Today Johnny had a fright from a four wheeler. We were trotting along the road under the power line. The ATV careened around the corner, spitting gravel just behind us. In a flash I was in a runaway on a colt with only a few days of training. It is a hard to express my feelings about that moment. I’ll just say it might be like sitting on a keg of lighted dynamite and wondering which way it is going it is going to throw you, but even so I was able to slow him down, though he was still jumpy. It took a few minutes of riding, stroking his neck and telling him that there was nothing to fear to calm his jitters. Johnny has not shown fear of anything as far as I have seen, but all horses are afraid of ATVs and this one had screaming kids on it.
The question is: Why are ATVs scary for horses? My theory is that there is a subliminal evolutionary displacement phobia (EDP disorder) hiding deep inside every horse. This phobia surfaces to varying degrees of panic whenever a horse encounters an ATV. From prehistoric times horses and humans have been helping one other to survive in this hostile world. The advent of the automobile and the tractor was a great setback to this symbiotic relationship that threatened to reduce a horse’s status from a genuine helper/co-laborer to (heaven forbid) a mere pet. Yet even after the automobile’s introduction there have been a few lingering, utilitarian reasons for the horse and human partnership. For instance a horse is perhaps the most efficient way for a human to get back into wilderness. Now, plainly this gas eating, noisy, unpleasant, impersonal little machine pretends to cut away at the horses already waning purpose and it’s long time relationship with his human partner.
Are you afraid of an empty purposeless existence? Is it any wonder that a horse should be afraid of an ATV?