Why Horses Scare Me: Redux

My mom is here visiting this week and I don’t have a lot of time to write, so I am trotting out a super old post about my fear of horses that I wrote a couple years ago. I only mention this because I reference pregnancy and not being a parent in the post, and ZOMG I AM NOT PREGNANT. If I were, this post on fear would be on an entirely different subject.


On our first date, B decided the best way to romance me would be to take me out for Mexican food and to rent The Ring, which I mentioned in idle pre-date conversation that had never seen. Mexican food was a win (obvs), but our screening of the movie was not such a hit since it’s pretty much the most horrifying movie ever.

Clearly I eventually got over his gaff, as I’m sitting here eight years later with his baby happily pummeling my uterus, but I still dwell on it. It was that horrible horse scene that stays with me. Little did B know that horses are to me what clowns, black-eyed dolls, and drowning are to the general population. They scare the bejesus out of me and I would prefer sticking my hand in a terrarium full of spiders than interacting with them.

So that image of the horse in The Ring jumping off the boat and drowning? Beyond horrifying to me. Jaws, eat your heart out.

My base fear of the horse archetype is irrational on its own, but the groundwork was laid early on. The first movie my mom ever took me to see in the theater was My Little Pony: The Movie. A quick IMDB search yielded the information that this cinematic classic was released in 1986 and featured the vocal talents of Danny DeVito, Cloris Leachman, Rhea Perlman, and Tony Randall. It chronicled how Ponyland or wherever the Ponies lived was taken over by a witch-brewed tidal wave of Purple Smooze (NO, Google image search, I did not mean “Purple Schmooze”). If the Smooze touched you, you became grouchy all the time. It’s basically the g-rated version of Ghostbusters II. It horrified me so much that I ranted and wailed and had to be removed from the theater. So much to look forward to when I become a parent myself.

THIS is what you get when you search for "Purple Smooze." The horror of ponies and little girls everywhere.

THIS is what you get when you Google “Purple Smooze.” The horror of ponies and little girls everywhere.

And THIS is what you get when you search for "Purple Schmooze." Not so scary unless you have fears of blue cartoon men cupping your boobs.

And THIS is what you get when you search for “Purple Schmooze.” Not so scary unless you have fears of blue cartoon men cupping your boobs.

There was a lull in my horse life for a few years after that. My best friend Kendra had horses at her house, but luckily she also had a Super Nintendo that I insisted we utilize in our play in place of the horses. Being a good friend, I think she comprehended my fear of her horses and never insisted on doting on them when I was around.

But with adolescence comes the trying of all fears. At thirteen, I was obligated to participate in all youth group activities at my church. Any reluctance I had towards attending the Tuesday night meetings were dashed away with my parents’ promise that if the group of young Presbyterians took weekend trips, I could go. And who wouldn’t want that? There was one young studmuffin in the group who was on the swim team, and any opportunity to play Uno into the night with him (and twenty other kids) would be heartily embraced.

So off I went one fine early-December afternoon with the youth group to Chickasaw State Park to pray and – gasp! – ride horses in the woods for the weekend.

I didn’t see it ending well, but I had to do what I had to do.

Saturday morning, our group saddled up and we were lead into a trail in the woods. You know how there are a few things that everyone seems to know about riding horses? Like if you show them you’re nervous they’ll be nervous too? And that you should make clicky sounds to make them go? And you shouldn’t curse at them? So, I didn’t know those things, as my childhood exposure to horses had been mostly focused on avoiding them.

We entered the woods and Horse quickly started lagging behind the rest of the group. Of course it did. OF COURSE. In the two years that had elapsed since the beer-in-lunchbag incident, I had developed an acute awareness of my nerdiliciousness and figured that if I called to the rest of the group for assistance with my horse, I would forevermore be known as the Girl Who Can’t Ride Horses. It’s these kinds of reputations that ruin your life when you are a tween.

So Horse and I lagged. And lagged. And lagged. Until the rest of the group was out of sight. I started yelling at Horse.

“Why don’t you just go?! I realize you may have nowhere to be, but I’ve gotta make the most of my time with the senior high kids!”

Horse didn’t have much of a response to this, having no conception of the value I placed on chatting with sixteen-year-olds about Coolio. I hopped off of him and decided to lead him along. He would have none of it, and right then annoyance turned to fear. That same fear I had experienced in the movie theater not so long ago.

