What is Equinophobia?
For some people, horses are creatures of companionship. For others, horses are terrifying creatures that cause panic attacks and extreme distress. These people have equinophobia – the fear of horses. For some equinophobes, the fear of horses is so strong they will go to extremes to avoid encounters, such as refusing to drink Budweiser beer (known for using Clydesdales in advertising).
As with many other specific phobias, equinophobia may be highly debilitating for both those who suffer from the fear of horses. Thus, it is very important to understand the causes, symptoms and especially the most effective treatments for those with equinophobia.
What causes Equinophobia?
Most specific phobias are associated with traumatic events in early childhood, including media portrayals of the phobia. For those who are afraid of horses, often times they were knocked off a horse when young, or scared by the intensity of a large horse up close. Also, sometimes media portrayals of horses can be terrifying as well, as seen in The Lord of the Rings movies, where black stallions with red eyes are an incarnation of pure evil. Either way, equinophobia is often attributed to originally external causes.
Symptoms of Equinophobia
Symptoms of equinophobia can strike any time a patient is thinking about horses, and may be physical and psychological. People with specific phobias often know that their fear is irrational, but are still unable to control it. Symptoms of equinophobia include:
- Intense, irrational fear of horses
- Intense anxiety
- Sense of impending doom
- Rapid heartbeat
- Feelings of panic
- Light headedness
The symptoms listed above are often times difficult to predict before they occur, especially because many major cities still have mounted police officers or guided horseback buggy tours. Equinophobia can be a very debilitating phobia, especially if left untreated. Thankfully, there are several different types of effective treatments for the fear of horses.
Treatments for Equinophobia
Specific adult phobias often times increase in severity over time, and do not go away by themselves. However, there are a number of options that may help patients overcome their fear of horses. The following options are the most effective treatments for equinophobia.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most commonly offered therapies for patients with phobias. CBT focuses on patient's fears and why they exist and ultimately challenges the thought processes behind those fears. CBT has been shown to be highly effective with regards to specific phobias, including equinophobia.
Systematic desensitization, or exposure therapy, focuses on gradually acclimating patients to their phobias. The first step may involve thinking about horses, then looking at pictures of horses. Once the patient is more comfortable with those images, they may proceed to meeting a horse, touching a horse, and finally riding a horse. Systematic desensitization has been shown to be highly effective for treating equinophobia.
Many patients with specific phobias use anti-anxiety medication or beta blockers to treat their symptoms. However, these are only temporary solutions and are not effective over the long term. In addition, because encounters with horses may be difficult to predict, medication is usually not prescribed without accompanying therapy.
Equinophobia can be a debilitating disorder if not recognized and treated by a licensed professional.