What My Horse Thinks When He Spooks

What is it that spooks your horse? A bear? Big Foot? The Boogieman? Most likely none of those is the right answer. Try sticks or grass or maybe a child — or pretty much anything that shouldn’t be seen as a threat. That’s what’ll leave you lying on the ground and your horse running to his stall.

One minute we’re enjoying a nice afternoon ride, the next our horse is on his way back to his stall while we’re left lying on the ground. It’s happened to the best of us and in most cases we don’t realize how we’ve gotten to the point of picking up ourselves off the ground and walking to search for our horse.

We start to look around not only for our horse but also for the reason he decided to swiftly turn and take off bucking. What is it boy, is someone in danger? Do you see a bear? Big Foot? Boogieman? What’s he seeing that could cause the meltdown he resorted to?

Most likely it’s none of the above. It’s something way less exciting such as some of the objects listed below and what I believe is my horse’s thought process as he encounters these objects.

Photo by Marcella Gruchalak

Sticks. Whoo wee, watch out there’s something on the ground! Do those come from trees or were they placed there as a trap? I think they’re going to reach up and grab me! How could mother nature let these pile up? I think they’re alive and vicious! Okay, I’m going to go over them. I can do this. OMG they’re cracking! I’m regretting this! I think it might me a lion that’s roaring! Get me out of here!

Double yellow lines. What’s on the cement? It looks odd. It’s not moving right now but I bet if I step over it, it’s going to start moving. Is it a snake? Two snakes sun bathing next to each other? How in the world am I supposed to step over this still subject to go about our ride? I’m going to dance around and back up so my owner will take the detour.

Photo by Anjanelle Hennebert.

Grass. What a nice day for a ride. This field is so nice. Wait, wait, wait. Did the grass just change from light green to dark green? I don’t like it — and OMG the grass is getting a bit high here. Ah, it’s touching my belly! I NEED TO GET OUT OF THIS FIELD! PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD TAKE ME BACK TO THE ARENA! DIRT IS GOOD! GRASS IS BAD!

Photo by Marcella Gruchalak

Walking around with your hood up. Is that my mom? Is that my mom? Let me get a little closer to see. OMG, what is on mom? AHHHHHHHHHH, something is eating my mom!!!!!! Retreat! Run Away!

Photo by Marcella Gruchalak

Wet roads. Hmm, it looks like a road. Nope, never mind. It’s a never-ending puddle. Who knows how deep it is? Nope, I refuse to swim today. Thanks, but no thanks. We’re taking another route.

Photo by Anjanelle Hennebert.

Garbage cans. That garbage can is familiar. I pass it all the time. Actually, I’ve been passing it since we’ve moved here. Today it looks a little different. I don’t like the way that looks today. It’s quite scary. Something might pop out of that garbage can today. Has anyone been watching what’s been going in and out of that garbage can? I think there’s a monster in there! A BIG OLE’ MOSTER IS GOING TO COME FLYING OUT OF THAT BIG OLE’ GARBAGE CAN! I knew mom should have gotten a smaller can! Now there’re monsters in the trash!

Photo by Anjanelle Hennebert.

The wind. Oh no, it’s whistling again. AHH, now it’s roaring and shaking the barn. RUN! Everything is going to come down. The entire earth is violently shaking and I can’t see what’s shaking it!

A jacket. Trot, trot, trot. Just trotting along. Do, do, do. Just minding my own business. Wait a minute, what is that that I see out of my peripheral vision? That wasn’t hanging on the arena post earlier. Wait was it? Maybe it was. Oh, it definitely was. I don’t like it hanging there anymore! I’m not going past that post, mom. Nope, not doing it. I’m going to have a meltdown in 3…2…1!

Children. Oh look a human. Hmmm, a very short human. A tiny human. AHHHHHHHHHH! A monster. It’s a monster, or an alien, or I don’t even know what it is! Run away! Abort! Abort!

Photo by Marcella Gruchalak

A bag of chips. Oh look, mom brought treats! Yay, treats! Wait a minute, the bag just made a noise. It’s crinkling, but they’re treats, I’m not scared. Wait, wait. There may not be any treats in there for how much noise it’s making. What’s in that bag? It’s not treats. Oh God, what’s in that bag? THERE’S SOMETHING IN THAT BAG! I’ve been tricked! Help!

My shadow. Oh my god! There’s someone following my mom! She won’t leave her alone! She’s super close! She’s scary! She looks like a big black hole! She looks dangerous!

His shadow. AH! I have a scary horse following me, too! They’re here to hurt us! We can’t get away from them! I cant get away from this monster! Why won’t it leave me alone? It’s getting darker! I’m gonna run! That’s it, I’m bolting! I think I can lose it!

Photo by Cari Worley

We’re all fully aware that our horses will spook at just about anything. What can we do about it? We can continue to go about our rides knowing there will be freak outs — knowing we’re going to end up lying on the ground with the wind knocked out of us and a stellar view of the sky — or the ground. So it goes. But, despite all that, we love our goofy, spooky 1000+ pound beasts anyway.

Go riding, Horse Nation! (And avoid the plastic bag at all costs.)