A phobia is an extreme fear, usually irrational and generally classified as a psychological disorder. Hippophobia is a condition in which a person has an extreme fear of horses. People who suffer from such a fear may be abnormally fearful of horses in general, but the fear might also be associated with riding them. Hippophobia can, in fact, originate from a traumatic experience with a horse, such as a fall while riding, but can also exist with no known or apparent cause.
Phobias are not the same as the everyday fears experienced by most people. The fear in this case is extreme, making it more akin to terror than simple fright. Phobias can be so intense that they interfere with the phobic's life. A hippophobe, for example, might be physically unable to attend a circus or visit a ranch without panicking and would certainly be unable to ride a horse or travel in a horse-drawn carriage. Televised or artistic images of horses even can be enough to dramatically affect someone with pronounced hippophobia.
Fear defined as a phobia is also irrational, meaning that the fear is disproportionate to the risk involved. For example, a person who suffers hippophobia might refuse to attend a parade, believing not only that the risk of being trampled by a horse is real, but that it will most likely happen. In many cases, however, the logic behind the fear is not even this clearly thought-out. The hippophobe merely feels mortal and undefined terror in the presence of horses.
Hippophobia frequently develops in response to a specific event. This can be something that happens to the phobic individual, such as being thrown by a horse, but the phobia can also develop from simply witnessing such an accident or even from reading or hearing an account of one. In addition, some phobias have no apparent foundation and no known cause. The onset can be sudden and unexpected.
The term "hippophobia" is taken from two Greek words: "hippos" means "horse" and "phobos" means "fear." The fear of horses is also known as "equinophobia." This word is a combination of the Latin word for horse, "Equus," and the Greek "phobos."
Animal phobias are among the most common phobias. These can include apiphobia, which is the fear of bees; ornithophobia, the fear of birds; ailurophobia, the fear of cats; cynophobia, the fear of dogs; and ichthyophobia, the fear of fish. General fear of animals is known as zoophobia.