Horseproblems Australia
Post Office Box Victor Harbor
SA. 5211
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John O'Leary



Allow evasion and you are being trained!.....not the horse.....


Evasion in all of it's forms, is the root cause of most problems associated with horses. So why do horses evade? Because their Mummy told them to!

The flight from fear response is responsible in my opinion for so much of the problems that we face as Horse Trainers' which is why I advocate training horses from the age of 2 days old and to do as much as possible to cancel Mum's influence on habits.

One of the main tools we have as Horse Trainers' is to cancel out each and every evasion that a horse may try on us and to turn that into a 'training opportunity' and therefore success. I must admit that most people don't realize when their horses is evading them and certainly don't do anything about it. I guess that's what sets the good riders' apart from the average one's. So what are some examples of evasion?

  • Dropping the shoulder, lying against the inside leg of the rider and causing them to 'flex the horse off'

  • Traveling 'above the bit'

  • Traveling 'behind the bit'

  • Shying.

  • Jig Jogging.

  • Scooting forwards to escape.

  • Veering away from things of choice whilst on the trail.

  • Refusing to go through a creek.

  • Running sideways to evade an instruction.

  • Rearing.

  • Refusing to go forward from leg.

  • Veering and drifting towards the gate on the training arena.

  • Jumping around the side of the horse float instead of into it.

  • Pulling back against the halter.

  • Kicking the farrier off.

  • Refusing to be wormed.

  • Being difficult to bridle.

  • Having bad ground manners.

  • Spinning around because a truck is coming.

  • Pulling or stepping away during clipping.

  • Running out at the jump.

So how do the evasions affect our ongoing training of the horse? Well completely and most negatively. Here is why.

To improve training on that achieved yesterday, we must systematically cancel out each and every evasion as they arise. Horses are masters at inventing new evasion and new slants on the same evasion even. So much so that Mrs. HP Grand Prix Horse, at 20 years, is still inventing new a different ways to evade, on a daily basis. Ok, that comes back to temperament of course, versus the level of acceptability of the rider. Ranked upon the 'Rider from Hell' theory. From the point of view of the horse of course. So how does evasion affect on-going training?


There are several reasons why horses evade.

  • To get out of work.

  • To not have to do the work correctly because that would mean more effort.

  • To go somewhere that they would rather be.

  • To communicate with us.

  • Confusion.

  • Fear.

  • Veterinary


The horse operates on the principal that each successful evasion, based upon a measured percentage of success and distance, is directly computed and linked to the on-going belief in the mind of the horse as to whether the original trigger is more or less frightening next time.

If a horse is going down the trail and sees the black stump on the left, veers to the right 10.1 metres and finds it's comfort zone or level of coping, the next time you go past the same stump, the comfort zone will extend out to further than 10,1 metres.

If however, you succeeded on taking it past the stump on the previous ride, veering only 7.2 metres, 7.2 metres will be your distance starting zone on your next ride.


There are two basic zones. The distance zone being that distance which the horse is prepared to travel past a frightening object or,

The 'no zone' being how far up the scale a horse will go before saying 'yes'

So, lets look at the list of evasions as described above and I'll run through how to ride them and how that will improve the horse. I will pick one way for each scenario. There may be many more of course.

  • Teach the horse that drops the should to leg yield and you have fixed the evasion.

  • Use a system to make the horse more responsive to the bit and leg, i.e.. a Pro rider to re-educate or lunging with chambon, running reins, pessoa and so on. Get the horse more submissive.

  • If the horse travels behind the bit, take more contact until the horse lifts and then soften the contact. Teach it there is a more comfortable place to be.

  • The shying horse can be fixed with more exposure, stronger riding, better rein control or to teach it to leg yield better and to have more respect for the leg of the rider than the fear of the stump.

  • The horse 'jigs' you stop it and back it up and turn it loose again. Teach it that if it jogs, it will receive the opposite direction of travel to the original evasion.

  • Immediate stop on the spot, back up, turn loose. 'Put the horse back from whence it came' and turn it loose again.

  • Diminish the distance each time you ride by. Train the leg yield and stop the lying against the outside leg of the rider. Counter bend the horse towards the stump from 7.2 metres to 5.4 metres on this occasion.

  • Improve the rein control, do not allow the horse to ever look away from the creek, up the accelerator aids.

  • Running sideways. Yield the horse in the exact opposite direction that it is trying to run or spin the horse and make it face up to the fear.

  • Rear. Train it to go forward more responsively.

  • Introduce whips or spurs.

  • Drifting to the arena gate? Leg yielding, counter bend, turn each occurrence into a training opportunity.

