Understanding how your horse reacts to fear could help you to defuse a lot of anxiety in a fearful situation.
Remember your horse’s natural instinct when scared is to run, if they feel for some reason that they can’t run, then they will fight.
So, running for example, may be displayed in a horse that is napping or a horse that bolts with its rider or one that barges out of the stable.
Fighting may be displayed in a horse by bucking and rearing. This is because the horse feels restricted in some way and therefore feels unable to run.
This may also be displayed in a horse that is trying to bite or kick out at the handler, again the horse feels unable to run, so therefore self defence kicks in. Usually this is then seen by us as an aggressive behaviour.
This shows us how closely linked fear is to aggression, or, which we must remember, is really the horse in self defence.
So, knowing this is one thing, but understanding this fully, to the point where we can acknowledge it happening and do something to change that feeling of fear in the horse into gentle calmness and confidence is a completely different thing. This is basically because, we are in fact wired, in exactly the same way as the horse.
So, when the horse displays this running or fighting behaviour we often find it very hard not to feel threatened, vulnerable or scared, so we return to the horse the same impulse, may be a shout, a smack a pull in the mouth. This impulse was made through us by the feeling of fear so therefore, along with the fact that we just hurt the horse or caused pain or distress with our reaction, reinforces to the horse that there is something to be scared of.
To step forward, remember: Aggression is a sign of fear. Both in horses and people. If we return aggression with aggression we are only enforcing the fact that there is indeed something to be scared of.