Contrary to what the phrase implies, horses are not recruited by the CIA. Nor does it (necessarily) mean your spouse’s/friend’s barn was visited by a covert operative for possible rider recruitment into the murky world of equestrian intrigue.
Spook is used as both a noun and a verb to mean: my horse was frightened by something, got scared, and acted perfectly horsey; which is to say Flicka went berzerko.
- Spook: N. horses spook, i.e. react with fear. Usually this involves, at minimum, the horse dancing and snorting. At maximum, it involves the equestrian flying through the air with the greatest of ease, while the horse watches in rider-less comfort from the far end of the arena. (Or, if on the trail, waiting ten miles back where he’s quietly standing in front of his stall while his rider dusts herself off, and contemplates the nice ten mile limp she has ahead of her. In heels.
- Spooking: V. usually the act of bolting (running away really, really fast)
Spooked: V. horse is jumpy, ready to spook. N. past tense of spooking.
Spooky: V. on edge, ready to spook, jumpy.
Let’s get a couple of context translations going.
My horse spooked with me today, I wish my barn would fix the PA system.
Translation: Someone accidentally flipped the On switch and horrific feedback made the entire arena clear within seconds…of horses. The riders were all tanked in the dirt.
My horse was spooky today. Watch out for the north end of the arena, it’s spooky.
My horse was spooky today: my horse is on crack, he’s totally paranoid.
Watch out for the north end of the arena, it’s spooky. A spooky area is a spot or section where a horse is convinced torture and death is imminent.
This leads us into two other concepts: Spook Cooties and Spook Shopping.
The spot in the arena that the horse is convinced hold only torture and death is infested with spook cooties. Spook Cooties are extremely difficult to eradicate, and highly contagious. All it takes is one horse in the arena to declare COOTIES OVER THERE and every other horse in the arena knows instantly to avoid that spot at all costs. Think third grade playground at recess. Cootie tag. Cootie spots are also whimsical, and frequently change positions.
Most arenas have a spot or section infested with spook cooties.
Spook Shopping (aka Window Shopping)
While this has a lovely leisurely sound to it, spook shopping is when a horse isn’t even remotely frightened: he’s window shopping for something with “fooled YOU” potential. When you see your horse speculatively rolling his eyes and arching his neck at the same crinkly tarp he’s passed quietly every day for a year, he’s calculating whether or not you will believe he could spook at this, and how much fun he can get out of it.
Spook shopping can come about when the horse simply feels TOO good to work quietly: why walk when he can dash, prance, bolt, skitter, and BUCK? Or he’s bored, lazy, or tired of work and looking for a quick way to end his misery by causing you misery.