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What is Equinophobia?

Last updated on 3rd May 2023

Equinophobia, an extreme and irrational fear of horses, is a type of specific phobia that is not frequently diagnosed. Although many people have heard of animal phobias, equinophobia is a relatively unknown phobia, with many people not realising that a phobia of horses exists.

Today, we are going to look at equinophobia in more detail, including the common causes, triggers, symptoms and treatment options.

What is equinophobia?

Equinophobia, sometimes referred to as hippophobia, is an extreme, irrational and overwhelming fear of horses. In some cases, people with this phobia also fear ponies, donkeys and mules. Someone with equinophobia may experience intense and overwhelming fear, anxiety or panic when faced with horses. Equinophobia is a type of animal phobia and can be triggered by the sight, sound, smell, touch or thought of horses.

Equinophobia may be related to several different fears, including:

  • Riding a horse.
  • Touching a horse.
  • Being close to a horse.
  • The sound of a horse neighing or the sound of their hooves on the ground.
  • The smells typically associated with horses and horses’ stables.
  • The sight of horse manure on the ground (as it suggests a horse is close by).
  • Horse racing and other horse-related events.
  • Seeing donkeys on a beach.
  • Going to an event that is policed by officers on horses.

In the majority of cases, equinophobia is triggered by a traumatic, negative or scary experience involving a horse. Although many people view horses in a positive way, other people focus on their large size and weight and how powerful and strong they are. Horses can sometimes be unpredictable, particularly if they are not well trained, they have previously been abused or they become spooked by something. The size and strength of horses can make them appear threatening and scary, particularly if you have previously witnessed a horse behaving erratically or unpredictably.

The fear of horses can be connected to several more specific fears, such as:

  • The fear of being trampled by a horse.
  • The fear of falling off a horse and becoming injured.
  • The fear of a horse biting you or kicking you.
  • The fear of being unable to stop a runaway horse.
  • The fear of catching a disease from a horse or horse manure.
  • The fear of experiencing an allergic reaction (if you have animal allergies).

Because an individual with equinophobia may experience intense and overwhelming fear, anxiety or panic when they encounter horses, this can result in avoidance behaviours which are implemented to help them avoid horses or places or situations where they might encounter horses. For example, they may avoid spending time outdoors or attending any events where a horse may be present, including farms, public events and beaches. Avoidance behaviours can negatively impact their social life and their relationships, as well as their ability to perform day-to-day tasks. Avoidance behaviours can also have a paradoxical effect, which means that although you have implemented avoidance behaviours to help you manage or reduce your symptoms, avoiding your triggers can have the opposite effect and instead reinforce your fear and even result in more severe symptoms in the future.

A person with a phobia of horses may also have difficulty concentrating or functioning in certain places and situations. Their phobia of horses may also interfere with their day-to-day life. You may find that you are consumed by thoughts of horses or the fear that you might unexpectedly encounter a horse. This fear and anxiety can have a significant impact on your mental and emotional well-being and your behaviour.

Many people dislike animals or are uncomfortable around them; however, this does not necessarily mean you are experiencing a phobia. Someone with equinophobia may experience symptoms when they are not in close contact with a horse, or the horse poses no risk to them. For example, if the horse is in an enclosure or a paddock and can’t get close to them or when thinking about or remembering an encounter with a horse. Because phobias are irrational and the fear is disproportionate to the true risk, a fear of horses can have a significant impact on your day-to-day life and result in you experiencing fear, anxiety and panic even in situations where there is no risk or danger.

To be classed as equinophobia, your fear of horses will include:

  • Feelings of intense fear, panic or anxiety that are difficult to manage.
  • Fear or anxiety that is out of proportion to the true risk.
  • A fear of horses that lasts for at least six months.
  • Engaging in avoidance behaviours to prevent encounters with horses.
  • A fear of horses that interferes with your day-to-day life, overall well-being or sense of safety.

