What does "spooky" mean to you? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 07-09-2020, 04:11 PM Thread Starter
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What does "spooky" mean to you?

I was just wondering what "spooky" means to everyone. To me, it means a horse that is very reactive to external stimuli / jumpy. In other words, the horse that, when it sees that plastic bag blowing toward it, will at least do a little jump in place, if not something more severe.

I ask because one of my instructors apparently thinks it means stubborn and disobedient. When I told her once that I liked Moonshine for my daughter because of how non-spooky she is (she has only ever jumped at something ONCE in the time we've had her, and that was only a little bit), she was like "Really? But she's always acting up when ______ rides her." Moonshine at that time tended to not to want to stay on the rail, to duck in where possible, and to be pokey in the arena.

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post #2 of 11 Old 07-09-2020, 04:30 PM
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I think of spooky more in your definition than your instructor's. The dictionary definition of spooky is "(of a person or animal) easily frightened; nervous."

However, I consider there to be a difference between spooking (a.k.a teleporting) and simply startling (a.k.a that abrupt stop/lurch and look). My horse startles sometimes (like when a bird pops out of the bush), but she doesn't bolt or nope-out on me. I like of startling more like, "Woah! That was scary! What was that?" and spooking more like "RUN for your lives!"
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post #3 of 11 Old 07-09-2020, 04:40 PM
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Reactive, unpredictable....just 2 words of many I would start to explain spooky as.

What you describe as jump in place to me is more startled but thinking...
Spooky horses react then think...they move first.
Thinkers, think it out and decide if it is something to run from.
Your Moonshine sounds a bit of both...lets you know something is their, but uses the brain to reason is it worth running or reacting from.
The safer mount is the thinker in my book and worth their weight in gold.

Your trainer, I'm sorry sounds confused that a horse who needed to be taught that going roundy-round in a ring setting is fun, challenging and exciting thinks that being a bit reluctant, opinionated and balky to the same roundy-round is spooking...she needs a serious education of what a wheeling, reactive mount is all about.

Horses get bored doing the same mundane things every ride...so change it up.
Moonshine I bet likes to explore and see, do different things...investigate and get into sillies when allowed.
Go on a trail ride, go ride in a different area of the field/paddock not often seen.
Make the ride something to think about, not just mentally plod around about...
That mental stagnation can actually create a spooky horse when the horse loses concentration then gets caught by surprise a few times they learn then that kind of reaction unnerves the rider and suddenly they aren't ridden so much...oh yes, do be wise to how a thinker can become a habitual spook to get out of working.
I would classify Moonshine more as settled mentally, not letting much set her off but to look at it first, then react gently....
If though that settled mental ability horse ever truly spooks or tells you it is time to move on...you go immediately cause the horses sense of self-preservation will safely whisk you away or leave you to fend for yourself the imminent danger.

My trail horse is a thinker, doesn't rattle easily...but when he hits alert status of quiver and tense...he has my attention.
If he says we gone, catch my dust!!
If he says we face it down...we do.
Moonshine sounds much like my boy...
..
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post #4 of 11 Old 07-09-2020, 05:00 PM Thread Starter
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@horselovinguy actually we've been doing a lot more riding in the pasture lately, and Moonshine loves it. She's so forward out there and she always seems happier. Just her whole body language. It was really hard for her to get used to being in the arena (BORING!), and although she has done a great job getting there she will always prefer trails and open spaces. One of these days I'll get a trailer and we'll start hauling her and Pony out to trails.

And yes, she's definitely a thinker, not a reactor. That one time she jumped a little, they were out in the arena when an enormous bolt of lightning went off right overheard. The other horses were in a nearby pasture and they were all running around freaking out, but she just jumped a little and then stayed where she was. She's awesome that way.

Also, I'm pretty sure she would LOVE your phrase, "going roundy-round in a ring setting is fun, challenging and exciting..."

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post #5 of 11 Old 07-09-2020, 05:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ACinATX View Post
Also, I'm pretty sure she would LOVE your phrase, "going roundy-round in a ring setting is fun, challenging and exciting..."

NOT....you forgot the not!



She sounds like a nice horse, a wonderful fun mount to explore on and be safe during that time exploring.
...

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post #6 of 11 Old 07-09-2020, 08:03 PM
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While I have known some people who consider a spooky horse to be disobedient, to me it simply means reactive.

What does your instructor call a horse who jumps in reaction to things?
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post #7 of 11 Old 07-10-2020, 09:26 AM
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All horses are prey animals. They all have the inherent flight gene. Proper conditioning suppresses that inherent trait. A war horse is a perfect example of a horse that's been conditioned to face extreme circumstances. But even a war horse can "spook" under extraordinary or unusual conditions.

So "spook" to me is that natural tendency to flee from the unknown by a horse that hasn't been conditioned to specific encounters.

"Spirited" to me, on the other hand, is a great thing. A spirited horse will make you a better rider. My #1 ride is a 12-year-old Arab stallion that I've ridden for years and he's my best cow horse.
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post #8 of 11 Old 07-10-2020, 10:16 AM
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I'll add this: You cannot teach a horse not to startle. That startle may include a hop sideways, or a sudden full stop. However, you can teach a horse over time that you have excellent advice to give on how to handle a threat, so the initial scoot sideways is followed by a pause while the horse waits to hear your solution.

Bandit used to scoot sideways up to 50 yards if the space was available. He now rarely scoots more than 5 feet. When I got him, he would startle, then want to turn 180 and beat feet. Now he waits for my advice. And from his perspective, he is doing me a favor. He has figured out his sense of smell and hearing is much better than mine. So he'll alert, then usually look intently in the direction of whatever has him worried. Then he waits to see what I suggest.

To me, that means he is no longer "spooky". He is observant and wants to live forever. But the size of his startle reaction is way down and he then listens to me. I don't consider that spooky.

Mia was spooky. Even after she stopped bolting with diarrhea squirting out as she fled, her remaining startle reaction was a 360 degree spin. Sometimes several full circles. I eventually got her to listen after startling, but her emotions would then still be on edge for 20+ minutes - like a boiling pot of water that has only cooled to 205 degrees, and won't take much to boil again. Bandit, OTOH, in the absence of a continuing threat, will usually calm down in 30-60 seconds. That quick cooling off time is part of why I consider Bandit a steady horse.

BTW - I have two horses who almost never startle. The truth is that they aren't very smart and have no imagination. They tend to plow ahead without thinking. That makes them an easy but boring ride. I greatly prefer an alert horse who talks to me.
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post #9 of 11 Old 07-10-2020, 10:30 AM
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Spooky is when a horse is easily set off by stimulus that makes it anxious for whatever reason. It's not misbehaviour anymore than if someone jumped out from a dark doorway at you and shouted "BOO!", and you jumped.

Some horses learn to "fake spook" to rattle their riders, but it's a very different vibe from the horse when that happens. They'll shy and resist but you don't get the same tells from them, physically, that you do when they're genuinely afraid of something.

Lowering a horse's baseline of anxiety can help with real spookiness, but some horses are just a lot more wired for it than others. I hate riding spooky horses, personally, mainly because I don't enjoy the feeling of my heart leaping into my throat -- and also, I like staying on!!
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post #10 of 11 Old 07-10-2020, 11:27 AM
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I kind of like a spooky horse but admit it is more relaxing to ride Bandit now than it was 5 years ago....
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