What Spooks a Horse?

Horseriding is something that we have all experienced at least once in our lifetime.

Spending some quality time with a beautiful horse out in the open air can be a truly wonderful experience. However, certain elements need to be taken into account when you are trying to make a horse willing to approach you.

Many things can spook a horse, but finding out what things spooks a horse is a must if you want to start handling a horse.

Here is a short guide that might help you.

Fear of Unfamiliar Environments

Horses can be easily unsettled in unfamiliar surroundings and have a heightened response to new stimuli. The presence of unfamiliar people, animals, and sights can cause a horse to become skittish, distracted, and frightened.

Introduce your horse to any new environment gently and slowly, allowing them to become used to these new places. Some owners are also now using CBD for horses to help ease anxiety and reduce their fear of novel situations. Being patient and kind while introducing a horse to a new environment can help to prevent excessive spooking.

Loud and Sudden Noises

Horses are naturally flight animals, so anything unexpected causes them to be fearful. A sudden sound, like a car backfiring, can cause a horse to startle and become scared. If a rider and horse are in a challenging situation, such as a cross-country course, a loud noise can cause the horse to refuse to jump the next obstacle.

Riders should be aware of their surroundings and avoid anything that could spook their horse. Furthermore, owners should desensitize their horses to loud and sudden noises by slowly introducing the horse to the sounds it finds scary and offering positive reinforcement.

Objects That Move Unpredictably

When a horse sees something that it is uncertain of or that it perceives as a potential danger, it can display common signs of fear, such as:

  • head-tossing
  • tail swishing
  • sidestepping

Many horses are particularly startled by objects that move in an unpredictable manner, such as a flapping plastic bag or a kite flying high in the sky. If an object is waving in the wind, it can be especially alarming to a horse, as this type of motion is often associated with predators in the wild. Horses can become frightened by objects that move quickly and without a pattern, which can often lead to horse spooking.

Unexpected Physical Touch

Any unexpected physical touch, such as a sudden pat on the rump or a motion toward the ears, can cause a flight response. Horses spook most easily to sudden, unexpected physical touch as they cannot anticipate what will happen next. Being scared causes an immediate adrenalin rush, which can cause a spooked horse to bolt if the surprise is enough.

Regularly expected physical touch, such as brushing or saddling, may have less of an effect. To avoid spooking a horse, it is important to introduce physical touch in a slow, steady manner and provide ample time for the horse to become comfortable with the new touch.

Understand What Spooks a Horse and Take Action

Horses spook easily and can be quickly overwhelmed or stressed. To help keep them calm, it’s important to spend time with your horse, get to know their body language, and avoid sudden or loud noises. Actively work with your horse and establish a trusting bond to help keep them relaxed.

With practice, you can learn what spooks a horse and decrease their fear. Go ahead and have a calming ride! 

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