I am seriously going to be left here with this horse forever. My Christmas is ruined because Horse doesn’t like me. My parents are going to have to haul their butts out to Chickasaw to spearhead a search committee for me, all because of this animal that I cannot control. 

What felt like hours elapsed. It was probably like fifteen minutes, but similarly to Baby-Time, Being-Stuck-With-an-Immobile-Horse-in-the-Woods-Time is also equally distorted. I teared up with irrational tears and started planning my new life as a neo-Mowgli in the woods with the animal that clearly hated me as much as I hated it.

I dried my tears quickly when an eleventh-grade guy from my group came up behind me with his horse also in tow.

“I think my horse is lame,” he said.

Lame, I thought, is what all horses are.

But then I realized that the few years he had on me had enabled him to use the word correctly, as in his horse had broken its leg. Since eleventh grade boys were pretty much the gold standard of competence in my eyes, I was massively relieved that he had joined my sorry situation. Perhaps we could together eke out a paltry but sufficient existence in the woods forevermore.

Just when I had started concocting the plan for my new life in the woods with the eleventh grade boy, we turned a corner to the corral. The amount of trees in the woods belied the fact that we had probably only traveled about a mile in a circle. This was good news for me because I dreaded having to fashion clothing out of leaves and bark.

Our group had made it back about twenty minutes before, but they hadn’t stayed behind to wait for us. No. They hadn’t even noticed our absence.

They had stayed behind because upon reentering the corral area, one horse had become spooked and its rider had fallen off. This ignited a chain reaction of all the other horses becoming spooked and their riders falling off too. Hospital runs were made.

I guess I kind of got off easy on that one.

But I still don’t like horses.

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  1. I also dislike horses. They are arrogant, rude and evil. When I was in 4th grade summer camp an old girl named Sugar Cane had a reputation as the sweetest horse in the group. She intentionally walked close enough to trees that my legs would scrape and after about 3 minutes of that, she raised up and bucked and threw my ass off. I’ve never been on a horse again and could care less if they all ran away to the moon forever.

    1. I second this! I’m sure there is some nice horse out there somewhere, but I’m just not interested in finding it. Next door to us, there is a barn with a couple horses, and sometimes I take my daughter over to the fence to look at them. Today one of them came over and was stomping its feet at us. My daughter just thought it was funny. Hopefully she will break the cycle of horse hatred in my family.

  2. But…but horses are the…glue that holds humanity together!!!
    (And they make a damn fine sandwich.)

    Have a good visit!

    1. You have been saving that one for awhile, haven’t you, Guap? ;D

      1. Sadly, it just comes to me.
        Welcome to the inside of my head…

  3. I hate horses, too! & snakes, & guns. I mean I don’t mind people having guns, I just don’t want to be in the same room as one, even unloaded. There is no trust between me and the things I fear.

    1. I am with you on the guns. Even unloaded, I am not a fan.

  4. Damn! I screwed up….I could have written about my fear of my mom spending a week with me! (cute story)

    1. Stick around long enough and we will definitely give you that opportunity ;D In fact, I think we will be having a “free week” soon where you can write on whatever topic you like, so maybe save it for that.

      1. Oh no…that would be like Hoarders meets American Horror Story meets The Home Shopping Network – no one should ever be put through that.

  5. Neo-Mowgli. That is classic. I love where your mind went…because I would have done the same thing. Cheers to irrationality.

    1. The mind of a tween girl is a fascinating. albeit bizarre, thing. Among images of AC Slater and slap bracelets are the fears that they will have to eke out a living in the forest.

  6. The last time I rode a horse I was a tween (yay tweens!) and was about to come out of my “chunky” phase, but hadn’t yet. Seeing as that I’m from Alabama, this next part shouldn’t surprise any of us:

    So, I was out at my Uncle’s ranch and the grownups in our family were all, “Hey! Let’s put all the minors on horses and take pics of them together OMFG IT’LL BE THE BEST FAMILY PHOTO EVER AND PROBABLY WON’T TRAUMATIZE ANYONE PROBABLY.”

    My more svelte cousin, “S”, leaped up on top of her horse while our “cute” step-cousins (blended family) gave her ALL THE COMPLIMENTS for her form while straddling a large, cruel beast. She was a cheerleader and ballerina. She made climbing atop one of those monsters look easy and sexy.