If you have equinophobia, you may be aware that your fear of horses is irrational and that the risks associated with horses are minimal. However, you may still be unable to control your fear and panic and prevent or reduce your physiological and psychological responses to horses.

Equinophobia can be related to and occur in conjunction with other phobias, such as:

  • Zoophobia: An extreme fear of animals.
  • Fundophobia: An extreme fear of farms.
  • Bovinophobia: An extreme fear of cows and other cattle.
  • Thanatophobia: An extreme fear of death.
  • Traumatophobia: An extreme fear of injury.
  • Acrophobia: An extreme fear of heights.
The causes of equinophobia

How common is equinophobia?

Although equinophobia is a type of animal phobia, it is officially classified as a specific phobia, which is an enduring, overwhelming and irrational fear of a specific object, situation, place or person; in this case, an extreme fear of horses. Because equinophobia falls under the specific phobia umbrella, no specific statistics are available that indicate specifically how prevalent a phobia of horses is.

Approximately 7.5% of people in the UK experience specific phobias, which equates to almost 5 million people. However, compared to other types of phobias, such as agoraphobia or social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobias, including equinophobia, are considered to be significantly underdiagnosed.

This could be for multiple reasons, such as:

  • Specific phobias often develop during childhood and the child is expected to grow out of their fear.
  • Many specific phobias, including equinophobia, are relatively unknown so people may never have heard of their phobia.
  • Many people do not realise that a diagnosis and treatment are available for equinophobia.
  • Some people are embarrassed about their fear so try to hide their phobia.

Similar to a fear of other animals, some people are nervous or scared to be around horses, often citing the size, strength and unpredictability of horses as the reasons why. However, this does not mean that all of these people are experiencing a phobia of horses. Negative thoughts and emotions concerning horses usually occur on a spectrum, which ranges from low levels of fear and anxiety to severe fear, panic and anxiety that impacts on your ability to function in your everyday life, resulting in avoidance behaviours of certain places, situations or objects and impacting on your overall well-being.

Who is at risk of equinophobia?

People of all ages, backgrounds and demographics can develop equinophobia. However, there are specific risk factors that may increase the risk of you developing a fear of horses.

These can include:

  • Having a previous traumatic, scary or negative experience involving a horse.
  • Having a previous traumatic, scary or negative experience involving another animal.
  • Having little day-to-day contact with horses or other similar animals.
  • Having another related phobia, for example, bovinophobia or fundophobia.
  • Being exposed to the fear of horses during childhood or adolescence.
  • Having a close family member, for example, a parent or sibling, with equinophobia.
  • Having a close family member, for example, a parent or sibling, with another phobia.
  • Being an intrinsically more anxious or nervous person.
  • Having a history of anxiety disorders or other mental health difficulties.
  • Going through a significant life stressor, having higher than usual stress levels or being in a heightened mental state (particularly if you are exposed to a fear of horses or have a negative experience involving horses during this time).
  • Having a substance use disorder, such as an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

However, it is important to note that although these risk factors increase the chance that someone will develop equinophobia, they do not guarantee this. An individual with none of the above risk factors may develop equinophobia, whereas someone with several risk factors may never develop the condition and may enjoy spending time around horses throughout their life.

Although you can develop equinophobia at any age, similarly to other specific phobias, it is more likely to develop during childhood or adolescence, particularly if the phobia develops as a result of a traumatic or negative experience involving horses. This is because trauma can cause feelings of anxiety and fear and children often have a reduced ability to cope with these feelings and rationalise their thoughts, meaning they may be more likely to develop a phobia.

How to deal with equinophobia

As well as seeking treatment for your phobia, there are also some strategies you can implement to help you deal with your phobia and manage your symptoms. Coping strategies and calming strategies can be combined with lifestyle changes to help you to alleviate your symptoms and reduce the impact your phobia has on your day-to-day life and overall well-being.

Some strategies can be implemented long term, meaning you can engage in them regularly on a long-term basis to help you reduce the frequency and severity of your phobia symptoms over time and reduce the likelihood that encountering a trigger will result in a negative response. Other strategies can be implemented short term when you are faced with your triggers. Short-term coping and calming strategies can help you to remain calm and reduce or prevent any physiological, psychological and behavioural symptoms.

