Does Your Horse Have A Fear Of Bugs? Check out this Q and A with Julie Goodnight.
My horse has a fear of bugs, over the last year it has steadily gotten worse to where I am worried he might hurt someone. Do you have any suggestions on how to fix this problem? With horseflies and bees. Even the sound of them makes him want to buck and bolt. Please help!
Julie: Your horse’s fear of bugs that bite and sting is understandable, but it does not give him license to break the rules and do whatever he wants, when he wants. The agreed upon rules of riding are that he goes where you want at the speed you dictate without questioning; he signed onto this deal when he was trained (hopefully). The fact that this has gotten worse over time means you have gone along with his reactions and relinquished control and authority. Step back and take a big-picture long-range view of your relationship with your horse. Are you clearly the leader in all things with your horse? Analyze your interactions and try to understand your horse’s point of view. It’s likely either you are in charge of him or he is in charge of you—that’s horse behavior. Looking at the big picture may give you some more valuable insights. For the immediate fix, I would put the horse to immediate hard and intense work when he starts becoming reactive—do not stop to gather yourself—move forward expeditiously, at a working trot, then start issuing directives— turn right, turn left, turn right, speed up, slow down, circle right, circle left, go over here, now let’s go over there, etc. I would stay in that mode until my horse was breathing heavily and relaxing throughout his body and was totally compliant. Then let him stop and rest. If a bug sets him off again, repeat this process. The most likely mistake you’ll make if you are not a proficient rider, is stopping him too soon—before it was too uncomfortable for him. The goal is that he makes the decisions that his over-reactions and disobedience are not worth the trouble.