Smokey's last "episode" came shortly after the incident at the saddle shop. I was not present, so I am relaying this story second hand.
Mrs. BR, DN2, and DN3 were going on a trail ride. One of them was going to use Smokey. As the other horses are easy to saddle up, and they did not routinely ride Smokey, it slipped their minds to take care. The cinch was tightened in one fell swoop. And, of course, the horse rears up and flops over. However, there was one key difference. The previous times, I had been holding his lead rope. This time he was tied to a fence railing. He landed with his head and neck stretched out, suffocating himself on his halter. His eyes rolled back in his head. Mrs. BR told me the thought passed through her head to just let him kill himself and put an end to this nonsense.
Realizing, of course, that I might not take too kindly to such things, she undid the quick release knot on the rope, thus thwarting Smokey's effort to travel over the Rainbow Bridge.
It has been close to three years since he has overreacted to being cinched up. I've learned to tighten the cinch incrementally. He will put up a token protest, dancing around a bit, but I just ignore it, and it quickly stops.
The question arises: Why would a horse behave so while being cinched up? There is no way to be certain of course, but I suspect one of two possibilities.
1. A previous owner frequently cinched him up too tight, causing him to be in pain.
2. This behavior scared a previous owner, who would, instead of ignoring it, unsaddle him and put him back in the pasture. This would have taught him that behaving badly resulted in what for him was a reward.
I tend to lean towards the latter option. Through the grapevine I've heard that he had an owner who was scared of him. This behavior certainly scared members of my family.
One of the things I've learned in my limited experience is that most horses have their quirks. Some quirks can be trained out of them, but with others, we have to decide if we are willing to live with them. If the quirk is dangerous, such as bucking or rearing, it's time for a different horse. Otherwise we just cope with, and for the most part, ignore, the habit. Smokey has learned that bad behavior will not be rewarded, and that I am not going to go away. I have learned to tolerate the little things that really just don't matter.
Horses are capable of teaching us a great deal about ourselves, if we are smart enough to pay attention.