Some of the long- and short-term coping and calming strategies that can be implemented to help you deal with your equinophobia are:


Desensitising yourself so that you are less triggered by horses can help reduce the impact your phobia has on your everyday life and your well-being. Desensitisation should happen gradually to ensure you feel calm and secure and are not overwhelmed. Some ways you can desensitise yourself are by watching videos of horses and viewing them in a field from a safe distance. Gradually desensitising yourself can help you to slowly reduce your fear response.

Learn about your fear

Identifying what initially caused your fear of horses and thinking about the initial onset of your phobia and the situation surrounding it can help you to understand your phobia in more detail. You can then address the root cause of your fear and any negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are connected to it. Understanding your fear can help you to rationalise and understand the negative thoughts and emotions related to it, reduce your automatic fear response and reduce the impact your phobia has on your life.

Create a fear ladder

A fear ladder can help you to analyse and understand your fear of horses. It can also help you to identify which of your triggers creates more severe fear, anxiety and panic than others. When creating your fear ladder, you will organise your triggers from least severe to most severe. Because phobias are highly individualised, everyone’s fear ladder is different. However, an example fear ladder is shown below:

1 = Riding a horse.
2 = Touching a horse.
3 = Being close to a horse that is not enclosed.
4 = Being close to a horse that is behind a fence or enclosed (for example, in a paddock or stable).
5 = Watching someone else riding a horse.
6 = Watching a video of a horse.

Once you have created your fear ladder, you can then confront your fears one at a time, starting at the bottom of the ladder (the trigger that results in the least phobic response). This can help you to build up your tolerance of your triggers gradually and reduce your fear of horses long term.

Challenge negative thoughts and feelings

Someone with equinophobia may find themselves thinking about horses negatively or recalling negative experiences involving horses frequently. If you find you do this, try to disrupt and challenge any negative thoughts and memories to prevent your fear from escalating. Remind yourself that horses do not pose a danger to you and that your fear is irrational. If you begin to experience symptoms of equinophobia, remind yourself that the feelings will soon pass and that your fear is disproportionate.

Avoid negative depictions of horses or negative stories about horses

TV shows, films or news stories that portray horses in a negative way can validate the negative connotations you already associate with them and cause you to experience more severe fear and anxiety. Avoid any triggering or negative depictions of horses to prevent your phobia from escalating. You should also avoid hearing any negative stories from friends or family, such as a story about someone falling off a horse. Making your family aware of your fear can ensure they are more mindful in the future.

Practise mindfulness

Mindfulness can be beneficial in treating a variety of anxiety disorders, including phobias. It can help you to focus your breathing and attention and reduce the likelihood of you experiencing a panic attack. Mindfulness can also help to reduce the symptoms of equinophobia. It can help you to manage stress and anxiety and explore the connection between mind and body.

Practise yoga or meditation

Yoga and meditation can both be implemented as long-term strategies to help you manage or reduce your phobia. They can teach you how to control your breathing and manage your body’s negative response to your triggers, helping you to feel more in control and calm. Yoga and meditation can reduce the negative thoughts, feelings and responses you may have when faced with horses in the future. Practising them every day can help to improve the symptoms of your phobia over time and reduce the impact your phobia has on your life.

Practise deep breathing exercises

Deep breathing exercises can be effective long term and short term. They are a useful calming strategy that can effectively reduce your stress levels, relieve tension in your body and reduce anxiety and panic. Deep breathing sends a message to your brain to relax and calm down. It can also help you to control your central nervous system, which is central to your stress and anxiety responses. Practise deep breathing regularly, as part of your daily routine and implement the strategies you have learnt if you are in a triggering situation in the future.

