Prefer to listen to this post?
I live with non horsey people so when I have had a frustrating day at the stable, it can be hard to explain it to them. One of my regular frustrations is linked to Scottie’s thoroughbred brain. When he gets upset, there is no reasoning with him and you just have to wait for him to calm down. I have tried time and again to explain this idea to them, just getting blank faces in response.
But I recently came up with the perfect way to explain it, a fizzy horse is like a bottle of coke. Now I don’t just mean that they are both fizzy, but our actions can make them fizzier and when they explode, there isn’t a huge amount we can do about it.
Small actions build up
Now, we have all seen those kids experiments where you put mints into a bottle of coke and watch it explode. But if you put a small amount of mint in, the coke doesn’t explode, it fizzes slightly and eventually stops. But if you keep adding little bits of mint in before the fizzing stops, the coke with explode.
Scottie doesn’t lose his head over nothing. What usually happens is lots of little things happen close together until he can’t cope anymore, much like adding lots of little bits of mint into coke.
For example, he finds hacking on his own a bit stressful, asking him to go out by himself is dropping a little bit of mint in. Then early on on our ride, something like a pheasant might jump out at him, dropping another bit of mint into the bottle. Maybe some new road markings have been painted which he looks at, adding a bit more mint. Then something really mundane like someone coming round the corner and surprising him adds more mint, causing the bottle to overflow and resulting in a big spook.
Someone coming round the corner would never normally cause him to spook. But because lots of little things have been niggling at him and he hasn’t had enough time to relax again between them, something mundane pushed him over the edge.
How to stop an explosion
Unfortunately with horses, you can’t always stop an explosion. But there is usually something you can do to reduce the chance of an explosion. For Scottie, when he starts getting uptight about something, giving him a break and walking him on a long rein helps him relax. I see this a bit like leaving the coke to fizz itself out after adding mint. I can then pick him up again and should be able to carry on as before without him losing his head.
Every horse has something what works best for them to help them when they get uptight. Some would rather trot than walk to relax again. But if you can identify that your horse is starting to fizz over, you can take steps to let them relax again.
Why do we want to stop an explosion?
Well not only can an explosion of stressful energy be dangerous, many horses exploding via bucking or similar, many horses stop focusing when they get that fizzy. If your horse is getting fizzy and uptight about something new you are trying to teach them, they reach the point where they stop learning.
However, depending on what you are teaching your horse, you do sometimes need a little bit of fizz. So it really is a balancing act of keeping your horse active and reactive enough to achieve what you are working on. But also recognising when it is bubbling too close to the top and stopping before it goes to far.