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24 weird things our horses are scared of

The jack-o-lanterns are carved, the fake corpse is propped up in the lawn chair, and we’ve eaten more candy corn than we’d care to admit – it’s official, the spooky season is upon us! After chatting with the riders in the SmartPak Forum about the weirdest things that spook their horses, we SmartPakers decided to illustrate a few of our favorites. Enjoy (and please don’t judge our drawing skills)!

DapperEquine: “My OTTB isn’t phased by many of the things that I would expect him to spook at (weed whackers, atvs, flapping caution tape, dogs running out and barking at him, deer jumping out of the brush on trails, etc). But we were in the warm-up arena at a show one time and a rider fell off her horse — he spooked SO BAD!”
“Also, my friend has a horse that has the strangest affinity to donkeys. He’s never lived with or been around donkeys in his life. Kind of the opposite of a spook, he bolts uncontrollably TOWARD any donkey he sees.”

pj_sedgwick: “My pony is usually pretty rock steady but once we were riding past a port-a-potty at a trail head and the door swung open. Scary! Ever since I have to sing to him as we pass the box to keep him mind occupied.”

SmartPaker Sarah: “A showmanship judge…well… ‘passed gas’ while inspecting my horse and my horse jumped out of his skin. In fairness, it was pretty loud, and a bit startling…and totally awkward.”

stockshowkid’97: “My donkey normally isn’t scared of anything. Little dare-devil, but she totally flips when a jolly ball, or any ordinary ball comes her way. Shoot, we could win the Kentucky Derby if you just had a ball chasing her.”

Annamgus: “What scares my chestnut mare (and now me) the most are butterflies. Especially when they dare to fly into our route to a jump. She almost sat on the ground 3 strides before a 3′ oxer at a recent show. Imagine a big orange cat crouching down…”

tricia_brown: “Velcro. My Joe is the most calm settled horse ever. But the sound of Velcro sends him over the moon.”

Jon: “My old OTTB mare spooked over baby rabbits. Nothing else. In her mind a baby rabbit was the end of the world. Of course this did lead to me being used as a human lawn dart on several occasions.”

Barrelracer612: “A horse I used to ride was spooked at mini paint ponies, not solid…..just paint.”
“My current horse spooks at ground poles, he has to leap over them…can’t step over them.”

SmartPaker Lucy: “The weirdest thing my horse has ever spooked at is…a nun.”

Gaited Girl: “When I was in 4-H, I showed my gelding at the state show. Our showmanship class was in a covered arena that doubled as a birthing barn/petting zoo during the regular state fair, so it was decorated, including a large sheep painted on the exit door. Well, that sheep was the most terrifying thing ever, and my horse thought he would rather just stay in the ring, thank you very much. Five years we showed down there, and it was always the same reaction. And the year after I finished, they repainted the barn to plain red!”

Liz: “A baby. He was cool with it until it made a noise, then he shied away about 10 feet.”

Karis: “My sweet little OTTB gelding is pretty anti-spook… EXCEPT for logs. Ground poles are fine, flower boxes are fine, but God forbid there’s a LOG on the ground, it’s all over. Shaking and using every ounce of his mental strength to not fly sideways.”

EquineMelody: “One time, there was this wheelbarrow sitting to the side of the barn that he flipped out about. It had never been there before, but he could see it from a mile away, and he’s seen and been around wheelbarrows plenty of times before, but holy crap it was in a different spot! Scary stuff man, scary stuff. Anything, no matter if he’s seen it and been around it a hundred times before, if it’s in a different spot, it’s clearly moving closer so it can eat him.”

emmaeclipselucylove: “One time my sister was running around bent over touching her toes like a hunch back and my boy Eclipse started freaking out and tried to kick her!”

~Fjord~: “My horse is scared of little candy wrappers on a trail. I can swing a tarp all over him and he doesn’t mind, but candy wrappers are going to eat him.”

SmartPaker Casey: “My horse was terrified of a kid pretending to be a monkey in a tree!”

Tiggy212: “My Appendix saw a red canoe being dragged across the ground almost 1/4 mile away from within the barn while having his feet trimmed. Took 15 minutes for him to calm down enough to finish his feet!!”