Use visualisation techniques

Visualisation is a short-term strategy that can help you to reduce the symptoms of your phobia when you are in triggering situations. If you encounter a horse or can feel the onset of the symptoms of your phobia, visualise a place or memory that keeps you calm or elicits positive emotions to help alleviate your symptoms and prevent your phobia from escalating.

Implement lifestyle changes

Multiple lifestyle factors can worsen the symptoms of equinophobia, such as a poor sleep schedule and high stress levels. To reduce the impact of your phobia, implement a strict sleep routine and take steps to reduce your everyday stress. This can help to reduce the severity of your phobia both short term and long term. Some other lifestyle factors that can help you to reduce the severity of your phobia are eating a healthy, balanced diet and increasing the amount of exercise you do. In the lead-up to potentially triggering situations, avoid caffeine, sugar and other stimulants to reduce the likelihood that your heart rate and blood pressure will rise, and the symptoms of your phobia will worsen.

The triggers for equinophobia

What triggers equinophobia?

Equinophobia has many different potential triggers. Triggers often vary from person to person, with some people having only one trigger, and other people having many different triggers.

Different people experience different triggers, and some people are more easily triggered than others, for example, some people with equinophobia only experience symptoms if they are close to a horse or they see a horse running or neighing, whereas other people’s symptoms are triggered more easily, for example, if they see a bale of hay, which reminds them of a horse.

The types and number of triggers experienced by different people can vary depending on what initially caused your phobia to develop, your perception of the potential risk, the severity of your symptoms and your current mindset and mental health.

The most common triggers of equinophobia are:

  • Riding a horse.
  • Being in close proximity to a horse.
  • Being in a place where horses are typically found, such as a field, farm or stables.
  • Seeing a horse without any reigns or restraints on.
  • Seeing someone else riding a horse.
  • Seeing a horse walking or running.
  • Hearing sounds associated with a horse, such as a horse neighing or the clip-clopping of their hooves.
  • Smelling something you typically associate with a horse, such as hay or manure.
  • Seeing horse manure on the road.
  • Watching a video or seeing a picture of a horse.
  • Seeing something you typically associate with a horse, even if no horse is present, for example, a horse carriage or a horseshoe.

What are the Symptoms of Equinophobia?

Equinophobia symptoms can occur at any time, including when you encounter one of your triggers, when you see, hear, smell or touch horses or when you think about horses or remember a previous encounter with horses. The symptoms of equinophobia can vary significantly in their frequency, severity and the way they manifest. Symptoms can differ from person to person and from situation to situation.

These differences can occur for several reasons, including because of different triggers, the perceived risk and threat of danger, your current mental and emotional health and well-being and any treatments you are undergoing or coping strategies you have implemented.

The symptoms of equinophobia can range from mild to severe, with some people experiencing more severe symptoms than others. It could also be that different triggers and situations result in more severe symptoms than others, for example, your symptoms may be more severe if a horse is running close to you, compared to if you see a horse on the TV.

In some cases, the symptoms of equinophobia can be similar to the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks, particularly if you experience severe symptoms. The symptoms of a phobia are often automatic and uncontrollable. It may feel like you are unable to control or manage your thoughts or feelings and that your phobia is taking over your body.

The symptoms of equinophobia can be physiological (related to your body), psychological (related to your mind) and behavioural and can include:

Psychological symptoms

  • Overwhelming fear, anxiety or panic when faced with horses or when you encounter a trigger.
  • Feelings of fear, anxiety or panic that are out of proportion to the risks.
  • Being unable to control your negative thoughts or feelings, even if you are aware that they are out of proportion to the risk.
  • Feeling immobilised by your fear or unable to move.
  • Anticipatory anxiety in the lead-up to encountering horses.
  • Feeling like you are not in control or are about to lose control.
  • Difficulties concentrating or functioning normally around horses.
  • Feeling defenceless or vulnerable.
  • Experiencing frequent or distressing nightmares about horses.
  • Watching a video or seeing a picture of a horse.
  • Seeing something you typically associate with a horse, even if no horse is present, for example, a horse carriage or a horseshoe.

