Friday, January 31, 2014

The Stupid Things That Scare Horses

The Resident Teen's horse, Avi, is a big, sturdy boy. About 1,100 pounds, 16.2 hands high (66 inches tall at the top of the shoulders), and plenty of muscle. He has big, brave steeds in his ancestry, such as Secretariat and Native Dancer. (This is not a brag. Look in any Thoroughbred's ancestry and you'll find famous racehorses in it. It's called inbreeding. But they're still big, brave steeds.)

He has galloped down the homestretch (once to win, once to lose) in front of loud, surging racetrack crowds.

But like just about any horse, he's wired to react first and think about it later. Which makes sense. If you're a prey animal, and you decide to stop and ponder, "Is that thing I see out of the corner of my eye a panther stalking me, or is it merely a Doritos bag skipping along in the breeze?" it might be the last thing you ever think, if indeed it is a lion. Bingo! You disappear from the gene pool.

Excellent instinct, certainly. Even the fear of a puddle (which might be a bottomless pit) or an expanse of shade (see: bottomless pit) makes sense in the context of survival. (And plenty of humans meet their doom because their sense of survival has been occluded by--take your pick--adolescent sense of immortality, delusions of grandeur, general recklessness, cluelessness, ignorance...fill in the blank. A horse would have good reason to marvel, regarding humans: "Seriously? You went and picked up that rattlesnake on a dare??")

Still. That doesn't mean the list of things that horses spook at isn't legion and absurd. A brief fossicking online yields personal stories of horses that have spooked at a plastic Santa, a mailbox, a butterfly, a baby rabbit, another horse lying down for a nap, a leaf on the ground (as if leaves aren't, like, everywhere), and a nun (OK, as a former Catholic schoolgirl, this I understand).

Which leads us back to Avi, whom the Resident Teen had to lead home one day because the sound of children on a playground gave him the vapors, forcing her to give up on a trail ride that day. A trail that, of course, contains other horrors just waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting horse and tear it to shreds, such as the following (info drawn from recent, actually accomplished trail rides; viewer discretion advised):

The Blue Chair (of doom)

The Small Sign (of death)

The Swingset of Terror (and carnage)


The Horrible Hen of Horror

There is truth to the oft-repeated reply to the question, "What do horses spook at?":

Everything that moves, and everything that doesn't.


  1. Oh no not the horrible hen of horror, it's just too gruesome for words...

    1. I know, right? Good thing the Terrible Terrier of Terror wasn't out that day too!