Originally Posted by greentree
I am not so sure that horses actually know fear. It may just be another human emotion we put on them. They spook, yes, but fear is different from startle reflex. They usually turn around and investigate what startles them.
They most definitely can be afraid. Big time. Not startled, but deep down, "I'm going to die" fear. I've ridden Mia in an arena where she worked herself into a state of fear for 2 hours straight. My oldest daughter came out, watched, and said, "Dad, her eyes are rolling like a slot machine! This isn't going to be good..." She was also squirting diarrhea all over - not turds, but green pee from her butt. I ended up pulling her head to one side, wrapping the reins around the horn & jumping off of her. She went the next 8 months unridden, and then started months of professional training. She is vastly better now, but it took years to help her set aside her fears.
Then there is that healthy type of fear. Yesterday, when I had scooped up most of the poop in the corral, Mia came over. When I was a little way off scooping the last pile, she tipped the wheelbarrow over with her nose. I shouted out an obscenity, and at the sound of my voice she spun and sprinted to the farthest point of the corral. The 2 geldings who share the corral with her did not - they knew darn well who tipped the wheelbarrow over! A minute later, she tip-toed back...ears forward, checking to see if she was forgiven.