Physiological symptoms

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
  • Feeling confused or disorientated.
  • Excessive or unusual sweating or clamminess.
  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach upset or indigestion.
  • Shortness of breath, hyperventilating or feeling like you can’t catch your breath.
  • Shaking or trembling.
  • Chills.
  • Tightness in your chest or chest pains.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Increased heart rate, heart palpitations or feeling like your heart is pounding.
  • Muscle tension or stiff muscles.
  • A dry or sticky mouth.
  • A choking sensation, difficulties swallowing or feeling like something is stuck in your throat.
  • A prickly sensation or feeling like you have pins and needles.
  • Unusual tiredness.
  • Having a panic attack.
  • Unusual sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.
  • A lack of appetite when in triggering situations or in the lead-up to triggering situations.
  • Insomnia in the lead-up to triggering situations.

Behavioural symptoms

  • Avoiding horses or any situations or places where you could encounter horses.
  • Refusing to watch a TV show or film with horses in it or where horses are portrayed negatively.
  • Refusal to talk about horses.
  • An urge to run away or hide when faced with a horse.
  • Becoming socially withdrawn.

What causes equinophobia?

There are many possible causes of equinophobia, with the cause or causes varying from person to person. It could be that there is one clear cause of your fear of horses or that your phobia has multiple causes. In some cases, it can be difficult to identify the cause of your phobia, particularly if your symptoms developed slowly over time or your phobia first manifested during childhood or a long time ago.

However, for many people, determining the root cause of their phobia can be beneficial as it can help them to address their initial triggers and any negative patterns of thought or negative feelings that are attached to the initial onset of their phobia. This can make it much easier to treat your phobia and manage your symptoms.

There are many different potential causes of equinophobia, and the causes may be environmental, psychological and genetic. Some of the most common causes of equinophobia are:

A negative, scary or traumatic experience involving horses

This is the most common cause of equinophobia and is known as a direct learning experience or traumatic conditioning. The event that caused the traumatic conditioning may not actually have involved real danger or a real risk. However, as long as the individual experiences significant fear, distress or trauma, this can lead to the development of a phobia. The traumatic experience could include being thrown from a horse, being bitten by a horse, witnessing someone else be injured by a horse or seeing a horse become spooked. Following the traumatic experience, the individual may begin to have intrusive and negative thoughts or memories of the trauma and begin to avoid trauma-related triggers, for example, by avoiding places and situations where they may encounter horses. This can cause the fear or anxiety they felt at the time of the experience to linger or worsen.

Previously feeling physically scared or threatened by a horse

A horse’s imposing size, weight and strength, as well as their large teeth and powerful kick can make them seem threatening or dangerous. The physical size and strength of horses can trigger a phobia of them, particularly for children who are significantly smaller than horses and may feel overwhelmed or threatened when they see a horse. The child may then always consider horses to be physically threatening and dangerous, even as they grow bigger themselves. This can then develop into a phobia.

Having an allergy to horses/horsehair

Someone who has an allergy to horses or horsehair may also experience equinophobia because of the fear that being close to a horse will result in an allergic reaction. People with severe phobias who are at risk of anaphylaxis shock may be more likely to develop a phobia as horses pose a serious risk to them and they may have been taught the dangers of horses and to avoid them from an early age.

Fear rumination

Fear rumination is a common cause of phobias and usually occurs following a negative or traumatic experience involving a horse. Fear rumination occurs when you engage in a repetitive negative thought process and persistently and repetitively recap a traumatic, scary, negative or painful experience involving horses. Over time, these thoughts and memories can become increasingly upsetting and intrusive and can make you remember the experience as being more negative or scary than it was in reality. Fear rumination reinforces your natural fear responses, creates additional anxiety and can result in you developing equinophobia.

A learned phobia

A phobia can develop because of an observational learning experience, meaning you observed a fear of horses in another person and learnt to be scared of them yourself or learnt to associate horses with fear, pain or danger. You are more likely to learn a phobia if you are exposed to it during childhood or adolescence. For example, children who grow up with a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, with equinophobia are more likely to develop the condition themselves. However, a learned phobia can also develop during adulthood.

