Equinophobia (Fear of Horses)

Overview

What is equinophobia?

People who have equinophobia have an extreme fear of horses. They may also be afraid of ponies, donkeys and mules. The word equinophobia comes from “Equus,” the Latin word for horses. “Phobos” is the Greek word for fear.

Another word for fear of horses is hippophobia. “Hippos” is the Greek word for horses. In the English language, equine is more commonly associated with things related to horses. For instance, an equestrian is a person who rides horses.

What do people with equinophobia fear?

A person with equinophobia may be afraid of:

  • Riding a horse.
  • Touching or being near a horse.
  • Photos or images of horses in movies or shows, including animated horses.
  • Horse sounds like neighs or galloping hooves.
  • Horse stables and tack, such as saddles, bridles, bits and reins.

What is a phobia?

A phobia is an anxiety disorder that makes you unnecessarily fearful of something that isn’t likely to cause harm. Equinophobia is a type of specific phobic disorder focused on horses.

How common is equinophobia?

It’s hard to know exactly how many people have a specific phobia, like equinophobia (fear of horses). Many people may keep this fear to themselves or may not recognize they have it. About 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with a specific phobia disorder at some point in their lives.

Symptoms and Causes

Who is at risk for equinophobia?

Women and people designated female at birth (DFAB) are more likely to have a specific phobic disorder, but phobias affect all ages and sexes. You may be more likely to develop equinophobia if you have:

  • Family members who have phobias, anxiety disorders or are afraid of horses.
  • A gene change (mutation) that may bring on an anxiety disorder.

What other phobias are associated with a fear of horses?

People who have a phobia of horses may also have:

  • Acrophobia (fear of heights).
  • Basiphobia (fear of falling).
  • Biophobia (fear of nature).
  • Thanatophobia (fear of death).
  • Traumatophobia (fear of injury).
  • Zoophobia (fear of animals).

Why do I have a fear of horses?

Horses are powerfully strong animals. Their behaviors can be unpredictable, especially if they aren’t well trained or experience abuse or neglect.

Many people become fearful of horses after a scary or traumatic experience, such as being:

  • Thrown from a horse.
  • Bitten, stepped on or kicked by a horse.
  • A witness to someone injured by a horse.
  • Unable to stop a runaway horse while riding.

What are equinophobia symptoms?

If you have an extreme fear of horses, you may go to great lengths to avoid seeing or being near horses. If you’re at a parade or fair with horses, you may run in the other direction or hide. Some people become immobilized with fear.

Symptoms of equinophobia may include:

Diagnosis and Tests

How is equinophobia diagnosed?

A healthcare provider will assess your symptoms and ask about previous experiences with horses. You may see a mental health professional like a psychologist. To diagnose a specific phobic disorder, providers refer to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-5).

You may have a specific phobic disorder like equinophobia if you have:

  • Phobia symptoms when you see or think about horses.
  • Persistent fear of horses that lasts for at least six months.
  • Ever changed your routines or behaviors to avoid seeing or being near horses.
  • Diminished quality of life due to phobia symptoms.

Management and Treatment

How can you get over a fear of horses?

A psychologist or other mental health specialist can help you overcome a fear of horses. You may benefit from one or more of these treatments:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A provider uses psychotherapy (talk therapy) to help you explore the underlying cause of the phobia. With CBT, you learn how to use relaxation techniques to manage phobia symptoms and overcome your fear.
  • Exposure therapy: You use relaxation techniques while a provider gradually exposes you to images of horses. You may work your way up to being near a horse and then touching a horse. Exposure therapy makes you less sensitive or responsive to your fear. This therapy is also called desensitization.
  • Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy puts you into a hypnotic state, or trance, to help you overcome thoughts and emotions related to horses.
  • Medications: As you go through therapy, anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants can ease symptoms. These medicines can make it easier for you to be around horses until you finish therapy.

What are the complications of equinophobia?

A severe phobic disorder increases your risk of:

Living With

When should I call the doctor?

You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Panic attacks.
  • Persistent anxiety that interferes with daily life or sleeping.
  • Signs of depression or problems with substances.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What is causing equinophobia?
  • What is the best treatment for me?
  • Should I try exposure therapy?
  • How long will I need therapy?
  • Can medications help?
  • Should I watch for signs of complications?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Depending on where you live and the types of activities you enjoy, it may be easy or difficult to avoid seeing horses. But even in cities, police officers often patrol on horseback and horses may take tourists around to see the sights. Because having a phobia increases your risk for other phobias, anxiety disorder and panic attacks, it’s best to seek help to overcome this fear. Psychotherapies, including CBT and exposure therapy, can make it easier for you to be around horses.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/24/2022.

References

  • American Psychological Association. What Is Exposure Therapy? (https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/exposure-therapy) Accessed 3/22/2022.
  • Merck Manual (Consumer Version). Phobic Disorders (Phobias). (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/quick-facts-mental-health-disorders/anxiety-and-stress-related-disorders/phobic-disorders-phobias) Accessed 3/22/2022.
  • Merck Manual (Consumer Version). Specific Phobic Disorders. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mental-health-disorders/anxiety-and-stress-related-disorders/specific-phobic-disorders) Accessed 3/22/2022.
  • National Health Service (UK). Overview: Phobias. (https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/phobias/overview/) Accessed 3/22/2022.
  • National Institute of Mental Health. Specific Phobia. (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/specific-phobia) Accessed 3/22/2022.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Impact of the DSM-IV to DSM-5 changes on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519704/table/ch3.t11/) [Internet]. Accessed 3/22/2022.

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