Have you been riding your horse or pony and there was something they were terrified of? Like a "butterfly monster" , a tiny frog jumping into a pond, or maybe an umbrella opening during a horse show? Share your funny story with us!

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Awhile back, when I was first driving Little Man, he spooked at a big dirt clod in the road. The road maintainer had left them about every 30 yards all the way down the road. He shot sideways about three feet and we were headed for the ditch. Then he stopped and shook himself and gave a little snort. He has never spooked at anything much since.
Pigs. Little pigs. Lots of little pigs in a pen.

My husband and I had been riding our Fjord mares calmly along a lovely horse trail in one of our local county parks. Now, we live in Iowa, so it was not surprising that the trail took us by a homestead with a pen of weanling pigs.

I grew up with hogs ... my grandfather raised them and I did chores for him ... so I am familiar with their behavior when they see something out of the ordinary, something curious and new. They first stand quite still to look and think it through. This is often followed by a chorus of sharp grunts "oof, oof, oof!" as they mill and jump about, often followed by the whole herd bucking and trotting away.

A few braver pigs will usually trot back after a short pause, followed shortly by the whole herd. They generally end up even closer to the object of their curiosity. If it seems safe, pigs will usually come closer yet for a smell and perhaps even a taste. To pigs, this is normal behavior. To horses, a pile of bouncing, noisy pink pigs can be scary!

Our mares had never met a pig before, let alone a whole pen of curious porkers. They locked onto the pigs, the pigs locked onto the horses, and both parties tensed with indecision ... threat? no threat? run away? move closer? ... I was concerned because my husband is a novice rider, and I wanted him to be safe.

I knew from past experience that it is helpful in a tense moment to ask my horse to move ... not so much forward or backward, but sideways, even if only to rock a bit. Gentle sideways movement seems to break the spell and lessen the tension, without offering any suggestion that it is okay to bolt forward or rear backwards. That unlocked Kari, my husband's mare, and she relaxed enough to step sideways, then walk calmly forward.

My Sissel was still convinced those pigs were going to attack, and she was not at all ready to trust my suggestion that she relax. I asked Chuck to bring Kari near Sissel for reassurance, I quietly asked Sissel for a walk, and Sis complied although she stayed tense. As we moved further away from the pigs, she calmed down nicely. Both mares were back to their usual unflappable selves as we rode back into the park's picnic grounds. They didn't even blink at the loud cars in the nearby parking lot and a flapping row of flags along the trail.

I would have liked to go back for another "teachable moment" with the pigs, but I didn't think Chuck was ready for that yet. So we have yet to experience a second encounter with pigs, but the girls did well, Chuck did well, and all of us were safe. --DeeAnna

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