All horses spook eventually, ammiright? Do you remember your first real spook on a horse? What did you do? How did you feel? What happened?
Last Friday, my kids didn’t have school, so after barn chores we tacked up the horses and had a little ride in the indoor arena. Gracie is still practicing steering and gait control with Hot Rod. He’s started listening to her more and more, but it’s a work in progress! I don’t give her lessons, exactly, but I give her some instructions on riding and also show her some riding exercises. That day, she worked on serpentines, and worked on keeping her hands low. Then she worked at the trot, making bigger and smaller circles around the arena. She’s steadily progressing and I’m super proud of her. We missed the April show we had planned due to rain, so we’re shooting for the June show!
When we were almost done riding, we heard a couple mares out in the turnout pasture whinny excitedly. Both our horses raised their heads and pricked their ears. I said, “HEELS DOWN.” Gracie immediately obeyed, but our horses soon lost interest and we kept riding. It gave me a good chance to explain why we keep our heels down when we ride, but especially in situations where our horse might move quickly.
As we were finishing up, we were about half-way down the arena when suddenly those two mares came into view again, bolting across their paddock. Kona swung to my left and Hot Rod performed his classic tuck-the-tail-and-lurch-forward-spook. It’s over in an instant, and very mild compared to other horses’ spooks, but scary to a new rider, nonetheless. The horses stood tensely as tears started streaming down Gracie’s face. She begged me to let her get off, but I said absolutely not. I grabbed her reins and began to pony them around the arena. By this time, Hot Rod was back to his normal sleepy self, but Gracie was a ball of nerves. I had her wiggle her arms until they hung limp at her sides, and showed her how to take deep breaths until she felt relaxed. Finally, she started to smile again and feel comfortable. I’m so glad I made her stay on. When your babe is scared and crying all you want to do is hug them, and it seemed cold to refuse that. But, as a horsewoman I knew how important it is to KEEP GOING. In fact, the most rewarding times of growth are when you push forward during fear. When I look back on my life with horses, I can clearly remember times where I should have pushed onward, but I regrettably didn’t. Where would I have been in my riding if I had? Definitely further along than I am today.
You only get one first horse spook. I hope she remembers hers as a milestone of growth.