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Fear Factors: Why Horses Spook

Equine psychologist Antonia J.Z. Henderson, Ph.D. discusses the science of fear in horses, including natural, hard-wired responses and learned behaviour.

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By: Antonia J.Z. Henderson |

After a great lesson, you take your horse down the stable driveway for a relaxing cool out. You revel in the beauty of nature and of the magnificent horse you are privileged to have as a part of your life. Your reverie is abruptly disrupted when your horse flies sideways, nearly unseating you. You can feel his heart pumping wildly as you try to bring all of those four feet back to the ground and you wonder what on earth is so terrifying about a mailbox. The very same mailbox that has been at the end of this driveway, unchanged for the last five years. The simple answer is that your horse’s mailbox hysteria is hard-wired. Horses are evolutionarily designed to be afraid, they are physiologically constructed for hyper vigilance and a speedy retreat, and their fear response is genuine – they really are afraid. And sometimes because we have…

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