Yup there are Bomb-Proof horses in the world. There is also a Loch Ness monster in Scotland, a Yeti in the Himalayas, an over abundance of cash in all of our bank accounts, and none of us ever secretly wants to look like a super model.
One of the horses I exercise falls loosely into the bomb-proof category. It helps that “Go” is not a concept he’s intimately familiar with. He’s been sacked out with hula hoops, flags, tarps, soda cans full of rocks, plastic grocery bags (the biggest spook inducer on the planet), power equipment, ropes, etc. You name it, however unlikely, his owner had thought of it.
I believe in a calm, thoughtful, and thorough sacking out. I do not believe this makes the horse bomb proof in any way, shape, or form. Every horse has the potential to melt down completely and utterly. It’s genetically coded into their brains.
Oh how easy it is to be lulled into complacency. Warmish day on a horse who despises warmth to the point of lethargy. Sunshine. Blue sky. Pleasant breeze. Red-tailed hawk circling overhead. Doves cooing in the rafters of the covered arena. Great day to warm up with a big walk on the buckle, and drop the stirrups: nice way to stretch into a good seat position, before picking up the real work.
Unless, perhaps, a barn worker doesn’t see you, climbs on top of the trash truck, unties the huge black tarp covering the load, and flings it unknowingly over you and the horse. Whereupon it’s picked up by said lovely breeze, and cracks and snaps wildly in the air over your head. Dementors, anyone?
Anyone reading this still believe in bomb proof horses? I think we all know what comes next. It isn’t a curious, relaxed horse looking up questioningly at the whipping black thing making rifle sounds, and thinking “Hmm…wonder what that is?” Yawn. “Well, what’s our first exercise?”
It’s an instant rollback at a dead gallop with no irons and no reins on a wildly frightened thousand pound animal whose entire existence is on the line.
Good Morning. This is your wake up call. There is no moment on a horse in which you can’t pay attention or be quietly ready.
Fortunately, I didn’t come off. This horse was very well sacked out and reacted mildly. He didn’t buck, rear, or drop and scoot to unload me. He simply ran away and took me with him. When we hit the dead end of the arena, he did another 360 and planted…a better view with which to evaluate the situation. Gotta love this horse. He stayed reasonable and actively processing data even when his primal fear was triggered.
Because of that, I was able to get both the irons and the reins to do the icky task of calmly taking us near(ish) the scary thing while doing other work. Message: See? It was scary all right and you weren’t bad, but it’s over, and not THAT big a deal; we will still work.
It’s not the other guy’s fault. If I had been paying attention, I would have seen the barn worker. I was higher up, he would have been easy to spot. I would have been quietly ready for a reaction, even if it was no reaction.
The Bomb-Proof horse is one of the Urban Horse Legends that bothers me the most. It’s not educated thinking and places way too much responsibility on the horse. Even if we don’t believe in bomb-proof horses, we need to review how we think about our horses. I was shocked at how easily I fell into the “oh this guy is quiet” mentality. Sure. Until he’s not.
I think we should strive to be Bomb-Proof riders. We’d be less likely to get into potentially disastrous situations, and blame the horse or someone else.
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