Negative depictions of horses in popular culture

Although there are many positive portrayals of horses in popular culture, people with a phobia tend to fixate on the negative rather than the positive. Seeing a TV show or film where horses were portrayed negatively, such as someone becoming injured while riding a horse or being kicked or bitten by a horse, can result in someone believing there is a risk that this could happen to them. Being exposed to negative depictions of horses, particularly during childhood or a vulnerable phase in your life, can result in your developing a phobia.

An informational learning experience

Being exposed to information that scares you or creates feelings of anxiety, for example, discovering facts about the number of horse-related accidents that happen every year or the number of people who are kicked or bitten by horses, can result in you developing fear or anxiety surrounding horses which can then develop into equinophobia.

Experiencing significant stress

Significant, long-term stress can result in a disproportionate fear response or an inability to manage intense situations. This can make it more likely that you will develop a phobia, particularly if you have a negative experience with a horse while you are experiencing higher levels of stress. A stressful and distressing event, such as a death, can also trigger a phobia, as people may be less able to manage their emotions and thought processes when experiencing grief.

A negative, scary or traumatic experience involving another animal

In some cases, equinophobia and other animal phobias can be triggered by a negative encounter with another animal, even if horses were not involved. For example, a negative experience with a cow can make you fear all farmyard animals or a negative experience involving a giraffe can make you fear all large animals.

How is equinophobia diagnosed?

How is equinophobia diagnosed?

Equinophobia is not a frequently diagnosed phobia, with the number of people who currently have a diagnosis thought to be below the actual figures. This could be because many people have never heard of equinophobia so may not realise they are experiencing a phobia. Some people who are scared of horses may also not realise that their symptoms are severe enough or consistent with a phobia.

If you are unsure whether you are experiencing a phobia of horses, consider whether your symptoms include:

  • Fear, anxiety or panic that are out of proportion to the actual risks.
  • Fear that impacts your ability to function in your everyday life or in certain situations.
  • Thoughts and feelings surrounding horses that negatively impact your quality of life, your mental health or your well-being.
  • Symptoms that occur when faced with your triggers or when thinking about horses.
  • Fear or anxiety that results in avoidance behaviours.

If you think you may be experiencing equinophobia, you should visit your GP. In order to receive a diagnosis, your GP will refer you to a psychologist or phobia specialist, who will investigate your symptoms in more detail. Both your GP and the psychologist will also ask questions relating to your fear of horses, such as:

  • Your symptoms, including what your symptoms are, how frequently they occur and how severe they are.
  • The onset of your symptoms, including when they began and what initially triggered your fear of horses.
  • Your medical history, including any anxiety disorders, panic disorders, phobias or other mental health conditions you have experienced.
  • Any medication or supplements you take.
  • Whether you have a family history of phobias.
  • How much your fear interferes with your day-to-day life, your well-being and your behaviours.

As part of your diagnosis, the psychologist will conduct a phobia questionnaire. Because equinophobia is a type of specific phobia, to make a diagnosis, the psychologist will compare your symptoms to the diagnostic criteria for specific phobias.

Your symptoms will need to correspond to the seven key criteria listed below:

1. The fear must be persistent, excessive and unreasonable. It can occur either when a horse is present or when they are not present.
2. Exposure to a horse or another trigger leads to an immediate anxiety response in the majority of situations.
3. The fear is excessive and disproportionate to the threat, and this is recognised by the individual.
4. The individual avoids places or situations where horses could be present. If a horse is present, the individual will experience extreme fear, anxiety or distress.
5. The anticipation of horses and the avoidance behaviours associated with avoiding their triggers can have a significant impact on the individual’s day-to-day life.
6. The fear has lasted for a minimum of six months.
7. The phobia is not associated with another disorder or mental health condition.