Sarah_Zeid: “I have a solid, seasoned gelding that is only really afraid of two things: tree stumps and boulders!”

cq_tipy: “My boy now is scared to death of cows. He hears a “moo” and his eyes roll and he has a high speed come apart. Needless to say, he is not a roping horse.”

Leslie: “One day when all the horse were turned out, the workers power washed the inside of the barn. When it was time to bring them back in, my horse REFUSED to go in his stall. Nothing could get him in! He was snorting and totally terrified of it. I ended up having to switch stalls with another horse. He’d go in any of the other stalls in the entire barn but not his because it looked slightly different…”
“Another time, I bought him a new halter because his had broke. I went in his stall to put it on, and he ran to the back of his stall, avoiding me. I went up to him, he went to the front, snorting at it and refused to look at it. Unlike most horses who realize something’s not going to eat them if you show it to them first – showing him only reaffirms his suspicions that yes indeed it WILL eat him.”

Sarah Paull

Sarah Paull is a lifelong rider and SmartPak’s Brand Manager. You may know her better as the life-size foam finger from the London Olympics, the host of USEF Network’s Live from London coverage, or “that girl from the Stuff Riders Say videos.” Prior to joining SmartPak in 2008, Sarah worked as a Veterinary Technician at B.W. Furlong & Associates in Oldwick, NJ, and obtained her degree in Equine Science from Centenary College. Sarah is the proud mom of Cody, a semi-retired, 23-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, and she’s currently looking for an eventing partner to help her get rid of all the extra time, money and energy she doesn’t actually have :-) If you're interested in her often-horsey, always-odd musings, follow @SmartPakerSarah on Twitter.

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37 comments on “24 weird things our horses are scared of
  1. Kim says:

    My horse is afraid of black mattes pads when I put them on…but he isn’t afraid of white ones. 🙂 He cracks me up.

  2. AP says:

    Oaten hay – A sharp bit poked my mare drawing blood..and for a while there she thought it was highly spook worthy.

  3. julie says:

    Smells…anything not produced in a barn!

  4. JP says:

    My horse is scared of his own farts. If you are riding him and he passes gas hold on tight. It’s like he can’t believe that his butt made that noise.

  5. Alicia Coughey says:

    My horse is scared of cats fighting. He loves cats and will even let them climb on his back, they can meow, they can purr, they can rub on his legs. But heaven forbid they get in a fight or even hiss at each other. He gets so tense and nervous if the barn cats fight or hiss and it takes a while after they stop to get him to relax and focus again.

  6. Faran says:

    My horse was afraid of two things. Dragonflies, which could be areal problem when you are a trail rider. Luckily he didn’t bolt when he spooked just planted himself like a rock. The other thing was fishing string glinting in the sun. No way was he going anywhere near that. No matter how hard I tried to get him to move as long as that string was glinting he was planted like a boulder.

  7. Kathy Goheen says:

    my driving team handles most everything that crowds of people can do except baby strollers. now matter how many times they see them they still have to really look them over and try to side step as far away as they can.

  8. Joyce says:

    I have minis and they aren’t afraid of much of anything but I’ve seen many large horses freak out when they see my minis!

  9. Paula says:

    My 26-year old OTTB is a calm gentleman who doesn’t get flustered easily. He’ll even look at the others jaunting around the field like they’re complete kindergarteners and encourages younger horses on trail rides. But don’t ask him to jump over a log, face another horse approaching any faster than a walk, pass by a large stone/rock or be in the same enclosure as a mini. Oh, and we don’t visit the ass across the street, apparently he’s the school bully. So appreciative of full-seat breeches!

