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Horses and Black Bears (!?)

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  • Horses and Black Bears (!?)

    While there have long been black bears in my (New England) state, I've so far never encountered one on horseback; but that is likely to change as there have been 4 sightings in the last 48 hours within a mile of my farm! My dogs have spent a lot of time woofing toward the woods lately, one dog even trying to get in the kichen door like she really, REALLY had something to tell me, and they're barking in that direction as we speak.

    None of my horses have, so far as I know, any experience with running into one on the trail. So, tell me your stories! What can you expect from your horse, what's the best thing to do, what's the best thing to avoid?

    Gotta feeling we'll be meeting Teddy rather soon . . .

  • #2
    I have a newpaper clipping with a great photo of a black bear in a horse's paddock in Anchorage, from I think, May 2012. The large black horse is eating and ignoring the bear. I searched all over the Anchorage Daily News website trying to get it online to share the link but no luck. Maybe some of you from Anchorage have a better way to find it?
    "Random capitAlization really Makes my day." -- AndNirina


    • #3
      oh goodness! I have no advice to add, but yikess that would make me nervous! Curious as so what others will say!


      • #4
        There was a recent video in LA of a bear being around horses in paddocks. The bear did not really care about the horses and the horses were just unsure about the bear. Bear hopped a wall and left, horses went back to eating...


        • #5
          One turned up in our yard last year. I glanced out the window and thought it was my parents' big black Newfie mix, but something about the way it moved wasn't right-- I looked away, looked back, saw the dog just crossing in front of the window-- 20 feet behind the bear. It was young and just about the same size as the (130 lb) dog. If the horses noticed it passing by they didn't react at all. The dog was pretty excited but not enough to get closer to it.


          • #6
            Several years ago while foxhunting just west of Charlottesville, the entire field (we were just hacking to another covert, not galloping; hounds were not speaking) passed a mama black bear with three cubs. She was busy eating. All us stood up in our stirrups to watch them for as long as possible. Hounds, horses, ursas all paid no mind to one another.

            I don't think black bears are normally aggressive toward horses, so if you encounter one riding, I'd try to stay as relaxed as you can on the theory the horse will then think it's no big deal. Personally I would probably call out a greeting (while NOT making eye contact) using the exact words and tone of voice I use to call my dog. "GOOD puppy! GOOD puppy!" My horses hear this and think, "Oh, one of those annoying things that runs around the pasture, but that I do not need to turn and bolt from, must be close by." I mean while trying to ride away from it steadily but not in a panic.

            Having grown up in Wellesley, I am following that bear story too. I hope they don't decide they have to kill it. Black bears routinely waddle through the pasture on the farm three of my horses came from, no problem.

            I can ride my horses without a sharps container.


            • #7
              went on a trail ride a few years ago, and about 7 horses on the ride. Suddenly, a mother black bear and 3 cubs ran across our path. The horses did -Nothing.. I guess they must be used to the smell of bear, so it did not phase them.


              • #8
                I've encountered bears a couple times out on trail rides. My horse was alert but he didn't spook, both times the bear was in the woods and not on the trail thankfully. Gave them as wide a berth as possible and passed by without incident.


                • #9
                  I've had 2 encounters alone on the trail. The first one happened while riding my 3-year old for the VERY FIRST TIME in the woods while he was still under training, we were alone.
                  A sow and 2 cubs crossed the trail about 25 feet ahead of us. Head went up, I say "Oh $hit." Echo snorts alarm spins 180, blows again, I get a hold of him, spins back around takes a couple steps forward while try to think of where to go, blows again. I spy another trail (I hate turning back) so we take it. I enjoyed a 3-gaited Show Horse for about a 1/4 mile. I was proud of him, it was truly a testament to the type of horse he became.

                  The second time we were alone on a brand new horse trail system about 6 miles from my house no cell coverage. I had my GSD Anna with me, she always went with us when we went alone. We left the trail head and probably had ridden a half an hour when Echo started wanting to turn around, he never does that away from home. He tried for another 1/2 mile or so and was starting to really annoy me. Then Anna took off ahead and probably 25 yards ahead a young bear pops onto the trail. Bear turns and started running up the trail with Anna in hot pursuit. Once Echo saw it, I could feel the tension leave and we also gave chase for a bit. I called Anna off, she comes back to us and continue our ride. When we arrived at the spot where the bear had gone back into the woods, Echo stopped on his own, looked into the underbrush, seemed satisfied and never tried to turn around the rest of the ride.

                  Those 2 encounters were about 3 years apart so that was about 10 years ago. We have dozens of bears here now. DH saw nine different bear in one evening while sitting in his bow stand. NINE! I think the horses are probably pretty used them now and they haven't posed any threat in 17 years.


                  • #10
                    Several yrs ago i went trail riding with a group along skyline drive in VA; came upon a sow and three cubs. Bears looked the horses, horses looked at the bears, and then we all continued on our separate ways. However, i suspect those horses up there are VERY used to bears.
                    Today I will be happier than a bird with a french fry.


