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How to Help Someone Overcome Their Fear of Horses

If you know someone who has a fear of horses, possibly from having had a bad experience with a horse, there are ways you can help them overcome their fear. People are scared of horses for many reasons, some of the most common being; they’ve had a bad experience riding a horse, they’ve seen someone else be injured, or they are afraid of how big horses are. Whatever is the cause of the fear, you can help them overcome it by offering them the support they need.


What is a Fear of Horses?

Commonly termed as “equinophobia”, a fear of horses is a persistent and undue fear of horses and other similar animals such as ponies, mules and donkeys.

Even when a horse is known to be extremely gentle and well-trained, people with a fear of horses will still be anxious when near a horse.


Step One: Understanding the Fear and Its Cause

Everyone has a reason for being fearful and understanding where this fear has come from/or what has caused it is important. Is it the size of the horse that frightens them? Did they have a bad experience with a horse in the past? Have they seen someone injured on a horse before?

Talk through their fear of horses with them and encourage them to explore the cause of their fear and how it has affect them. Discovering the cause of their fear can be particularly useful in helping them overcome it.


Step Two: Teach them About Horses

Share your love of horses with people who are fearful of these wonderful animals. Share your favourite books about horses with them and encourage them to study and learn as much as they can about horses’ habits, physiology, needs, and behaviour. Understanding horses better is an extremely effective way of overcoming fear.


Step Three: See a Horse Up Close

Of course, there is nothing quite like seeing a horse up-close and actually spending time with one. However, it is important to remember that this is a big step for many people with a fear of horses and, therefore, do not rush it! Only attempt this step if you think it is sensible for the person and it will challenge them in a positive way, rather than making their fear of horses worse.


Step Four: Spend Time with Horses

If spending one-on-one time with a horse up-close is a little too scary to think about, why not encourage your friend to attend shows with you or volunteer at a local barn. The more time they spend around horses, the more it’s likely they will start to realise they’re really not that bad. Constant exposure to horses can be helpful for some people, teaching them that there’s nothing to fear. You will find this works the same way for the horses, too. The more horses are exposed to you, the more trusting of you they become.


Step Five: Interact with Horses

If your friend is afraid of a specific horse, perhaps having gone through a bad experience, why not encourage them to help with the horse’s daily care duties. Doing things other than riding a horse, such as cleaning his stall, giving him a bath, or being the one to tack him up can help people regain the confidence they’ve lost.


Step Six: Don’t Force Progress

We all tend to set unrealistic goals for ourselves from time to time and when we know someone with a fear of horses, we want them to overcome it as soon as possible! However, unfortunately, this can cause us all to force progress.

Encouraging those with a fear of horses to attempt too much before they are really ready can do more damage that good. 

So, if you know someone struggling with a fear of horses, let them take it slow and do small things like grooming and ground work for as long as they like, until they feel comfortable to move forwards. The progress may be slow but it will eventually help your friend to fully overcome their fear of horses fully.


Step Seven: Improve Physical Fitness Levels

The physical fitness of a horse rider can help prevent fears from creeping in. The more physically fit you are, the more strength, coordination, and balance you will have to be in control during a ride. Physical fitness is extremely important during a ride and will certainly help those scared of horses become more confident in their own horse riding abilities. What’s more, if your friend’s fears are of a horse acting up, being physically fit will reduce these fears as it’s easier to be in control of the things happening.


Step Eight: Find the Right Horse

Helping someone overcome their fear of horses is a big responsibility and finding the right horse can have a significant impact. A person who is afraid of horses must be paired with the right horse – ideally one that will be gentle and slow, ignoring the fear instead of taking advantage of it.

Finding the right horse for your friend is important as they ease back into horse riding, or perhaps ride for the first time, as it can teach them horses are gentle and caring.


Be Patient

Having a fear of horses is a real and tangible experience for many people around the world and, for some, can be crippling. If you know someone with a fear of horses and you’re supporting them through overcoming it, you must be patient. The time it takes for someone to overcome their fear varies. It could be weeks, months, or years! So, do your best to encourage and support your friend as best as you can!


Share Your Experience with Us

Did you ever experience a fear of horses? If so, how did you overcome it? What worked for you?

We would love to hear from you! Feel free to share your experiences with us by sending us an email with the subject line: ‘Overcoming Fear of Horses’.

Sarah Macey is the owner of Prime Stables, a family-run company who manufacture and install equestrian buildings throughout the UK and parts of Europe. Read more here.