September 30, 2011We get some intriguing questions here at the True West World Headquarters. Here's one from Alaska:
"My mom and I watch Encore Western channel everyday. We were just watching The Virginian and 2 horses got spooked by a snake and they took off running. The Virginian finally got them to stop. Is it just in the movies and shows that horses actually keep on going when they get spooked? Do they actually have the sense to finally stop after a couple of minutes when they aren't anywhere near what spooked them?
—Jennifer Holt, Ketchikan, Alaska
This is an interesting question. In the new Western movie Blackthorn, Butch Cassidy's horse gets away from him and runs out of sight, around a bend, never to return. Is that true for all horses? No. One factor is when horses get loose on a ranch, they often run back to the barn. Meaning they will go to where the feed and shelter is. I've had this happen to me on rides while visiting my Kingman Cowboy Cousins.
I asked Marshall Trimble to weigh in. Here's his reply:
It certainly could happen. Horses, like people react differently to surprises. One time over on the Big Sandy I was riding one of Dave Ericksen’s horses and riding in some thick brush along the river the horse came astraddle a big rattler. The horse stood motionless, even after I touched him with my spurs. Joe Beeler was right behind me and he said, “Marshall, there’s a rattlesnake between his front and hind legs.”
looked down and saw the reason why the horse wouldn’t move. After making his point the rattler slithered away and we moved on. A spooky horse would have dumped me off on top of that snake but these horses were used to them and knew what to do.
Other times on another horse I’ve had one nearly buck me off when a piece of paper blew in front of us.
Short answer….Depends on the horse.
PS You can use that story if you want. It’s my favorite horse-snake tale.
"There are two things that will spook a horse. If you move suddenly, or if you don't."
—Old Vaquero Saying