No Horsing Around with Equinophobia
Your buddies have been talking about going horseback riding this weekend to take a break from the busy city life. They ask if you’d like to come along, and almost immediately you break into a sweat. Your hands become fidgety. Your breathing feels labored.
You’re in a state of panic.
The thought of being lifted up on the back of a galloping, restless beast is not only unappealing to you, but downright scary. You love your friends, but how do you tell them that you can’t go on this trip because you are afraid of horses?
The fear of horses, also called equinophobia or hippophobia, is the medical explanation for why the thought of going horseback riding may result in mental anguish. The heart-rending fear of falling off a galloping horse or getting thrown by one is a real fear for many. Confronting it would require an in-depth understanding of the nature, symptoms, and causes of the phobia.
The Definition of Equinophobia
Equinophobia is the irrational and resolute fear of horses, horse riding, or even petting a horse. It can sometimes extend to a fear of other hoofed animals, such as donkeys. It is triggered by a morbid fear of heights or the trauma from falling off a horse in the past, getting trampled by one, or watching it happen to someone else.
Most people are naturally wary of horses for the first time, but being equinophobic suggests an extreme and unhealthy fear of the animal
The fear of horse riding can also be genetic. A parent being unexplainably fearful of horses or other hoofed animals can unconsciously pass it to their offspring. Whatever may be the cause of one’s phobia for horses, the reaction is the same: a compelling and persistent desire to avoid horses and like animals at all cost.
Many equinophobics are lucky enough to have few encounters with horses. Unlike birds, snakes, cats, or dogs, you usually don’t have chance encounters with horses. Spotting them in urban environments is uncommon. Therefore, the phobia rarely manifests or causes real threat to a person’s quality of life.
However, if you want to take that trip with your friends and not have your fears impede your fun, it is possible to overcome your equinophobia.
Symptoms of Equinophobia
Like other phobias, your acute fear of horses has a number of telltale signs that help diagnose your specific condition and put it in perspective. Just thinking about a horse, or even seeing the animal in a book, leaves you hyperventilating. Others have to encounter it physically for their symptoms to manifest. Either way, common equinophobia symptoms include:
- Screaming and crying
- Panic attack
- Nervous breakdown
- Shortness of breath
- Acting hysterical
- Heart racing
How to Treat Your Fear of Horses
Although large in size, horses are, for the most part, gentle animals. Your instinct may not feel far-fetched and feeling scared of horses may seem normal, but if you want to overcome this anxiety, there are many options available at your disposal.
How to Help Yourself
The following are ways you can help yourself overcome this morbid fear of horses. Can equinophobia be cured? Yes! Of course!
1. Learning about Horses
One way of helping yourself cure your phobia is by reading about horses. You will find that, if well-bred, horses are not nearly as harmful as they look. Convert your fear into love and admiration by studying these creatures. Watch movies and documentaries that discuss them. Observe them in a controlled environment like the zoo where you do not have to ride or get close to them.
2. Gradual Desensitization
This is a strategy that works for most phobias. It helps you reduce the power that your fear has over you by gradually familiarizing yourself with the presence of the trigger. You can schedule visits to a ranch, zoo, or anywhere else you can find a horse. Start by petting, or just learning to touch them. Let them eat off your hands. Hold their reins or take a walk with them. Slowly but surely, you will end up on horseback wondering why you were ever so afraid of these creatures in the first place.
3. Breathing Exercises
Shortage of breath is a popular symptom of most phobias. Practicing regular breathing exercises is a sure way to help regulate your breath and control your anxiety.
Getting Professional Help
Regardless of how far you can go with self-help, equinophobia is still a psychological condition. It may require the attention of a qualified healthcare professional to treat properly. The following are possible therapies commonly used to treat such phobias:
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This procedure helps the patient replace abnormal patterns of thinking with more positive and reassuring ones. They help you understand that your reaction to horses is extreme, and primarily based on scary scenarios you have built up and amplified in your head. CBT arms you with the appropriate tools needed to take charge of your mind and renavigate your thoughts.
Many times, what most sufferers need for their phobia is proper counseling. Enlisting the help of a therapist to counsel you through your fear and place you on the path of mindfulness and freedom is another way you may overcome equinophobia.
How to Cope with Equinophobia
Try not to live your life in constant avoidance of horse-related situations. This is why exposure therapy is a huge part of your recovery process. Join a support group of people experiencing similar problems. No one likes to feel lonely and scared.
Learning that equinophobia can be genetic could spur you into overcoming your fear for future generations. Give them the gift of a fun-filled life with no horse-induced panic attacks.
Practice meditation and breathing exercises during the desensitization process. Do physical exercises and keep fit so that you gain more confidence and composure while riding.
The Bottom Line
You may hardly ever encounter a horse in an urban environment. But overcoming your fear of horses may do wonders for your self-esteem and widen your list of hobbies. It is also a sure way to model positive behavior. Believe you can do this. Visualize yourself someday riding gallantly across a field without a care in the world.