxiety.

Training Horses Afraid of Objects

Horses can develop fear of unfamiliar objects such as tarps, plastic bags, and other man-made objects. As a horse owner, you can help your horse overcome its fear of these objects using the following techniques.

Approach and Retreat: When your horse is afraid of an object, start by introducing it from a distance. Gradually approach the object until you reach your horse’s threshold for anxiety.

Once your horse starts to get nervous, back away from the object until your horse becomes calm. This gradual exposure technique, known as approach and retreat, can help your horse to feel less threatened and eventually become comfortable around the object.

Make the object smaller and less threatening: Many horse owners find that reducing the size of the problematic object can help reduce a horse’s anxiety. For example, if your horse is scared of a tarp, you can start by exposing your horse to a small piece of it first, and gradually expand the exposure to a larger piece over time.

Break the scary problem down into steps: When you’re training a horse, try to break down the task into smaller, more manageable steps. This technique can greatly reduce a horse’s anxiety by allowing your horse to become accustomed to each phase of training.

For example, if your horse is scared of a jump, you can start by introducing your horse to a ground pole. You can then gradually build up to a small jump and eventually a full jump.

By using this method, your horse will be more likely to feel comfortable and confident in each stage of the training.

General Tips for Training Scared Horses

Aside from the specific techniques we’ve discussed above, here are some general tips that can help you train a scared horse effectively. Stay calm and patient: Horses can sense fear and anxiety in their handlers.

It’s important to remain calm and patient even when the situation is challenging. Take a break if you or your horse become too anxious, and come back to it later when everyone is more relaxed.

Reward good behavior: When your horse behaves well, reward it with treats, praise, and positive reinforcement. This will help your horse learn to associate good behavior with positive outcomes, which can help reduce its anxiety.

Be consistent: Consistency is important when training horses. Make sure that you use the same techniques and commands each time to help your horse understand what’s expected of it.

Inconsistency can cause confusion and anxiety.


Training a scared horse can be a lengthy process that requires patience, determination, and a willingness to experiment with different techniques. By using repetition, familiarization, and gradual exposure, you can help your horse develop confidence around other animals and objects.

Additionally, smaller steps, approach and retreat techniques, and breaking complex problems down into steps can help your horse to become better at handling unfamiliar situations. By following these tips and remaining calm and patient, horse owners can help their horses overcome their fears and become more confident and content in their training.

In conclusion, training a scared horse requires patience, persistence, and the use of effective techniques such as repetition, gradual exposure, and smaller steps to break down complex problems. It’s important to establish familiarity with other animals and make unfamiliar objects small and less threatening.

Horse owners should remain calm and patient, reward good behavior, and use consistent techniques to minimize anxiety. By employing these methods, horse owners can train their horses to become confident and handle unfamiliar situations.

FAQs – 1) Why is it important to train a scared horse? Because it helps the horse to become confident and handle unfamiliar situations.

2) What are some tips for training a horse afraid of animals? Using repetition and establishing familiarity.

3) What are some techniques for training horses afraid of objects? Gradual exposure, approach and retreat, and breaking down complex problems into smaller steps.

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