How Horses Show Fear - The Five Fs
 By Winniefield Park   •   29th Sep 2013   •   7,279 views   •   0 comments
How Horses Show Fear

My daughter is bringing along a large pony. She had originally thought she would buy the pony, get it started and then sell it before winter. However, she really likes the pony and now wants to keep it over the winter and show it a bit in the spring. You can tell that this pony is a ďthinker". She's very smart and learns quickly. Everything was going well, and my daughter was very excited about having a smart youngster to work with.

But, in her excitement, she may have pushed the pony faster than she should have. The result was, a very short time into a schooling session the pony froze. What transpired when the pony unfroze is the type of thing that turns guardian angels' (and mothers') hair grey. My daughter quickly learned that she had to curb her ambition and go the pony's speed, not her's. The pony had exhibited one of the five Fs, when it reached 'information overload'.

Horses have five types of responses when they become fearful: flight, fight, fidget, freeze and faint.

Flight is the first choice response of a horse that senses danger or pain. It's what sends horses thundering when they see a perceived threatólike a hungry cougar, or a mailbox dripping horse blood. Flight is what horses are built for.

When flight isn't possible, horses will fight. That's why a horse in its stall or in the cross ties, may kick or bite if they feel threatened. If a horse is really backed into a corner, they will defend themselves quite aggressively.

Freezing is often seen as being stubborn. This is a defense mechanism and usually a precursor to flight. Under saddle, this can happen, with the horse holding its breath and standing stock still. Since it can't bring into play its flight response, being restrained by the rider, it may act out in other ways, such as bucking or rearing.

I've never seen a horse faint. I've certainly heard about it. The horse, under some stress, simply shuts down and sinks or falls down. Horses that are very cold backed may do this in response to the pain. A horse put in something like overly tight side reins or over-check may respond by fainting as well.

We've probably all seen this reaction. Horses that chew the bit shanks, grab the lead ropes, get pushy, flap their lips, or act out in other ways that could be regarded as 'fidgeting or fiddling'. We might think that the horse is doing this to get attention, or because it's bored. However, some horses fidget because they're having trouble coping with a situation.

Each reaction is triggered by the production of certain chemicals that either shut down or activate specific parts of the brain, causing the horse to stop thinking and start reacting. A fidgeting horse may be distracting itself, like we do when we play computer games instead of studying or working. So how do we prevent any one of the five Fs? It's almost impossible to prevent them completely.

If you're out riding and a hot-air balloon suddenly looms overhead, whooshing its canister of fuel, your horse is going to react. Good schooling does a lot to contain spooks that might turn into a run for the hills episode. A calm and clear request from the rider can often calm a spooky horse.

When training, be sure that you are going the horse's pace, not your own. Horse time isn't our time, and it may take a few more lessons to perfect what you are teaching your horse, regardless of the show that is only two days away. In a situation where the horse is freezing, it's important to get the horse to put its head down and start breathing.

A horse with its head down is more relaxed, and you can teach 'head down' when you're working from the ground. As long as the head is up, the ears are pricked, and the eyes are bulging, adrenaline is being produced. To prevent an explosive chemical reaction, pay attention to body language and work on 'head down'.

Pay attention to what a fidgeting horse may be telling you. Rather than just regarding it as cute or annoying, notice the situation it's happening in, and how the horse may actually be expressing stress.

Image Credit: © Angela Cable |
Horse News More In This Category:  General      Horse News More From This Author:  Winniefield Park
 More News by Winniefield Park
PonyBox Highest Earners Early April
11th Apr 2021   |   General   |   Winniefield Park
The three highest earners on PonyBox are from the same stable. All have successful offspring and two are from the same line. As we swing into April, hereís a look at these top winning horses. ...
Horse Tail Super Clean with ketchup
8th Apr 2021   |   General   |   Winniefield Park
Do you have twenty minutes and a big bottle of ketchup? That might be all you need to take your horseís winter-stained tail from dingy yellow to sparkling white. This quick tip shows you how this common condiment can become an ind ...
Bergen County Horse Rescue
7th Apr 2021   |   General   |   Winniefield Park
Bergen County Horse Rescue is located near Mahwah, New Jersey. Recently, the rescue was the subject of a film short produced through Sony I Alpha Universe. While many of the viewers will be analyzing the quality of the film, the r ...
PonyBox Top Horses For March 2021
4th Apr 2021   |   General   |   Winniefield Park
Three PonyBox mares are holding top jump, rank and win/lose streak as we head for the last weekend in March. ...
Containing Your Horse While Camping
3rd Apr 2021   |   General   |   Winniefield Park
Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are looking forward to warmer weather, and that may mean we are planning some outdoor adventures such as camping. If youíre taking your horse with you, itís not going to fit in your tent or c ...
First Attempt at Pony Sledding Video
1st Apr 2021   |   General   |   Winniefield Park
Do you have snow left. Winter isnít over for many of us, and that means there is still time to try a new winter sport. And, just maybe you know of a small pony that isnít busy. Just grab a harness and a sled and go dashing throug ...
Senegalese Boy Journey as Top Jockey
31st Mar 2021   |   General   |   Winniefield Park
For most of us, the passion to ride takes hold at a very young age. Thatís how it was for a young Senegalese boy, who has become a top jockey in his country. With the support of his community this young man has his sights set high ...
St. Patrickís Day PonyBox Leaders
28th Mar 2021   |   General   |   Winniefield Park
While our St. Patrickís Day celebrations may have been subdued, PonyBox horses were still going strong. The week of St. Pats saw these horses capturing the top spots. ...
  View All News by Winniefield Park
©2002 - 2021   PonyBox LLC Create Account Advertise Terms Privacy Contact Us
201 Members Online 270,354 Registered Members 2,870 News Articles 12,288,521 Unique News Article Views 295,044,680 Website Views