If your symptoms fit the diagnostic criteria, you will receive a diagnosis of equinophobia. Depending on the severity of your phobia, treatment may be recommended.

How is equinophobia treated?

Equinophobia has several successful treatment options that may be recommended. However, not everyone with a phobia requires treatment. If your symptoms are mild or do not impact your everyday life or well-being, or you have implemented successful coping strategies, you may not require treatment. However, you should still discuss your treatment options with your GP or psychologist before making a decision.

On the other hand, if your symptoms occur frequently or are severe, if your phobia results in avoidance behaviours or affects your day-to-day life and well-being, treatment will likely be recommended.

Because there are multiple treatment options available and different treatments work more successfully for different people, your psychologist will create an individualised treatment plan based on:

  • The severity of your symptoms.
  • The frequency of your symptoms.
  • The root cause of your phobia.
  • How significantly your phobia impacts your life.
  • Your overall health and well-being, including your mental health.

Your treatment plan will be designed to effectively treat the cause of your phobia, your symptoms and any negative thoughts and feelings connected to your phobia.

The most common and effective treatment options for equinophobia are:

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy, sometimes known as systematic desensitisation, is a type of psychotherapy where you are gradually exposed to your triggers in a safe and controlled environment. You will begin with exposure to the triggers that create the least amount of anxiety. When you are comfortable with this level of exposure, you will move on to the next trigger, gradually building up to the most anxiety-inducing situations.

For example, your sessions could begin with thinking about and talking about horses, before moving on to looking at a picture or watching a video of a horse. Eventually, you will lead up to being close to a horse, stroking a horse or riding a horse.

Exposure therapy can help you to overcome your phobia by helping to create realistic thoughts and beliefs surrounding horses, unlearn any negative associations and patterns of thought, decrease your negative reactions and feelings to horses long term and teach you relaxation techniques and coping and calming strategies.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a popular type of psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. CBT can help you identify and explore the underlying cause of your phobia and aims to change the way you think, feel and behave. It works by deconstructing any negative thought patterns surrounding horses into smaller fragments, which will then be focused on individually.

Your CBT sessions will focus on any existing negative thought patterns and any harmful thoughts, feelings and behaviours related to horses, as well as the root cause of your phobia. This can help to eliminate or reduce your fear response and reduce your psychological and physiological responses to horses and your other triggers.

CBT sessions may be conducted individually or as part of a group with other people with other phobias. The sessions aim to teach you how to reduce your automatic fear response and your psychological and physiological responses to your triggers.

CBT sessions usually involve:

  • Discussing your triggers and symptoms.
  • Exploring what caused your fear of horses.
  • Exploring your fears in more detail.
  • Learning how to recognise your negative thoughts and change the way you are thinking.
  • Learning coping strategies and calming strategies, such as deep breathing exercises, distraction techniques and coping statements.

Clinical hypnotherapy

Clinical hypnotherapy helps you to overcome negative thought patterns about horses and any related feelings and behaviours. The hypnotherapist will use a combination of guided relaxation techniques and focused attention to change your perception of horses. You will be put in a deeply relaxed state while you discuss your fear of horses.

The sessions aim to help you to identify the root cause of your phobia and address any negative thought patterns, memories, feelings and behaviours that are contributing to your phobia. Your hypnotherapist will also teach you calming strategies, such as deep breathing and relaxation techniques, to help you reduce your symptoms in the future.


Medication is not a common treatment option for phobias, including equinophobia. However, it may be used in conjunction with another type of treatment if you are also experiencing another mental health difficulty, such as anxiety disorder or depression.

Some medications that may be used in this circumstance are:

  • Beta-blockers.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
  • Sedatives.
  • Anti-anxiety medication.
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About the author

Nicole Murphy

Nicole Murphy

Nicole graduated with a First-Class Honours degree in Psychology in 2013. She works as a writer and editor and tries to combine all her passions - writing, education, and psychology. Outside of work, Nicole loves to travel, go to the beach, and drink a lot of coffee! She is currently training to climb Machu Picchu in Peru.

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