  10. Amanda says:

    My 10 (almost 11) y/o Foundation Appaloosa is absolutely terrified of dirt clods on the side of the road. It’s really bad after the maintainer has come through and they’ve moved. They moved, and therefore, they WILL eat her. She is also ridiculously terrified of blue capped fence posts…and anything yellow. I went out to ride one day in my WEG (2010) security volunteer jacket (they were BRIGHT yellow) and she FLIPPED out. She wouldn’t let me NEAR her as long as I was wearing yellow. Can’t MAKE her go over a yellow jump, near yellow flowers (which is REALLY bizarre since she is around dandelions ALL the time), or pretty much anything yellow. Random abandoned hay bales freak her out too come to think of it…

  11. Angelina says:

    My 9 year old Westphalian gelding is scared of my trainer… but only while we are jumping. If she is standing near a jump he shies aways and won’t jump it until she walks away 🙂 My other 8 year old Quarter Horse is scared of puddles… according to him they eat little Buckskin Quarter Horses…

  12. Taylor says:

    I had a horse who was absolutely terrified of mud puddles. If there was one in his path he would do his best to walk around the edge. If I wouldn’t allow that he would jump the puddle instead. Who would have thought a hoof eating monster lived in every mud puddle??

    • Virginia Koch says:

      My 28 yr old Arab, Cameo, the love of my life for the past 25 years, says she is a desert horse and there should not be any mud puddles in her life. She too will do anything to avoid going through one, jump over it, side pass, snort and blow at one, but if someone rides a 4-wheeler or bicycle through one, she will trot right into the puddle and go about her merry way.

      • Lori Phillips says:

        When the water is disturbed she cant see her reflection if it’s a smooth surface she doesn’t understand why the other horse is in a little hole in the ground most horses have some closterphobia

    • Sue says:

      I was told that horses have no depth perception, so anything dark that they can’t see the bottom of to them is like stepping in to the abyss.

  13. Toni Akerley says:

    I had adopted a standardbred form the track and broke him to ride.So one day we were going out for a ride and I had left a laundry basket by the clothesline and when he saw it he went sideways about 100 miles an hour ,snorted and stomped his front feet.When I got my heart and him under control I laughed so hard.

  14. katie stevens says:

    My sisters old show horse, still to this day (he’s 22), is terrified of any kinda sheep skin pad. We think that he may have had a sheep friend on the track and he can’t stand the smell of the sheep skin/wool.

  15. Gretchen says:

    I can relate to the stall that was “too clean.” I power-washed the inside of the shelter in the paddock and the wood got much lighter (I didn’t realize how dingy it was until then, but they do like to back all the way up to the wall to poop, so it makes sense!). All 3 of the horses who use that shelter refused to go in for DAYS!

  16. Satin'sMum says:

    My QH 4 y/o mare won’t have anything to do with measuring tape or fly spray…sees the tape or spray bottle and she keeps walking away giving me “the eye”

  17. Dee Mooney says:

    My now 19 year old WB/Tb cross never spooked at a thing. Until we were standing at the ingate and the course was posted on a large, horse shaped board. She spun and almost ran over a pony! Her Mom never spooked at a thing until we were riding down the levee one day and there was all of this construction machinery: dump trucks, tractors, cranes, etc. She did not care about that. But a 1/4 mile down the road, there was an old man with a fishing pole she would not go near. The poor man kept apologizing saying “Miss, I won’t hurt your horse.” Think she thought it was a lunge whip.

  18. Courtney Branscome says:

    I was helping my trainer break in a green pony. The pony was on the lounge line while I was riding it. We trotted the pony for the first time with me on his back and he started farting at the trot. I started laughing and he scooted off with me on the lounge. We stopped him easily,I guess he had never heard someone laugh on his back! LOL.

  19. Carol Wahl says:

    My mare can face down trucks, law mowers, dogs on leashes, bicycles, tractors pulling hay wagons. Not bad for a horse that was afraid of nearly everything when I got her. But bushes are her undoing, especially ones taller than she is. After a crazed, bug-eyed pony, dragging a saddle under his belly jumped through a bush along the trail and crashed into her, she thinks every bush more than 4 feet tall must have a pony behind it waiting to assault her. Oddly enough, she doesn’t have a problem with ponies, just bushes they might be hiding behind!

  20. I had a gelding that was pretty solid on the trails but one day I threw a cob of corn in his feeder and he tried to climb out of his stall when he seen that!!!

