Halloween isn’t the only spooky thing that comes with fall. To some of our horses it can feel like a spookfest all year round, but especially in the fall! Things as simple as a few more windy days than usual, a falling leaf, or the sound of the leaves crunching on the trail. When I started working with horses I had no idea how many things horses find spooky! I thought it would be fun to compile a list of a few things some of the horses I’ve worked with thought were pretty spooky. 

The Dreaded Plastic Bag… 

It wouldn’t be a list of spooky things without the dreaded plastic bag, now would it? I can’t say I know exactly why horses find this object so scary, aside from it moving unpredictably, and making noise. But it seems that even some of the most chill horses aren’t immune to this spooky object. I hadn’t been working at this new barn long, but I was so impressed by how chill this one-horse Orion was at home, and at the show, we were at. It seemed like nothing fazed this horse! A couple of days into the show the trainer had me come along so I could walk him after a  lunging session. Orion was his usual calm self during the entire session. The trainer handed him off to me and left to work another horse. It just so happened that the wind started blowing then, and there was a plastic bag waving in the distance. I’m not sure if Orion knew that he would have cooled off, and gotten back to eating his hay much faster if he didn’t spook every time we passed the plastic bag waving in the wind, but then again I suppose we’re all scared of something. 

Wind… 

This leads us to our next major spooky thing, wind! Aside from the fact that wind blows stuff around, and makes a noise itself, I have to say it really surprised me when I discovered some horses really do not like windy days! I had thought since the horse’s ancestors used to be wild that surely wind would have been programmed into their little brains as no big deal. But alas when I picture horses and windy days, one mare, in particular, comes to mind,  Abby. She was a great horse, but the wind just put that girl on edge no matter what the occasion.  

Leaves… 

Speaking of fall, and wind, that brings us to our next spooky object: leaves! Between the leaves falling out of nowhere, or the wind blowing them around, they can be a pretty spooky thing for your horse. Not to mention that crunching sound they make on the trail! I was still a very green rider on the trail when the leaves came down, but I  still remember my first fall ride on Carbon. Despite being very pregnant, she wanted to speedwalk the trail because of those crunchy leaves! I had to stop her a few times so that my boss could catch up on Toby, who was not at all phased by the leaves and continued to plod along at his usual pace.  

Tarps… 

This one is closely related to the plastic bag and the leaves. I’m not sure what horses see when we lay a tarp on the ground, and ask them to walk over it, but I’m pretty sure they believe we have hidden the Grand Canyon under the tarp. Not to mention if a tarp is loosely covering something, and flapping in the wind! Thankfully with proper desensitization exercises, mastering the tarp can prove to be a huge asset. Just please do not attempt tarp desensitizing without doing your homework! Doing it properly is key, otherwise, you will terrorize your horse. But if you do it right, crunchy leaves won’t be an issue either. 

Washing Their Face… 

Who doesn’t like having a clean face? Some horses will gladly let you wash their face with their heads lowered, and relaxed. Other horses, not so much. I can’t say I can remember too many horses giving me a major fight to wash their face, except for this one mare. She was one of the jumpers I worked with as a groom, and it didn’t matter what method of face washing I tried she wasn’t having it. Ultimately I would usually have to get one of the taller grooms to help me wash the giraffe’s face. 

Puddles… 

Well really any standing water in general, i.e. puddles, lakes, ocean waves, creeks, unless it’s a mud puddle in the pasture to roll in after a bath, those usually aren’t a problem. Otherwise, puddles are pretty spooky to your horse.

Honestly, I had also thought that the horse’s ancestors must have been exposed to puddles in the wild, and that water on the ground would be a non-issue. Not so, one trail ride I watched each of our horses jump 2 feet over a very tiny creek that was really only 2 inches deep. This spooky thing became more understandable though when I learned that horses can’t really see depth very well. 

Cobwebs and Spiders… 

Okay, so I haven’t actually seen a horse spook at a cobweb, or a spider yet. However, I decided to add them to the list of spooky things anyway, because well, they are! I have seen a good couple of spooks from riders on the trail whose horses nearly walked them face-first into a massive spider, and it’s web. The incident was typically  indicated by a loud scream, and then “back up, back up, back up!” Those were the days I was glad my usual trail mount was lazy and didn’t care that we always rode at the back of the line! 

I hope you have enjoyed this short list of spooky things and some short stories! Leave us a comment with some of the things that your horse thinks are spooky!

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Brittany Madonia

Hi everyoneI grew up in a small town in New England, and later moved to the Carolinas where my dreams of working with horses became a reality. Not long after that I spent a couple months earning a certificate as a Barn Manager/Professional Groom at the Equine Management Training Center in Axton, VirginiaI have worked in a few places since then, and even though I haven’t found a permanent place to land just yet, I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey! Some of my passions include learning everything I can about horses, dogs, mental health, and a couple foreign languagesI look forward to hanging out with everyone here as we learn and grow together!

October 27, 2021

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