I wish I had a dollar for every time someone tells me flat out that they know horses can sense fear in humans and take advantage of it to behave badly.

Usually it’s someone who says with a certain amount of pride ” I rode a horse once – but never again!”.

Usually it’s because the horse they were on bolted, or refused to go forward, or shied, or exhibited any of a number of flight behaviours associated with the horse being afraid, not the rider.

Let me be very clear:

Horses DO NOT maliciously take advantage of a rider who is afraid of them.

Horses DO tune into the fact that the rider is afraid – and they then become afraid as well.

They expect the rider to be aware of the environment. They assume that because the rider is afraid, there surely must be something to be afraid of, even though they can’t necessarily see it. So they get nervous, unfocused, stop listening to the rider and start to behave according to their instincts. And their instincts tell them to flee, with or without the permission – or indeed the company – of the rider.