AskHQ: Cow phobia

[Q] My horse has a terrible fear of cows, and we often come across them when we hack out. He freezes, trembles and then spins and bolts away. What can I do to help him overcome his fear?

Asked by Suzanne Grabe

[A] Usually, once a horse has seen a cow a few times, he learns that there’s not all that much to be afraid of. It’s difficult to help your horse overcome his fear unless he has frequent contact with cows. One suggestion would be to box him over to a neighbouring yard where he can stand in a paddock by himself, with full view of the cows. This way, he won’t be endangering you with his flight responses (bolting away). If possible, have a cow in the paddock next to him so that he can really see the cow up close, but don’t put him in so small a paddock that he feels confined or trapped. He needs to be able to move away when he feels uncomfortable and re-approach when he feels more confident. Box him over every weekend for a few weeks in a row if you can, or until he has relaxed entirely. Horses find comfort in numbers, so when hacking out, try to go with a group of other confident horses. When he realises that the others aren’t running at the sight of the cows, he should ease up.

Answered by Charlotte Bastiaanse