View Full Version : A Spooked Horse

Jessica Lei
04-09-2011, 11:17 AM
I've only been around a horse maybe twice in my life, so I'm not sure about how quick a horse would trust a rider that just spooked him?

In my story, a girl lets her anger get the best of her, and the horse responds negatively and takes off with her on it. This is the first time she's rode this horse, but she's a good rider (usually!).

Would the horse allow her to keep riding him, or would he want nothing to do with her? Or does it depend on the horse? I'm wondering if it would be more logical for her and her friend to calm the horse and then continue, or if she should jump off and hitch a ride with her friend instead.

Any opinions would be great, thank you!

04-09-2011, 06:16 PM
You say she's a good rider, but she lets her anger get the best of her ... and... what? What does she DO to the horse? A good rider by definition, wouldn't do something to abuse the horse.

When I say a horse 'spooks' - that means he reacts to something that startles him/her. Using the proper aids - the spurs or the crop - encourages the horse - but doesn't 'spook' them.

What is it you want the horse to do? Run off with the rider? An inexperienced rider might use the crop or spurs (shouldn't be wearing or carrying) improperly. A rider who THINKS they are experienced, might put on spurs, and gig a horse. The horse would likely take off at a full gallop. An inexperienced rider - gripping at the flanks with her legs - then tends to spur the horse on, and you have a run-away situation.

I guess my confusion stems from your use of the term 'good' to describe the rider.

Assuming that a rider 'lets her anger get the best of her' and she then whips the horse... assume that this particular horse does NOT take well to the crop, and bucks her off... Then the horse would definitely be leary of the rider. Might not let her mount with a crop in her hand. Some horses start dancing when they see a crop - this is their response to past abuses with it. Some horses simply become more LIVELY when they see a crop in your hand, or spurs on your feet - no need to even use them. When they know they are there, they perk up.

04-09-2011, 06:35 PM
I have the same questions as writeknight- what does she do and how did she let her anger get the best of her- if she is a 'good' rider she would not likely do something to the horse if she is angry.

As WK said, horses do not spook when they are spurred or have a crop used on them- they REACT to that. Horses are prey animals and they spook when they precieve a danger to them- my one gelding spooks when killer bunnies spring up out of high grass-lol- but the point is the sudden movement of the rabbit startles him - he precieves a threat and he spooks.

Now if I were to be an angry rider and crop my horse or spur him, or even rein him in to hard, then that horse might react to that by stomping. shaking his head, prancing, or even rearing or bucking- this is not spooking behavior this is 'I am trying to tell you something and you're not listening' behavior.

Give us some more details and maybe we can understand your scenario better.

Jessica Lei
04-10-2011, 01:06 AM
Sorry! I'm not very experienced with horses myself, so I wasn't sure what sort of information would be helpful. She did not whip the horse, or do anything abusive. I just imagined this horse a bit temperamental to new riders (and perhaps not liking girls much).

When she gets angry, it's not AT the horse, it's at her friend. She yells at her friend, and perhaps reigns the horse in too hard without thinking or something else that's nonabusive, yet something the horse wouldn't like (if either of you have any ideas? There wouldn't be spurs or crops). I imagined the horse wouldn't like it--or the yelling--and reacting as sheadakota describes. Bucking and rearing, then taking off when that's ineffective. I guess I didn't mean 'spook' at all! Sorry guys.

Since I don't know horses well, I didn't want to guess wrong about whether or not he'd still trust the rider. I'd LIKE to be as realistic as possible! I suppose my ideal scenario would be for her to jump off, judging it'd take too long (she's in a hurry) to calm the horse and gain his trust again, and then riding with her friend. I'm not sure if that's what an experienced rider would assume or not...

Thanks for both of your help so far :)

04-10-2011, 01:45 AM
I guess take this with a grain of salt, but my opinion is that if he is the sort of horse who would buck and then rear and then bolt, he is not the sort of horse who would let her continue. He probably has kind of a screw loose. Horses are herd animals and they mostly want to get along. If they are startled, they usually have their one go-to escape, ie they buck OR bolt OR rear, or even buck and then bolt. A good rider should be able to calm the horse down and reassure him that the rider is in charge and able to "protect" the horse. Horses don't forget, but they don't exactly hold grudges either.

