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Horses and Scary Cows

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  • Horses and Scary Cows

    My normally super brave OTTB is deathly afraid of cows. Actually even the smell of cows that turns him into a snorting bug-eyed freak . Semi trucks, school buses, motorcycles, jack hammers, nail guns... no problem. Farm animals other than dogs and cats make him worried (eg. donkeys and llamas) and cows make him beside himself. The farm where I am now has some cows next door and it seems like a good time to get him over it.

    What is the best way to acclimate him without giving him a permanent complex?

  • #2
    He may not get over it. Just so you know. I had one that everyone kept telling me would get over it. After two weeks of nearby cows the horse had lost about 300 lbs., and I still couldn't get him actually into a paddock, let alone ride him. 4 ccs of ace and I was dragged down the driveway in the opposite direction of the paddock. I had to give up the rent on the barn.


    • #3
      If he can go out in the pasture next door to them, with a buddy horse who is not afraid of them, that's optimal.

      I got lucky with my youngster - I did a lot of handwalking/despooking with him before he was old enough to ride, and was able to get him grazing on the opposite side of the fence from recently weaned calves, who all came up to visit and touch noses. Then I turned him out alone in a paddock next to the moms. He was so lonely he buddied up with them, and I kinda knew I had the "cow thang" fixed when I came out to feed early one morning and my "psycho Saddlebred" baby was lying down snoozing with the cows sleeping right close by on the other side of the fence! He hasn't spooked at once since.
      "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


      • #4
        Be careful. Mine was terrified, and I made the fatal mistake of pushing the issue too fast. I took him on a long line into a large paddock with a calf and another horse, and he attemped to jump out, caught his leg on the fence and broke the leg.

        Take your cue from your horse.
        There is no snooze button on a cat that wants breakfast.


        • Original Poster

          Yikes BoD! That's exactly the kind of thing that I was afraid of.


          • #6
            When horses panic from cattle, they will try to jump pen fences, gates, whatever, even if it kills them, they lose it completely.
            Very scary if you are on a colt that flips out on you when cattle, that were laying down nicely, slowly get up.

            I had an 18 year old do that once, first time he came across a paint cow, the horror.

            The best is to have several other quiet horses around the panicky one and don't push it, just keep at whatever distance he is comfortable.
            Even better if you can manage to turn your horse out with others and when he is part of the group, then put some cattle nearby, where the other horses will go look at them.

            Most horses are sensible and don't panic, thankfully.


            • #7
              I have a paint that is afraid of cows. Deathly afraid of them. As in quivering mass of freaked out nerves, spin and spin undersaddle to get away from them.Stand and sweat in his stall, staring at them 500 yards away at a neighboring farm.

              Why did I just spend a year off my horse? He heard a fellow boarder 'mooing' during my lesson--yes, a human making a cow sound--and spooked and stopped at an oxer, leaving me broken on the ground line. 3 surgeries and 12 months later, I beg people not to make any cow noises while I'm riding. And no, he hasn't ever "gotten over it"..he's 13 now.
              Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


              • #8
                I moved my OTTB to a new barn last summer. It is right next to a dairy farm. He is a natural hunter but when I would take him out of the barn he would become a much taller snorting jumper.

                He did get over it. He will now and then look over at the cows while in the ring but I just try to keep his attention on work.

                Some of the cows did make a break for it a couple of weeks ago and that did blow his mind He was racing around his pasture with his buddies, tail arab high and snorting but got over it pretty quickly.

                Have faith your guy will come around. It just takes time and some buddies that don't care.


                • #9
                  My horse has been pastured with cattle, and he hunts. He still hates the little buggers. And he really hates calves, especially when they run up to him.

                  He'll tolerate them but only because he knows he has to. Best to keep one's heels down when hunting near cattle. Calves hunt in packs (he says)
                  Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                  Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                  -Rudyard Kipling


                  • #10
                    Unless you bought this horse to be a cow horse, why push the issue?

                    My mare has lived on the farm with cows for 10 years now. She still will not go near or have anything to do with cows. She will still go through a fence (or over) if pastured with cows. The idiot tenant farmer left gate open to my pasture one night - pasture he shouldn't have been in - thankfully, mare was fine - she literally jumped into my yard to escape cows. After living here for 8 years in a pasture next to cows.

                    Some never adjust. As others have said - why risk it?

                    And I grew up with working cattle horses and still don't understand what her issue is - but it isn't an issue worth getting her injured over as she wasn't purchased to be a cow horse.
                    Originally posted by SmartAlex

                    Give it up. Many of us CoTHers are trapped at a computer all day with no way out, and we hunt in packs. So far it as all been in good fun. You should be thankful for that.


                    • #11
                      The one old mare HATES small farm animals, especially cattle. DD wanted a calf for 4-H last year and I had gotten interested in Dexter cattle. Her life became a living H#** in the paddock beside the bovines.

                      We got the calf first, very small, kept on a lead to be exercised in the snow for short times. She acted like an idiot at the smell first when she walked by his small barn, snorting and spooking on the lead. Then she ran away to the pasture when he was outside. She FINALLY would eat off the farthest hay pile while calf was outside, but still would run off when calf got playing and running about. She had a couple buddies in her paddock who were INTERESTED in the calf, they were not spooky after the first day or so, curious geldings. The boys made calf an object of excitment because they were bored, would run along the fence with him.

                      I do keep our small animals belled, market lambs, calf and the heifer we got later. Lambs were the worst, silently errupting from the longer grass to bounce about, before belling them. I was sure the old gelding would have heart failure with sheep scaring him, so belling has removed that spooking issue totally.

