I commonly see all types of reactions with horses who have not been tablecloth-proofed. Because it's critical for picnics that a horse learn to stand on tablecloths I went through this routine with Touch A Prince. I jest, I doubt in his trail riding future Touch A Prince will need to work on tablecloths. But it does serve the purpose of determining how nervous he will be with new things. I am in the throes of planning a wonderfully fun freestyle to be performed at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo in March as part of the 2016 Equine Comeback Challenge. Part of this freestyle will require that he is completely comfortable walking on things like these tablecloths.
Fortunately, I have Miles the border collie. He is completely accustomed to working on different surfaces, including tablecloths. He goes first, walking then sitting, and sometimes lying down on the items to show the horses that they are safe. Miles also has an elaborate history of stealing food from picnics at the table outside, so he is more than happy to work with this food presentation decor'.
When Miles was a pup, just big enough to hop onto the bench at the picnic table and just smart enough to reason his way through things, he commenced his reign of edible thievery. One of my working students, who was about twelve years old at the time, was eating a sandwich outside at the picnic table with me and several of my clients. She had one half of her sandwich in her hand, the other half sitting on the table in front of her. Miles came up behind her, and tapped her on her left shoulder with his wet dog nose. When she turned her head to look at him, he quickly dove to her other side, stealing the unattended sandwich in a flash of fur and doggies smiles. He then merrily bolted for the barn with his prize. His various attempts at procuring human food extend to pizza slices, cupcakes, chips and dip, and his favorites: coffee and diet sodas. Because everyone loves a caffeinated border collie!
Touch A Prince was not phased by the new stuff at all. In fact he walked all over the tablecloths even before Miles did. This bodes well for the freestyle I'm planning. I did ride him in the plastic mullen mouth bit today, and he was ok as long as there was absolutely no contact with his mouth. If I tried to cue him with the reins at all he got tense and stressed. Once I realized he had decided he didn't want this bit I removed it and put his hackamore back on. It was like hitting a switch, he instantly became the quiet relaxed horse I normally work with. I feel fortunate that he trusts me enough to tell me when he has changed his mind about a piece of equipment, and happy that he is so confident around new things like a variety of tablecloths!