But if the horse does all three in an effort to get the rider off, it probably has a screw loose and then all bets are off.

So I guess that means you have a choice. You can set it up like she's riding this horse with a reputation of being unpredictable and then he goes ballistic and she has to catch a ride with her friend (seems weird that the rider would forget and lose her temper her first time on a horse with such a reputation, but maybe that's consistent with the character's personality?) Or you can just have it be a mostly normal, if not slightly sensitive, horse who gets startled because the rider is agitated but then is able to be calmed when the rider realizes her mistake.

I've been riding for about 25 years, but to be honest, most of my experience is with sane horses.

04-10-2011, 01:47 AM
What is the purpose of this scene? How does it illuminate the character, and advance the plot?

Do you need to get rid of a horse, so that the pair ride double? Do you need to indicate that the character has a short temper? Do you need to indicate that the character is incompetent around horses? Do you need the horse to be difficult to ride, so that THAT ISSUE becomes salient in a later plot point?

Assuming they are riding along, all hunky-dory and your MC suddenly SHOUTS - which probably wouldn't spook a horse much - they'd likely perk up their head, perhaps swivel the ears about - maybe skip a step - but not run off.

Horses CAN spook at sudden things - usually unknown objects that appear sudddenly in their field of vision. Sometimes they develop a fear of a particular kind - flapping fabric is not uncommon - automobiles in some cases - sharp sounds like gunfire CAN cause them to bolt - but not a human voice.

So if the horse is tempermental to new riders - who normally rides it? Has she acquired this horse from someone else? (Borrowed/Stolen/Requisitioned) Sure - a spirited horse will OFTEN test a new rider - just to see what it can get away with. A 'good' rider will give clear commands - and not let the horse get away with anything.

A rental horse - a post horse - usually has a tough mouth, and is virtually IMPERVIOUS to new riders. It does not startle easily, and might have to be seriously 'urged' into a gate higher than a trot.

04-10-2011, 04:21 AM
Jessica no need to apologize - that's what this thread is for :)
I second everything WK gave you- I am still a little uncertain about the scenario- are the girl and her friend out riding or does the altercation you want start at the begining when they are just starting out.

If the girl is an experienced rider- and the horse is green (read that as newly broke) then she should know better than to ride it without her head fully in the game- if you know what I mean -

The scenario as I understand it is- the girl and her friend are out riding- she gets into a fight with her friend, and something she does sets the horse off- am I right so far?

As WK asked- what do you want to accomplish? Do you want the horse to take off? Buck the rider? Rear and throw her? Do you want her hurt?

This is your story, you can pretty much make anything you want happen- so let us know what the point is and I'm sure we can come up with a resonable scenario for you-

Jessica Lei
04-10-2011, 12:49 PM
Thank you everyone for your information! I see that it doesn't make much sense to have the horse have such a strong reaction (i.e., the horse would have to be insane, but this horse would often be used in the army, so I'd say it's probably sane and as WK says, impervious). I also see that it wouldn't make much sense for her to set the horse off, either, if she IS a good rider (which I imagined her to be).

The purpose of the horse is to show 1. that she's capable of riding one (both to readers and to her companion), but also 2. she's not perfect (because she messes up even though she's capable). Her friend is actually someone she's unsure of, and he says something that sets her off. He didn't know it would, and she's sick of hearing comments like that. So, yes, stupid of her to go off, but it's also characterization. It's also setting up for a later betrayal on her new friend's side.

My ideal scenario was, yes, to force her to ride with him (the friend). I'm thinking the horse has some rebellious spirit, and the horse is probably used to only riding with army men. I want her to ride with him because I need her to feel more comfortable with him, and I want her (and readers) to think he's generally a good guy. Their closeness will give him a chance to open up more about his past and reveal some necessary information for her later discovery.

Basically, I want to get her on his horse! I'm thinking it might make more sense for something ELSE to startle him, but I'm not sure what would if he IS quite impervious. They do have guns in this world, I do imagine this horse would've been around them before. On the other hand, it wouldn't be too far-fetched for him (and the army) to give her an insane horse that was hard to handle.

