As prey animals, horses are experts at spooking. Some can be trained out of it, but every now and then, we meet a horse that is literally afraid of its own shadow. They spook every time the wind blows, and this can make riding and training particularly challenging. If you have one of these scaredy-cat horses in your barn, you know what we're talking about. You have to learn what sets them off, and it's best if you learn fast.
Have you ever met a horse that's terrified of these ordinary, non-life-threatening objects?
1. Plastic bags
Plastic bags are almost every horse's worst nightmare. They cling to tree branches and make spooky sounds all on their own. And did you know they MOVE?! They're most likely gathering an army to take over the world. Horses are deeply afraid of plastic bags and it's best to avoid these at ALL times.
A closed umbrella might pass your horse's inspection, but don't even think about opening that viscous monster. We'd much rather get wet than find out what happens when a spooky horse meets an open umbrella.
When Velcro is sitting there nice and quietly, everything is fine. It does its job and leaves your horse alone. But when you go to pull it apart, watch out. The chilling sound of two Velcro pieces being pulled apart is more than enough to send shivers down a horse's spine.
4. Porta potties
Anyone with a sense of smell is at least somewhat afraid of porta potties. But spooky horses know how to take this to the next level. The smell is obviously a sign of certain death, and what's up with that obnoxiously bright color? The doors on these things even swing open unexpectedly!
Sure, that puddle is barely two feet wide and only two-inches deep. It's completely harmless unless you somehow manage to fall in face first. But to your horse, that little puddle of water is more like a fathomless lake of death. Sharks! Alligators! Loch Ness monster! Oh my!
6. Traffic cones
Traffic cones are more like mysterious road blockers in the eyes of a horse. You might be able to get away with quickly scooting past one when it's standing up, but a traffic cone that's on its side is a whole different story. Why is it on its side? Did it move by itself? Or worse, is there a monster nearby that knocked it over? It's safest to avoid these life mysteries like the plague.
7. Anything new
It's a good feeling when you have some extra cash to buy new barn equipment, right? That new hay net or water trough might make you smile, but your spooky horse probably disagrees. Anything new is automatically evil. Change is hard for some horses, and something new to their environment could lead to a serious spook.
Flies and bees we can understand. Those jerks like to bite and sting. But butterflies? They float through the air and literally wouldn't hurt a fly. But for one reason or another, horses are afraid of them. Let's hope your spooky horse doesn't spot one of these floating creatures of doom while you're in the saddle.
Let's think about this—how much does your horse weigh? One thousand pounds? Two thousand? The average chicken is probably somewhere around five pounds, and yet they completely freak out horses. It probably has something to do with a chicken's surprising speed and agility. But still, the irrational fear is real.
It doesn't matter if they're floating in the air, tied to a child's wrist, or nearly deflated on the ground—balloons are terrifying. They must use some kind of sorcery to stay in the air like that, and that's something horse's don't want any part of. It might be easier to just turn around rather than force your horse to walk past a scary balloon.
11. Ribbons and rosettes
You and your horse work hard to earn them, but ribbons and rosettes cause problems for spooky horses. It might be okay if you hold them in your hand well away from your horse's face, but watch out if you get too close. Positioning that ribbon for a celebratory photo could end up backfiring big time.
Not every doorway leads to certain doom, but try telling a spooky horse that. Their worst nightmare could be waiting to pounce right on the other side. And if they try to walk through, they run the risk of getting stuck or entering some kind of super scary vortex.
13. Miniature horses
There's something about seeing miniature versions of themselves that some horses seriously don't like. Maybe they think they're being mocked? Or it could be a trick from one of those scary fun house mirrors. Either way, mini horses can pose problems. To make it even weirder, some horses are perfectly okay with solid-colored minis, but paints are completely different.
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Do you know of any things that horses are afraid of to add to the list? Let us know in the comments!
Many times working with a few horses together on scary things works better than alone. Example: Chickens, walk horse near chickens, after 3 days move closer or walk through the chickens (the horse will see them move out of way) 3 days. This week we ride horses together through the chickens. Here is the basis to this model. 1. Identify the scare problem. 2. What do you want as a Target behavior. 3. Use successive approximation or shaping procedure, meaning go near, go nearer, go through and go through with group of horses. 4. Return to step 1 if necessary. If don't you work with your horse what do expect? Many people should just lead their horse for 1/4 mile before feeding or beginning a training session. Walk and ride is a good approach as it will build the connection.
I know tons of horses that are afraid of donkeys or mules. The "bray" sets them off, and if they are on a trail ride with these strange looking horses, they remain frightened constantly, and you'd better be prepared if one happens to bray at any point in the ride.
You missed mud. I know a horse who is still learning how to handle his long legs (he’s 17hh and 10. Late bloomer.) and mud freaks him out bc he knows his legs will slip out from under him. We’ve gotten to the point where he trusts me not to let him die in the evil mud though. And I can trust him not to freak out if I slip and need his help.
I thought this article was entertaining, but I don't agree with the chickens. Maybe this is unique, but my horse hangs out work my chickens and stands next to their coop during the night.
Some horses that I am working with, plus mine got really spooked (and still are) when a wounded horse ( he got his leg caught in a wild pig snare trap) was brought in. I must admit that the hurt horse looked pretty bad. we had to cut off his mane, the hair on his tail were gone and he was limping pretty bad. Anyway, to cut a long story short, since then, the other horses, are spooked to the point of not wanting to go back to the stables and are even very reluctant in going to the exercise pen. I just wanted to know why a wounded horse would have this much effect on them and what to do, to bring them back to normal again
Horses can get used to anything, but the first time they see it, oh my.
You should see horses the first time they see a camel, or, God forbid, an elephant.
A friend of mine had a Morgan gelding who loved chickens. Loved to squish chickens. Loved to leap in the air and come down with all four feet on a chicken. He was so bummed when they ran out of chickens for him to squish.