Why Horses Are so Skittish & 4 Helpful Tips to Stop Spooking

Last Updated on February 23, 2022 by Allison Price

Horses are very skittish as they are prey animals. They pay close attention to unfamiliar things. Horses are prone to being prey animals in the wild. To survive, they have learned to quickly respond to any danger and avoid strange objects.

Many horse owners believe that a horse who is agitated and unable to control his horse properly is unfit for riding. It’s not unusual and can usually be managed. Let’s discuss how to recognize and deal with your horse’s skittish behavior.

Horses are skittish because of these reasons

Horses can be very skittish. Horses have many instincts that cause them to act without thinking. They also fear the unknown. Horses can easily be scared even when they are in their own safe pastures.

Although horses have been domesticated and raised to be gentle, docile companions for centuries, their wild side still shows up when they are not paying attention. It takes just a small noise from behind to get your horse to run like lightning in an open field.

Why Horses Are so Skittish

Horses are prey animals and will run from any danger to their safety. Let’s look at what a horse looks like as a natural predator to understand why they are so easily scared.

Horses are a favorite prey of almost all large-sized carnivores. These include big cats, bears, wolves and hyenas as well as crocodiles and certain species of snakes. Horses, for example, are prey animals that have exceptional senses. They must be alert and vigilant in their natural environment.

A horse can make a difference between life and death by making even the smallest noises that may seem insignificant to us. A plastic bag moving in wind could be a dangerous snake. Rustling sounds could indicate a predator in the bushes. Water splashing could indicate an animal in the water.

They flee quickly because they feel threatened. Although domestic horses can be quite docile, wild horses like the Przewalski wild horses are more alert and can be easily scared.

What are horses most afraid of?

One quarter horse we had was afraid of butterflies. Every time he saw one, he would become distracted and fidgety. I was struck by the fear that horses have of certain things.

Horses are wild animals by nature. Although were domesticated horses a few thousand year ago, many of their wild instincts are still evident. Horses are afraid of alligators, lions, and wolves in the wild.

Domestic horses are susceptible to being scared of unfamiliar sounds. This could include barking, plastic bags, or other suspicious sounds. They also fear being left alone for too long.

One horse kick can deliver a force of up to 2,000 pounds per square in, but horses rarely get the chance to use this weapon. They would rather run.

Here are four tips to stop your horse spooking.

It is important to have a well-trained horse. You must be their boss to get them to understand who is in charge. You must also build trust and a bond with your horse so that they aren’t afraid to ask for help.

Every horse is different, but I have learned some tricks that can help horse owners to discipline their horses and avoid unnecessary spooking.

You can help your horse stop spooking by identifying the root causes. To stop spooking, you can also try these:

  • Before you take your horse on a trail, warm him up. You should choose somewhere your horse feels comfortable. Allow your horse to walk, trot, or canter for at least 15 minutes.
  • Are you afraid of an object for your horse? Slow down. Do not force your horse toward the object. Instead, you should try to get your horse to face the object from a distance. Then stop moving until it feels comfortable. You can ride in circles around the object, decreasing the radius every now and again.
  • Know your horse. Different strategies work for each horse, depending on their personality. Owners may find it helpful to feed the horse at the location that is spookish, have other horses nearby, or walk with the horse until they calm down. Sometimes the spook is temporary and can be ignored.
  • Keep your horse under control. Horses can be very sensitive to how you behave. Horses are very attentive to your body language and verbal cues in order to determine if you feel confident and how you should behave.

Relax when a horse is scared. Do not push in, tense or pull the reins. Sometimes you need to stop pushing in, tensing your legs or pulling the reins too hard.

Predator vs. Preys – Which ones are horses?

Prey and predator animals can exist. Prey is any animal that hunts and kills other animals. A predator could be a bear, big cats or sharks. Crocodiles and crocodiles are also examples. Examples of prey include sheep, cows and zebras.

A predator is a creature which hunts another animal to feed. They have sharp teeth and claws, and they need meat to fuel their bodies. They will attack and not defend themselves in any situation in which they are forced to fight.

Depending on the situation, many predators can also be prey. A snake, for example, is a predator of rodents, but it is prey to raptors such as eagles or hawks.

Horses are prey animals that eat grass or low-protein food . Horses live in groups and depend on each other for survival. They will run away if they are forced to fight or run.

What can you do to spook horses?

Horses can be very sensitive to their surroundings and may become scared by loud noises, other animals, or even simple changes in clothing color. These include loud noises, animals or simple things like a person’s clothes color.

Horses will often run away from scary objects in an attempt to flee them. Horses and riders can be injured by this reaction. They may fall into an object while being startled, and could inflict injury on themselves or their rider.

Sometimes horses get scared of things that are not normal for them. These are some examples:

  • Being slapped

One study suggests that patting your horse raises its heartbeat while scratching it makes it feel more relaxed.

Horses don’t like being slapped or patted. This is not what they are used to from wild horses. They prefer to be gently scratched or rubbed instead.

  • Closed spaces like horse trailers

Horses don’t like living in indoor environments. Horses prefer to roam free in sunny, open areas. Horses can be easily scared by dark and enclosed spaces, such as indoor arenas or horse trailers .

Horses can also be afraid of being placed in a stable. It is easier for horses to trust you and be sure they have food, but too much confinement can cause fear.

  • Random sights, sounds

One of our friends owned a beautiful mare who was extremely athletic, but was afraid of butterflies and panicked. Horses can be scared of many innocent things, including water hoses and footballs, car horns, rabbits and water hoses.

It’s normal for horses to be scared by everyday things if you take good care of their health.

Horses are herd animals. Horses feel more secure around trusted people or horses. They are not comfortable with quiet environments.

If your horse is the only one you have, or it does not get enough interaction with other horses, it may develop anxiety symptoms like being easily scared, shaking, sweating, and losing appetite.

What can a horse do if it is afraid?

Horses trust us as herd animals to recognize when they are afraid. Usually, if your horse is acting strangely or out of character, you can recognize it and tell when they are becoming uncomfortable.

Your horse will often avoid an object if it feels threatened. Some horses will stand firm and not move.

It could be a sign that your horse is afraid.

Horses who are afraid might move their ears quickly. They may tighten up their neck muscles and arch their necks. Horses that are scared might have a higher heartbeat or heavy snorting.

Every horse is unique in expressing its emotions. For example, some horses might start to pace or tremble at certain points. You will be able to tell when your horse is afraid faster if you’re more familiar with it.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!