Many people are drawn to certain breeds because of their general characteristics. Quarter Horses are typically ranch horses. Arabians are favorites for endurance riders. Tennessee Walking Horses and Paso Finos are preferred by people with back problems. (These are very general categories. Nothing is ever set in stone with horses.)
Have you ever noticed how horses and their owners seem to mimic each other in one way or another?
My gelding, Tucker, and I are a lot alike. We are both laid-back, friendly, relatively unexcitable and motivated easily by yummy treats. We know what the other one will do in almost any situation, because it is the same way we would react. Therefore, to each other, we are both pretty predictable. But what happens when we come across something that is unfamiliar or one of our 'fear triggers'?
I am afraid of that what I can't see. I won't go in water where I can't see the bottom, which is rough when you grow up in southern Indiana where all of the lakes, ponds, and rivers are murky. If I am outside and there is not enough ambient light for me to see, I will not move. These things do not bother Tucker, unless I am around. If I let my fear overtake me, then Tucker will react to my fear. He will become nervous and uneasy. He doesn't realize that the fear he is feeling is mine. If I am able to calm myself and take control of my fear (even just enough to make it from the pasture to the barn) then Tucker calms right down.
Feeling the energy of the herd is how horses communicate and survive. If one horse becomes alert, the entire herd becomes alert. They may not see the perceived danger but asking questions could cost them the seconds they need to escape.
So when someone tells you that a horse can tell when you a scared or nervous in the saddle, you better believe it.
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