  • Improve the lateral lightness of the halter with the horse, keep the head looking always into the float and never to the side of the float and generate the horse to go somewhere. It cannot be around the side of the float. The horse says no at the entrance to the float ramp. The owner takes the horse around a circle, away from the float, re-approaches and have just been trained by the horse and given permission for the refusal. The handler should have loaded the horse from the point of refusal, no matter where that was and even if it were around at the mudguard.!

  • Pulling against the halter? Throw away your webbing and leather halters and buy a rope halter. Up the discomfort for leaning.

  • Farrier problems. Train the horse to give it's legs rather than fight by using 'leg restraint systems'

  • Worming? Teach the horse tie up properly, tie it shorter to stop the upward mobility of the head, twitch the horse or so on. Control the evasion.

  • Bridling problems. Train the horse to yield to pressure and to put it's head down to your knees. The opposite direction to where it wants to evade to.

  • The horse runs into you to move your feet. Cease your habit and make the horse move it's feet.

  • Pulling away and dragging the handler whilst attempting to clip. This is common. I see these horses being held by people and the horse dragging the handler around the place, inch by inch or metre by metre. Any successful evasion by the horse will increase the fear of the clipping. Tie it up and stop the escape.

  • Spinning away because of a truck. Here is a letter and an answer to it.

  • Running out at the jump. The horse runs out to the right. The rider circles to the right and re-approaches. The rider has compounded the evasion by not going left to return to the jump. The rider has told the horse that it is ok to run out and that the jump MUST be frightening.

Hi - I wrote a few months back about my SB spinning around at oncoming traffic. I was flexing him to stop this but wanting to get beyond that stage. I have been following your advice to not automatically flex him and he will now continue to walk forward or at least stop and watch most of the time. But I flex him if I see a bus or truck approaching and I can't go into a drive (this is a back road so there isn't a lot of traffic) as he tenses up and feels like he will spin. My question is am I defeating what I have achieved so far by continuing to do this? The other day for example, we were nearly home and I could feel him tense up as the school bus approached. So I got onto the verge and flexed him but he tried to pull out of it so I just held on really hard and as soon as the bus passed, we were back on a loose rein (I usually ride on a loose rein) and he was fine.

 In order to continue the education and to progress with it, you need to alter your tactics continually. You have won the first battles, you are riding, he is good with most traffic and suspect with the Bus. Or is he? You must progress and give the horse the benefit of the doubt. Therein lies another factor that separates the Pro from the amateur incidentally. We have the benefit or the speed reading and the speed rein handling and so we can leave the reins alone and just stay loose, to see if the horse is ready to go to the next step. Often, they will tense up like normal but not spin, just jog forwards perhaps. (backup if so) However, if the horse isn't quite ready to handle it in his own mind, without support, you must be ready with the lightening speed of the rein handling, FROM THE TOTALLY LOOSE and trusting reins to the immediate counter action to counter the attempted spin. That counter must be to the opposite direction of the intended spin of the horse incidentally.

I don't know, but if your horse usually spins left and you have been spinning him left when the truck comes, to control him during the event, you have in fact been compounding the problem and lifting the belief of evasion in the mind of the horse. You must always COUNTER THE DIRECTION OF EVASION to ever have a chance to cancel it. Evasion is cancelled by the opposite moves, in every type of occurrence.!!!!!!!!!!! Truck comes, horse gets tense, you go spin to left, the same way the horse would spin if left alone, you have told the horse to be frightened of the truck and to run. Understand? But back to the original point however, you must trust the horse. You must experiment.

I know that he would have spun had I not done this. On that same ride, we met a teenager on a bike (slowly coming up the hill). I stopped and was talking to this boy when my horse suddenly spun around. I turned him around, told the boy sorry and walked past. Was this being disrespectful? I certainly was relaxed talking to the boy so could my horse have been scared? Maybe it's the green grass? I ride in an Australian no bit bridle. Then you may not have the lateral rein controls necessary to complete the finish of this problem. If not, go back to an FM or Tom Thumb snaffle bit. Have you got feather lateral lightness on the instant and in the opposite direction of travel of the head of the horse when under pressure? If you are standing talking to the motor bike rider and you can any kind of contact on the head of your horse, you are signaling worry. Let those reins go!! :)


So there it is. Evasion, whether it be a metre or an ounce, breeds more evasion, not less. Stops improvement in training and in the relaxation and acceptance by your horse. Focus on all things evasion, not only the big things but the smallest of them. Fix the small things and the big things will follow.


"An ordinary Trainer cannot hear a Horse speak, a Good Trainer can, a Great Trainer can hear them whisper and a Top Trainer can HEAR THEM THINK"

"Wear your Heart in your Hands"

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