                    • #11
                      Many years ago at White Wolf in Yosemite Park the bears used to come raid the trash cans, the pack string was stabled VERY close and they were snorting and hightailing it - later the next year on the valley floor the trail ride met a bear and there was a little snorting but not out and out panic.
                      Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                      Incredible Invisible


                      • #12
                        When I worked at a summer camp in the Pocono Mountains, bears used to get into the feed room with some regularity. The horses, surprisingly, never seemed alarmed by their presence.
                        Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Lady Eboshi View Post
                          While there have long been black bears in my (New England) state, I've so far never encountered one on horseback; but that is likely to change as there have been 4 sightings in the last 48 hours within a mile of my farm! My dogs have spent a lot of time woofing toward the woods lately, one dog even trying to get in the kichen door like she really, REALLY had something to tell me, and they're barking in that direction as we speak.

                          None of my horses have, so far as I know, any experience with running into one on the trail. So, tell me your stories! What can you expect from your horse, what's the best thing to do, what's the best thing to avoid?

                          Gotta feeling we'll be meeting Teddy rather soon . . .
                          Just keep them in your part of NE. TYVM


                          • #14
                            Highflyer, something about those Newfie-Bears.... my old riding instructors always had Newfies. One spring, they glanced outside and saw their Newfie at the bird feeder. Huh?? realized the Newfie was in the house with them. Yup, a bear.


                            • #15
                              I'd be more worried about a black bear eating my dogs than attacking my horses. Unless you get between the bear and its cubs, and it's that season, you should be fine. Talk loudly or sing while on the trails. Bears don't like noise and will usually avoid you.

                              However, I was always worried when I used to walk on the Appalachian trail with my friends and my dog. Fortunately there were so many dogs on the trail with their owners that the bears stayed away.

                              The bigger bears in the PNW and in Alaska would be a different story. They tend to eat bigger game, like elk and humans.


                              • #16
                                Had my first bear encounter this year. It was a juvenile bear on one of the trails. My generally unconcerned gelding started breathing heavy and then tried taking off in the other direction; when I caught the bear out of the corner of my eye I gave him his head and let him go. My 16 year old daughter was with me on her very green mare's first trail ride. I think we were more shaken than the horses.


                                • #17
                                  We have bear go through our paddocks all the time. They cross very close to the ring sometimes while we are riding. The horses don't even bother to look and we usually just continue with our ride. The bears go wherever they were going. In the past few years our foxhunt has treed several bears, lots of great photos. I would not worry about the horses, just smaller animals (small dogs, sheep, etc.).
                                  Impossible is nothing.


                                  • #18
                                    There are many many black bears here. Wild bears don't cause any issues. Problems do crop up when people start feeding them and/or bears become habituated to human handouts. It generally ends tragically for the animal and very unfairly.

                                    But we have one that lived in the bottomland below the pastures and would occasionally wander about at will, we only ever saw him on a trail cam, he was really neat. They are opportunistic scavengers and prefer to eat insects, berries, etc. Chickens, cats, dogs, horses, are fine.
                                    Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                                    Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                                    We Are Flying Solo


                                    • #19
                                      We see a lot of black bears. It's been a nonevent every time.

                                      Once when I was about 12 I was loping my good little TWH/QH along a logging road, bareback and free as a bird when he glanced to the right-I glanced too and there was a black bear sow, running through the woods right along side us! LOL I pulled up and she crossed in front of us, end of story.

                                      Several times they crossed the trail ahead of us when I was a kid riding alone all the time-never a problem.

                                      Once riding in the Bob Marshall our family was riding along behind my husband who was in front but turned around talking to us. As I'm listening to him talk his horse pricked her head up and I notice there's a black bear ambling down the trail right toward him and his mare. I spoke up: "BEAR!" He replies (he's half deaf) "WHAT??" "BEAR!!!!" me and the kids yell and point-by that time the bear has come out of his daydream and realized he's about run right into an entire pack string and he turned and bolted up the trail so fast his whole hide was shaking! Deaf MR CBM turns around just in time to see... ?? Nothing! LOL Nothing but a cloud of dust where the bear had been! Thank heavens the kids saw the bear too or he would think I made the whole thing up!

                                      I think most horses think bears are weird dogs-ours have always been pretty good about them. Only time a bear freaked me out badly was when I was on foot with no shelter and the obnoxious bear was between me and the truck. Walked right up on a group of us having a picnic in the hills above our house-he left without incident but I sure didn't like having one walk right up within 20 feet of me and stare me down!
                                      “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                                      • #20
                                        At a previous boarding barn, I used to take my mare out on some trails in the back for cooling out. She was not a spooky horse normally, so I should have paid more attention as she got somewhat agitated and did not want to go forward...very unlike her. But I kept her going until I noticed a large rock up ahead, which didn't seem right, as I didn't remember it from previous rides. Then the head turned to look at me. Not a rock, but a bear, dining on blackberries!

                                        We hustled back to the barn, and I paid attention after that when my mare warned me of trouble ahead!