A horse primarily escapes danger by fleeing. However, when cornered, the animal can lash out physically, relying on bucking, biting, kicking, rearing and striking to drive predators away. A horse generally prefers to be kept somewhere open where it can run away if necessary.
While a domestic horse is typically docile under human care, its defense mechanisms can sometimes be redirected towards humans as an act of rebellion or an attempt to escape harsh handling. When a horse is unable to flee as it prefers, it turns to attack the cause of his fear. Despite being prey animals and largely domesticated, a scared horse should be treated like a wild animal until it calms down.
While a horse's body language can vary, it generally indicates panic or fear by running, sometimes attempting to leap paddock fences in an effort to escape.
Horses evolved the preference for flight instead of fight as their ancestors moved out of the forests and onto plains, following the changing vegetation and switching from a diet of leaves to grass. The open plains encouraged ancient horses to grow taller and slowly transition from four toes to one hoof which allowed them to run faster. Horses also have eyes set on either side of their head, allowing them to spot predators from further distances.