                      After mare was fairly calm about the calf, I purchased a Dexter heifer and we put her out with the calf. Did you know horses can TELL cattle apart? I didn't, but they CAN, so we did more despooking. Didn't last very long except for the older mare again. She was several days getting over it again, but food is a GREAT motivator. The hay piles were all beside the calf paddock. With the addition of heifer, calf did a lot more running, as they played and did cattle things. Heifer also had a bell, so there could be a lot of ringing at times. Have to say the horses are not spooky about the small animals when belled, because they can easily locate them when moving, no surprises.

                      The old mare has gotten over her fear of cattle, now makes ugly faces at the calf for this summer and he RUNS away!

                      A good example buddy, not afraid of cattle is a huge help with the scared animal. Maybe some cow poop in a paddock AWAY from the cows, to help get him used to the smell. See how he does, some in his stall by the feed, so rewarded while tolerating the smell. Eventually moving him to a paddock near cattle, but plenty of room to move away so horse is not pressured to be near if he chooses not to. Feeding hay piles that move closer to cattle side as horse shows less reaction.

                      Have to say my horses are pretty accepting and "Usually" calm. The calf, then heifer, did get them running a bit, but curiosity enticed them to checking the bovines out. Horses can't stand not checking stuff out, part of the reason we love them! Other mares had no cattle issues, just the one silly old horse. So they actually were eager to finally get calf close enough to snort on, he licked their noses when he could reach. Heifer was NOT so friendly, but not reactive either. Each species got accepting of the other and how sometimes they each JUST HAD to race about! Horses would watch the cattle and lambs as part of "the Farm Channel", while the cows acted like "There they go AGAIN!"

                      Take your time with horse getting accepting. Hope the food and time will work for him and living near cattle.


                      • Original Poster

                        Thanks all for your great tips and suggestions. I will take it slow and use a buddy who does not care about cows. Gh's suggestion of putting cow poop in his pasture/stall is a great idea as it is the smell that initially sets him off. I might start desensitizing him there and then work to the live ones.

                        Oldenmare- Good question of why should I bother as he is not a cow horse. First, he will now have to pass the cows when hacking out on the road and out to the trails. Second, there is a venue where we compete and the dressage rings are right across from a cow farm. So much for that relaxed dressage test!

                        This will be an interesting journey.


                        • #13
                          Ever since Mr Moo walked onto our property, my neighbor's horses are sure the devil lives here. My horses hardly notice him (although the Fjord seemed mildly annoyed when Mr Moo mounted him yesterday ). I figured my neighbor's horses would get used to him faster than mine, as hers are generally much more sensible.... One of hers is the one that faced down the mountain lion up on the hill.... But out in pasture, left to their own devices, they run away as fast as they can, every time Mr Moo makes a move. I've decided they are too close for comfort, but not close enough to get used to him...
                          Turn off the computer and go ride!


                          • #14
                            BankofDad, that is so sad. I once had a mare jump a fence and run down the road when she saw a man driving two oxen in a yoke. She was completely terrified.

                            So when 10 long horns got loose in our town about 10 years ago and made their way -of course - to the animal magnet that is our little farm, I was worried that my horses would completely lose their minds. A bunch of old timers in town rounded up the longhorns into our pasture where they stayed for over a week waiting for their owner to come and get them. I was prepared for the worst, but my horses handled it pretty well after the first day of snorting and white eyes. I was actually sorry to see the longhorns go because they were so cute.


                            • #15
                              I had a QH when I was a kid who was terrified beyond belief of cows (oh the shame!). One side of the boarding stables butted up to a huge cow field, and the BO decided to turn him out in the pasture for as long as it took for him to get used to the cows. He went out for every day for almost a month and absolutely nothing changed. He didn't go "crazy" because of them (or the experiment would have ended), but he probably lost 100 pounds over those few weeks and never stopped staring and snorting and trotting around with his tail flagged out every time they got close. Over the next 7 years we'd ride by that field almost daily and the big spook, snort, and bolt ALWAYS followed

                              And this was no slouch of a horse. He took me through the big Grand Prixes and faced everything at horseshows like an old pro. Except for cows. We had one big show venue adjacent to a dairy farm and the years we went in the ring next to the cows were awful.

                              I had one other like that....a dutch warmblood (less shame there, lol!) who also never got over his fear of cows in the slightest. So I wish the best of luck to you!
                              Flying F Sport Horses
                              Horses in the NW


                              • #16
                                Xitmom, if you're referring to the picturesque holsteins on the hill at GMHA I totally feel your pain! I always keep my fingers crossed that our ride times don't coincide with turn in/out of that evil herd!

                                No help from me - just sympathy.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by pokesaladannie View Post
                                  Xitmom, if you're referring to the picturesque holsteins on the hill at GMHA I totally feel your pain! I always keep my fingers crossed that our ride times don't coincide with turn in/out of that evil herd!

                                  No help from me - just sympathy.
                                  OMG! totally off topic, but , "the gator's got your granny". LOVE Tony Joe White!
                                  Turn off the computer and go ride!


                                  • Original Poster

                                    pokesaladannie - Bingo! I just love when the breeze wafts the scent over to Upwey and my guy does this => , the judge does this => , and I do this =>


                                    • #19
                                      You should go on "Jeopardy" Foggybok! I believe you're the first to "get it"!!

                                      Now I guess I better find a bushel of cowpies to bring to GMHA in June - I'll bring extra if anyone else wants to go first with this experiment!


                                      • #20
                                        My mare got used to them. When she was younger she saw cows a few times and was totally freaked out. Two years ago I moved her to a boarding barn that owns cows and they're pastured in the field next to the horses and barn. Mare looked at them for awhile when she was first turned out and then apparently decided they were okay (or that they massively outnumbered her so she might as well spend her last few minutes eating grass ). She's been fine.

                                        *OMGiH I Loff my Mare* and *My Saddlebred Can Do Anything Your Horse Can Do*