    I was a chubby kid with frizzy brown hair, thick glasses, and I’d never really been accomplished in physical pursuits. I made it look GODAWFUL.

    I struggled so much trying to pull myself up, one of the aforementioned “cute” step-cousins was instructed by my Uncle to help me up. He then placed both hands on my ass and pushed with all his might. “This is it.”, I thought, “This is when I promptly die of embarrassment.”

    Following the uncomfortable grab-assing, we trotted down a dirt road to the pasture, and much like you, my horse began to be an ASSHOLE and lagged behind. I tried to stay cool (I really don’t know why, because at this point, “cool” was not attainable), but if things weren’t already out of hand, they were soon to be.

    My Mr. Horse apparently had a drinking problem. Upon approaching a slight ditch, he began veering toward it. I pulled at the reins for him to NOT go into the ditch, but his inebriated state left my pulling ineffective, at best. Within seconds we were losing our balance and about to topple into said ditch, but by the grace of God, my Uncle came trotting up, leaned over, grabbed the reins, and MAGICALLY Mr. Horse sobered up.

    My beautiful cousin, “S”, giggled, my “cute” step-cousins giggled at her giggling, and I peed a little in the saddle.

    But I didn’t tell anyone. Because FUCK that horse.

    Emily…stop being such an amazing writer, please. Every damn time you blog, you make my brain all twitchy and creative and inspired. You seriously are way too talented and it’s not fair.

    1. “My Mr. Horse apparently had a drinking problem.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Lulz for days. Or should I just have said “HAA!” for Horse AA?

      1. HAA for Horse AA. DEAD. Can this be a thing? I want Horse AA to be a thing. With all the horses complaining about the miniature ponies because they can’t hold their liquor.

  7. I’m kind of with you on horses. Like, I’ll pet them, but riding them is a whole other story. I only have one kidney so I can’t do things when I could fall on my back, so that turned out to be an amazing excuse for me to never ride horses. Or do gymnastics.

    1. I am kind of jealous that you had such a good excuse. My best excuse was that I was afraid someone would mistake the horse’s ass for mine.

  8. Birds. I will freak the fuck out if a bird gets anywhere near me. I’m sure there’s symbolism in there somewhere but I don’t care and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about horses. How many times do you have to deal with horses anyway? It’s not like you run into them while grocery shopping. You keep on fearing horses and I’ll keep on running away from birds like my hair is on fire.

    1. Birds are a completely valid object of fear! If they get the Impramateur of Hitchcock horror, then you keep on fearing them. And use them as an excuse to get a kitten ;D

  9. I do happen to like horses, and riding them, but sentient beings larger than ourselves certainly deserve a measure of respect. My Little Ponies they ain’t.

    1. Word. I don’t know what I’d do if I ever had to interact with an elephant or a whale. I’d probably pee my pants.

      1. I fed an elephant once – it was thrilling! The Buffalo Zoo has an older female named Buki, and when we visited there, they did a “Bathtime with Buki” thing where little children would go and help wash her. It was the most adorable thing ever – the elephant clearly knew to be careful of the rugrats (as I’ve seen horses do too) and that as soon as her bath was finished, she’d get some crackers from the nice people.

        But a wild elephant or a young one could be quite a different story.

  10. Omg. I totally used to wear those jodhpur pants that horse riders wear and tell anyone who would listen that I went horse riding most weekends (once). I definitely thought I was way cool. I’m not sure why I thought looking like a horse rider made me look cool.

    1. Maybe you just wanted them to think you were rich? Rich is cool, methinks.

      1. I didn’t realise this until surprisingly late in life actually! I suddenly realised that I was, therefore, very uncool.

  11. findingninee · · Reply

    This is hilarious. I actually used to love horses. Now, I’m neutral. Like Switzerland. Sortof. I’m really terrified of bugs. At least your fear is of something bigger than you. Mine is of something very very small. I think it’s the whole 1,001 spider eggs laid in my ear while I sleep thing.

    1. That’ll do it. Bugs are pretty nasty and can wreck some havoc on your brain if their larvae gets in there. Come to think of it, baby bugs and larvae are actually scarier to me than grownup bugs.

  12. I think my fear also includes The Ring. Only night I ever slept with the light on.

    1. My daughter’s hair will always be kept short for a reason.

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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