  21. Anne Hopkins (code name: "Espionage" from one of my horses, please) says:

    I had two geldings, an Arabian and a thoroughbred, who were suspicious of moi walking up to them in the pasture wearing a Barbour jacket with the hood snugged around my head. They seemed to think I was an alien, or maybe a giant sperm a la Woody Allen’s movie. No matter if it was pouring rain, I had to take down the hoodie and say, “guys, it’s me – the mom who loves you.” Then they would look mildly sheepish and come trotting over to be haltered and led in. Bad hair days – no problem – but a hoodie, we don’t know you.

  22. Patty says:

    Our QH gelding, Stormy, wasn’t born with too much courage. So it’s a good thing that he spooks in place when something scares him. My husband, who was riding Stormy, & I, riding our “steady Eddie” encountered water running across a dip in the trail due to a plugged-up culvert. Instead of following my horse thru the very shallow water, Stormy stopped, put his nose down to the ground & leaned back as far as he could with his rear pushed way up! My husband’s feet almost touched the ground! I thought I was going to fall off I was laughing so hard! He did cross after a minute or so.

  23. Cathy says:

    My OTTB was always spooked when OTHER HORSES got so much as tapped with a crop or dressage whip, even if the other horse was at the far end of the ring and even if it didn’t react. But on his first ever trail ride he hardly reacted to a pheasant taking flight right under his nose, while the seasoned eventer next to him nearly took flight himself!

  24. Sue Ellen Parker says:

    Icebergs! Since we are in a severe drought, I try to pile the ice I chopped out of the water tank on the half that is “un chopped”. Definitely a reason to freak out!

  25. susan says:

    My daughters horse is usually unflappable. One day on the trail a runner came by wearing just shorts. (a hot day) Well her horse acted like he had seen a monster. I guess he didn’t like a partially dressed humans. He calmly passes people on the trail all the time, skiers in winter, dog walkers etc.
    The trails we ride are fairly narrow with bush on either side. My horse objects to pony or horse drawn vehicles. He will pass them if they stand still but will jump if they move as he goes by them.

  26. Lois Williams says:

    My Appy mare, Zuni, walked in her stall and saw electrolyte powder in her feed. She bolted from the stall at Mach 3 speed. We now call electrolytes ” witch powder ” as Zuni is SURE that there are witches everywhere. Mailboxes – small witch housing , blooming bushes – hiding places for witches , new stall feeder – witch’s cauldron .

  27. GramArab says:

    My Arabian gelding, Gram, always mimics what the horse in front of him is doing. Once i was on a trail ride with my friend, and her horse got spooked by a branch. it took Gram a minute to process it, and then he spooked the same way! He also won’t go over a jump unless it’s white. He is terrified of wood!

  28. Emma says:

    I own a usually unflappable horse! We’ve been honked at, yelled at, stung by bees, swam through water, trailers fine, doesn’t care about her stall, doesn’t mind me tacking up, isn’t a SUPER confident jumper yet, but she doesn’t refuse anything unreasonable, is fine when horses spook, is fine with runners, loves cats, is annoyed with dogs, LOVES little kids. She is almost unflappable. She’s had tarps over her full body, plastic bags over her head, cans jiggled near her, and countless other usually intimidating things.
    But don’t come near her with a small wadded up piece of paper towel. She will blow her gasket!
    It’s actually really funny, if you come near her with a unfolded piece, she’s fine and dandy. Ball it up, and suddenly the piece of paper has turned into a small mare-eating monster!

  29. Jelybean426 says:

    I have a gelding who is terrified of any noises behind him or anything touching his butt. My mom flipped off the light in the tack room and the door was back by his flank and the little “click” made him jump out of his skin. At our barrel show last Sunday, when we came out of the first barrel, my sunglasses fell off the back of my head and hit him in the butt which resulted in him bucking like a psycho and me with a concussion and broken back. While my back and head heal, we will be working on desensitizing his crazy butt. Lol

  30. RichGill says:

    My wife’s 17yo gelding Paint goes into a panting and big eyed frenzy at the site of white shoofly tassels on the end of reins. But black tassels are ok. Only white tassels.

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