Today we had a major spooking problem with Solo. On his way into and out of both his work area and his paddock, he has to pass by some reflective windows on one side, and a fence line that sometimes has washing hanging on it on the other side. For some reason, he has always been very suspicious of this ‘trap’. He snorts, stops and blows his way through every day. Today he snorted, stopped and galloped his way through with my working student swinging gracefully on the other end of his lead shank.

I normally don’t make an issue of spooking on the basis that when the horse is in front of my leg, or obedient to the lead, spooking will disappear. However, once in a blue moon, a horse will build a spook into a serious and irrational fear. I decided that this had happened with Solo, and Selena and I spent his lesson time walking and halting in the forbidden area. To begin with he was hysterical, running round me in circles. I had a lunge rope on to give me some play and I carried a dressage whip to make sure I didn’t get trampled in his panic. Selena had a lunge whip and was coaxing him from behind. The reason for the lunge whip is that he can see it easily and wave the lash around if necessary. Also, he understands the lunge whip, respects it and is not afraid or excited by it. In the end, he must do it without Selena behind him, he has to be more respectful of me and more trusting in my assessment of what is, and is not, safe for him to walk by.

As soon as he calmed down enough to stand trembling and blowing in the middle of the Awful Alley, I tried to give him a treat but he was too upset and panicky to take it. I continued to walk him and halt him with Selena’s help and eventually he nibbled a little grass out my hand, lowered his head and walked by as though the Alley didn’t ever exist. Who knows what suddenly got into him but he just gave in as though there had never been an issue. At that point we stopped and put him in his stall. Later when he had to be led past it again, he once more stopped and was reluctant. I was there to cluck gently behind him and he managed to walk through without a fuss, even if he wasn’t breathing…

I have no idea what ghost lives in the window reflections, but I hope it is going to be exorcised at the Royal. Boy is he going to have a lot to spook at when he arrives in Toronto, he won’t know where to start.