Fear of Cows

My horse is terrified of cows. Is there anything I can do to help him?
Share
Favorite
Please login

No account yet? Register

ADVERTISEMENT

Fear of Cows
Dr. Sue McDonnell says she's had good results with arranging for the horse to live with the species he fears. | Photo: iStock
Q. My horse is a 16.3-hand seven-year-old Thoroughbred off the track. His history is largely unknown. My problem is that in the five months I’ve had him at a boarding stable, he hasn’t gotten over his fear of cows and their field, which is about 10 feet away from the indoor arena and the outdoor ring. He’ll simply refuse to go past, spin, back up, anything. Even when I can get him by the door or side of the outdoor ring, it’s with a lot of tension,  and he holds his head up stiffly. I’ve gotten off, led him by the cows, led him around outside near the cows, and tried turning his attention away from the scary side of the ring.

The kicker is that he’s a lamb on the ground, and manner-wise he’s a dream. He walks into the arena fine, but as soon as I stop to mount or to run down my irons, he has a look at the end of the arena where the door is. He’s much better when the door is closed and he’s concentrating on his job. Even when the door is open and there are no cows to be seen, he’s petrified. In my opinion, five months of regular riding should have at least taken away some of the fear, but he’s the same (right back where we started) every time he walks into the arena or the outdoor ring.

I’ve had him off-property twice, once for a dressage show, and once for a hunter school—both times he was fine.  There was no evidence that he had any specific fears where he was before I bought him. Short of moving him to a different farm, or putting blinkers on him, is there anything more I can do? When he’s “on” he’s a wonderfully willing and athletic horse, and I’d really like to resolve this rather than sell him

Create a free account with TheHorse.com to view this content.

TheHorse.com is home to thousands of free articles about horse health care. In order to access some of our exclusive free content, you must be signed into TheHorse.com.

Start your free account today!

Already have an account?
and continue reading.

Share

Written by:

Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, is a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the author of numerous books and articles about horse behavior and management.

Related Articles

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with

FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com

Sponsored Content

Weekly Poll

sponsored by:

What signs does your horse show when he has gastric ulcers? Please check all that apply.
81 votes · 204 answers

Readers’ Most Popular

Sign In

Don’t have an account? Register for a FREE account here.

Need to update your account?

You need to be logged in to fill out this form

Create a free account with TheHorse.com!