We all know that horses are prey animals, which leaves them fundamentally different from us as predators, it makes them much more sensitive to things we don’t even think about and even if they’ve never lived in the wild before they will still have these natural instincts built into them.
Their main response is to take flight, built for running away at speed when they feel threatened this is what they will choose to do, but if they can’t for some reason due to being confined in a stable or held by tack, they will take the next best option and that is to fight. Horses cannot fight too well, they don’t have claws or sharp teeth but they can pack a good punch with a kick, or a sharp nip to us humans, they can also make themselves look more threatening by rearing or choose to get rid of the thing causing them discomfort by bucking, all this is a response to fear, discomfort and worry.
But there’s a third response that is often forgotten about and that is to freeze, if all else fails, if there is no where to run, no fight left a prey animal will freeze, they will withdraw their senses so they can no longer feel and in the wild they would do this so much that they basically would prepare for death, so when caught by the predator they would not feel a thing.
As horrific as that sounds, horses in our world still freeze, and they do this often, it tends to happen when they have exhausted all options and they are totally confused, or when they feel the other options get them know where, often these horses are seen as being well behaved or good, but if you look closely you’ll see they’ve actually frozen, they’re terrified or uncomfortable but have gone inwards, their body is still but their mind is racing and when not recognised this can have deep effects on the relationship between horse and human.
Understanding the basics of horse behaviour is vital to understanding the way we communicate with them and how our body effects their reactions, understanding those reactions is just as important as when you’re having a conversation with another person, imagine if their answer was in a language you didn’t understand?