I have a green eight-year-old zangersheide mare that hates flowers. Not the type of flowers that grow on the side of the ring, I mean the huge fake bouquet flowers that sit in front of the jumps. On a normal day we may have some stops when the jumps are raised, but I can count on her to freak-out, backup, and buck when flowers are placed next to rinky-dink little poles on the ground. Yes it’s terribly frustrating, and yes I tell her out loud: “come on! They are just flowers.”
Sometimes I wonder what’s running through her head, like does she really think that the flowers are going to eat her? My advice for if you guys are ever in this situation is put on your big cowgirl breaches and suck it up. the horse is always bigger and stronger then you will ever be and they have the mind of their own to think that what they are doing, be it backing up and kicking their legs, is justifiable. The flowers are scary and all you can do is take a calming breath and plant you butt into the saddle. The horse can feel your emotions and during this type of incident you have to be the clear-headed leader. Dig your heals into her side, cling to her with your calves (both for your safety and for her reassurance), and make sure she does not turn away from the dreaded poles.
She has to overcome her fear, even if you see it as irrational, and you have to tell that horse that you have her back no matter what. Sometimes during these weekly encounters I like to tell myself that someday in the future she will move one from poles and flowers and get scared or hesitant at other things, such as roll tops, and then I say “damnit, why can’t you be normal?” that always lightens my mood and makes me want to her; to tell her that we are a team.
That is quintessential to the relationship. You and your horse are partners in crime and you have to go into each lessen thinking that it will turn out better then the last. Even if it doesn’t, at least you learned something new and at least dealing with a crazy horse is much more fun than studying for school.