Some horses are a little more sensitive than others – where his hacking companions see a leaf, he sees a fire-breathing dragon and prepares to take evasive action. Sara Walker explains what to expect if your horse is more ‘untamed explosion’ than ‘bombproof’…
1. Whenever you go out for a hack, you insist on being the one to choose the route — carefully designed to avoid newly painted white gates, barking dogs, funny-looking hedges and that cottage with the wind chimes. Sometimes you have a drive round in the car first to make sure.
2. You have a painstakingly complied list of things your horse finds acceptable or not. It includes cars (fine), tractors (oddly, fine), bicycles (bit borderline), umbrellas (terrifying), plastic bags (abort mission mum! Run! RUN! Save yourself!) and ‘stuff that wasn’t there yesterday’ (a large category, and one that normally causes staring, shivering, dancing and eventual fearful sidling past).
3. Every time you buy a new item of clothing, it needs to pass the ‘non-scary’ test before purchase. Jackets must not be rustly or flappy, zips must not be jangly and boots must not fasten with Velcro. For some reason, your horse is also scared of the colour purple.
4. You find yourself driving to work and eyeing up gates that might swing open, dogs that might bark and people in flappy purple anoraks, before you remember that you’re not on horseback and your car is unlikely to shy at anything.
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5. A normal schooling session for you goes something like this: warm up. 20 metre circle at medium walk, transition to trot *spook*, change the rein *jump forwards*, 20 metre circle, leg yield *shoot sideways at 40mph*, 10 metre circle at walk, 10 metre circle at trot, *stop and snort at bucket that’s been there all along.* Your instructor says that it’s the challenging horses who teach their riders the most. In that case, you’re surprised you’re not giving Charlotte Dujardin a run for her money by now.
6. You ride your friend’s very well behaved horse while she’s away… and you hate to say it, but you actually find the experience a bit boring.
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