How do I Overcome a Fear of Horses?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

A fear of horses may come from many sources and prevent a person from riding or even getting close to a horse. This fear, known as equinophobia or hippophobia, may be difficult to overcome and upsetting for those who love horses but are afraid to ride them. Overcoming a fear of horses may be attempted in many different ways, but can take some time to fully accomplish.

The fear of horses is known as equinophobia or hippophobia.
The fear of horses is known as equinophobia or hippophobia.

Horses are large and impressive creatures; many people find that they love the power and majesty of the animals right up to the time they come into actual contact with a horse. It cannot be denied that horses are generally large, strong, and sometimes unpredictable. If frightened or badly trained, a horse can indeed be a danger to people. Even a well-trained horse can have an accident that puts a rider in danger. A fear of horses is quite natural, but overcoming this phobia is far from impossible.

It is common for people to love horses but be afraid to ride them.
It is common for people to love horses but be afraid to ride them.

It is first important to try and understand the reason a fear of horses is occurring. Some people develop a fear after being falling off or being thrown from a horse. Others may experience anxiety while riding, since the animal is so much bigger and stronger than the rider and could presumably ignore commands and behave however it wants. Some people may simply be afraid of the size and power of a horse, or be worried about being stepped on or kicked.

In severe cases, people may try hypnotherapy or other forms of phobia treatment to overcome a fear of horses. A qualified therapist will go through a number of exercises, relaxation techniques and other methods to help a patient overcome this fear. Some therapists work directly with horses, helping people with a fear of the animals learn to manage and eventually overcome this fear.

A good instructor may be another way to overcome a fear of horses. By coming to understand how to care for and ride a horse, a person may begin to feel more comfortable around the animals. Instructors often train people not only in how to ride a horse, but how to brush and clean the animal, care for its tack, and understand the various signs and signals that a horse may be displaying. Familiarity may help calm anxiety.

Some people may develop a fear of horses after a first riding lesson. Knowledgeable riders look so natural and at ease on horseback that it may be easy to assume that riding is instinctual and that it will all work right away. It is important to remember that experienced riders have had years of training and riding, and that they, too, once had no idea how to make a horse trot, canter, or stop. The ease and grace of an advanced rider can only come about through repetition and training; having a bad or frustrating first lesson does not mean that a person shouldn't keep trying.

For some people, a fear of horses can stem from feeling like they may fall off a horse while riding one.
For some people, a fear of horses can stem from feeling like they may fall off a horse while riding one.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments

Scrbblchick

I'm a little fearful of riding a horse, although I don't fear horses in general. I like them, in fact. I can understand a fear of horses because they are big animals and yes, they can hurt a human.

I'd say one way to overcome a phobia is education. Horses are not, in general, dangerous animals, They are not predators and are not venomous. Certainly, they don't have the negative connotation snakes do.

So, one way to help overcome a phobia might be to introduce the person to a Shetland pony, or to a young colt. Watching a colt frolic is delightful, and Shetland ponies are much too small to cause too much damage to a person. A person who fears horses might be all right with a "small taste" of horse, and then can work their way up from there. This is for phobias that are not crippling, obviously. Some people would need a great deal of work with a therapist before they are ready for this step.

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