Any input?

04-10-2011, 01:06 PM
If it's a case of getting your MC off her horse and onto her friend's horse, perhaps you could try a different tack (if you'll pardon the pun) and have the girth snap on her saddle, or the bridle break or something like that. This would make the horse unrideable, but only because of a tack issue, rather than a behavioral thing.

Army horses are pretty much 'bombproof'. They've been trained to endure a lot of 'surprises' that an ordinary hack wouldn't.

Just a thought. :)

04-10-2011, 04:59 PM
Depending on the experience of the 'good rider', most wouldn't bat an eye at riding bareback. Some riders today get very far along and are petrified of going sans saddle however. And if said character is afraid of going bareback, the last place she'll wanna be is behind the saddle, where the horse is more 'wobbly', so she'll make the male friend ride behind.

Something else to factor in is wind. Maybe the horse is spirited but the character says 'no problem' b/c she isn't concerned and that's what they are offering. The wind picks up, the killer bunnies dart around, she's fighting her horse to exhaustion (hers, not the horse's), he ducks and spins and dumps her in the river. Fed up (and possibly watching her horse gallop back to camp), she rides double with her friend.

The other alternative is to lame the horse.

Also consider how horse 2 takes to being ridden double. Even if he tolerates it, it will wear him out much faster.

Tsu Dho Nimh
04-10-2011, 05:13 PM
When she gets angry, it's not AT the horse, it's at her friend. She yells at her friend, and perhaps reigns the horse in too hard without thinking or something else that's nonabusive, yet something the horse wouldn't like (if either of you have any ideas? There wouldn't be spurs or crops). I imagined the horse wouldn't like it--or the yelling--and reacting as sheadakota describes. Bucking and rearing, then taking off when that's ineffective.

1 - the correct word is "reins" (kings reign)

2 - If the rider gets distracted and is yelling at her friend, off-balance in the saddle, it's not going to take much for the horse to dump her in the dirt. Some horses are really good at detecting when the rider is not ready for a quick hop to the side, a bit of a shimmy and spin, and PLOP, the rider is in the dirt and the horse is loping back to his buddies at the corral. I think some do it for amusement.

04-10-2011, 06:50 PM
If this is an agrarian world - then pretty much everyone can ride a horse, no? Unless she's someone special, who perhaps is carried everywhere?

Military mount might be spirited, but not particularly 'spooky'. They do have a tendency however to 'ride to the guns'. That is they will ride TOWARD the sound of combat. So perhaps there is a training session going on? Assuming they are at or near a military post - and have gone on a leisure ride - perhaps the troops are drilling in the distance, and a volley is fired - the horse wheels sharply and takes off for the volley, dumping her. That might be plausible, depending on your setting and location. Or drumbeats, or trumpets (The call to charge or retreat is played) - that sort of thing.

THis can happen after she has lost her temper, is perhaps turned in the saddle shouting back at him, off balance. Cavalry mounts are ridden left handed (The right hand holds the weapon) A lot of 'trained' riders who go English are not comfortable with one handed riding. (Whatever your world, Cavalry seat is probably different than pleasure seat)

04-10-2011, 06:50 PM
The other alternative is to lame the horse.

Also consider how horse 2 takes to being ridden double. Even if he tolerates it, it will wear him out much faster.
What if the horse throws a shoe when he reacts? Care of the horse afterwards would show she is a capable rider. She shouldn't ride the animal back, so she'd either walk or ride back with her friend while leading her horse.

Some horses bolt from horsefly bites, but I don't know if an army horse would.

04-11-2011, 02:35 AM
If she's arguing passionately with her companion, she could forget to monitor the cues the horse is giving her about how it's feeling. If something then spooks the horse, and she reacts badly to her companion's remark instead of steadying the horse, it's conceivable that she could tip it over the edge, so to speak. Army horses are pretty bombproof--they have to be, obviously--but there's always the unexpected. When Roman horses first encountered elephants, they bolted. Same with camels. Even pigs can scare a horse that's never seen one before. Horses don't stop to puzzle out what something Scary Strange and New is; they're outta there.