Published 12-27-2010 7:44 PM | Fernanda Camargo
The physical and behavioral characteristics of horses guarantee that they act based on instinct, running away from danger or defend themselves if they feel trapped. They will kick, strike or bite if they can't get away from danger. The anatomy of the horse's legs enables them to sleep while standing. Therefore, a dozing horse can become alert and be ready for action very quickly if an unfamiliar noise or movement occurs, or if the other horses become alert.
Frightened horses will not listen to their handlers or riders and will not respond to cues as when they are calm. This can be very dangerous. Good training and horsemanship skills result in the handler or rider being able to take control of the horse before it becomes highly alert and frightened. Good training also desensitizes horses to situations where they otherwise could become highly alert.
Another fact that cannot be ignored about horses is that they are herd animals who want to be together. Living in a herd means safety!! There is a reduced chance that each individual animal will be caught by a predator and there are many eyes and ears looking out for danger. When allowed to live in a herd, horses will spend time grooming each other, playing, grazing and simply standing together. This is why some behaviors, such as when horses panic because they get separated from each other, seem very irrational to us.
We need to understand horse behavior before we are able to correct bad habits and help our horses mature as individuals. People without horsemanship skills will, invariably, raise confused, misbehaving horses. New horse owners should always seek the help of professionals before they try to handle and ride their horses on their own.