Updated: Oct 20
Remember that horses are prey animals. Being prey animals, the instinct to survive, is their strongest instinct. They rely on their ability to see and hear the approach of predators.
When it’s windy, this changes the frequency in the air that they are used to. Sort of sounds like hissing to them. Horses instinctively know that snakes can be life threatening. This sound the wind is making also impairs their hearing. Their hearing is one of the senses that they use continuously and rely on for survival, so they become more anxious and often spook at things that would not normally bother them.
When it’s windy, everything around them moves in different ways. The tree branches, tall grass, flowers, things that are loose that they are not used to seeing like plastic bags or paper that someone may have dropped or that the wind has taken from someone’s garbage. Things like that. Remember that things that move fast, in the horse’s mind, could be a predator ready to attack them.
In a building, like our indoor arena, there can be doors banging. There could be sand or small twigs hitting the outside walls. Now things are making sounds that are not normally heard in there and they can not see what is making the noises.
It takes a lot of trust in their human for a horse to be able to pay attention to you and everything else that is going on around them.
Out in the paddocks here at Meadowsweet, you may come out on a windy day and see them all calmly eating their hay. There is a leader in each paddock and as long as that leader is calm and not giving them an alarm signal they will usually handle the wind. Most of our paddocks do not contain trees that have branches moving in directions the horses are not used to and other than the change of the sound of the wind, there are rarely other noises that they are not used to happening.
IT IS A VERY RARE HORSE THAT DOES NOT REACT ON A WINDY DAY.
So, what can you do? There is only one thing you can do if you want to be able to ride, do groundwork, or even be with your horse safely when it is very windy and that is build the trust that your horse has in you. That takes time and effort. Trust is first built from the ground, through various groundwork “exercises” with the horse. The more you are able to expose your horse too safely, the more the trust grows.
In order to build that trust, you must NEVER punish your horse in any way for being afraid and reacting to what is happening on a windy day. If you do, any trust you have built to that point will be destroyed.