Are Horses Afraid of Snakes?
It is not uncommon to hear stories of horses being extremely fearful of snakes. Many riders may have experienced a horse that shies away at the mere glimpse of a serpent in the environment, or acted up whenever a snake is seen. Is this fear of snakes a natural instinct for horses, or a learned behavior?
Fear of Snakes as an Instinct
Wild horses, such as mustangs and zebras, live in habitats where they come across snakes more often than their domesticated counterparts. This increased exposure has the potential to hardwire their brains to fear certain predators, such as snakes. It makes sense that horses have developed a natural fear of snakes, so as to better protect themselves.
Fear of Snakes as a Learned Behavior
The fear of snakes can also be a learned behavior. To understand this, we must look to the relationship between horses and their owners. Horses are creatures of habit and can pick up on the body language of their owners. If an owner is scared of snakes and vocalizes this fear to their horse, their horse may learn to feel the same way. Additionally, if the horse witnesses his owner hesitating or being anxious at the sight of a snake, it can trigger an instinctive response to flee.
Circumventing a Horse’s Fear of Snakes
If your horse is scared of snakes, there are a few steps you can take to help overcome this fear.
- Remain Calm: It is important to remain calm and practice your own body language around snakes. Horses are very in-tune to their rider’s emotions, so staying calm and natural can help put your horse at ease.
- Introduce Slowly: Introduce your horse to snakes in a slow and steady manner. Begin by leading your horse away from the snake and allowing him to observe from a safe distance. As he builds more confidence in these situations, you can gradually get closer to the snake.
- Reward Positive Behavior: Whenever your horse remains composed, it is essential to reward this positive behavior. An occasional treat will help reinforce the desired reaction and create a healthier, more positive relationship between the horse and snake.
In conclusion, it is unclear whether or not horses have a natural fear of snakes. Some people believe this fear is instinctive, while others believe it is a learned behavior. As a horse owner, it is essential to create a supportive environment and take the necessary steps to help your horse overcome its fear of snakes, if one exists. Doing so will help build the horse-owner bond and create a healthier, happier attitude towards the uncanny creatures.