"It's very easy to come up with 10,000 reasons why your horse isn't performing to his potential. About 9,997 of those excuses are just that, excuses without solid backing. You have to treat your horse the way you want him to be. Ninety-nine percent of horses are born to please. They want to do things right, they want to please. Make it possible for them to do just that.... Don't get caught up in thinking, "he's young and inexperienced," or "he's never seen this before," or "he used to race, drive, was ridden by a poor rider, mistreated, etc...." You don't have control of where he's been, but you certainly have control of the future, so change it!"
-Doug Payne, 3-day Eventer
Payne, Doug. "Improve your Performance with Sports Psychology." Warmbloods Today, March/April 2011 pg. 73-74
I will admit I'm guilty of doing this. But I've learned that those excuses usually have a one-time use and then both horse and rider need to move on! The first time Greta spooks at something, I can use that excuse "Oh, that scared her (and I wasn't paying close enough attention)" but I have to prepare myself and Greta next time that might happens and try our best to do better! It's inexcusable after that. It might happen, but I can't complain or worry. Even after that first spook, I shouldn't shut down my ride because of it, but move on. Live in the present, like horses!
I will initially think "Oh, it's windy, the metal roof of the hay shed is making weird noises, and now she's getting a little flighty here", but instead of becoming tense and thinking, "I wish the wind wasn't howling, I wish Greta was bomb-proof, I wish for this, I wish for that, etcetera", I will think "start preoccupying her now, put some leg on, keep the shoulders straight, mess with the reins, ask for a little shoulder/haunches in/out, leg yield, turns on the forehand/haunches, something, but whatever I do, don't think 'She's gonna freak out, she's gonna freak out, she's gonna freak out!'"
She wants to try for me, she's not spooking on purpose, she's not being dastardly, she wants to please me so I have to give her an opportunity to please me by chaneling that energy into something productive, because then it will make both of us feel good!