why I hate speed as an evasion

All horses have ways of evading work they aren’t feeling up to / aren’t comfortable with / don’t want to do / don’t think they can do.  Murray’s evasions can be pretty dramatic, but when he’s not being a dingbat he’s firmly in the camp of “I can’t do this, let me slow down, this is hard, can’t trot, no not possible, not forward, too hard, slower.”  And this type of evasion I know how to deal with.  The other really common evasion is SPEED.

how about no, Scott

I hate when horses use speed as an evasion.  It makes me absolutely crazy.  It fills me with irrational rage.  I’m sure there are other people who like it a lot less when horses use slow-ness as an evasion, but in my opinion speed as an evasion is way worse.

First of all, rushing means not using your body.  You can see this from and ground, and you can feel it in the saddle.  It’s like when you’re carrying a really heavy bucket or piece of furniture, and you know you’re struggling, so you shuffle your feet really fast and juuuuuuuuust make it to your destination in time.  But you’re not really working your muscles, you’re just relying on your joints and tendons, or something like that.  It’s the same when a horse just BULLS through on the lunge line or when you ask them to do a leg yield.  Oh, you want me to stretch down and trot? No, that’s impossible, I’m just going to trot really fast to convince you I shouldn’t have to do this.  Then you have to expend effort slowing your horse down before you can then teach them to do the thing you were trying to teach them in the first place.

zenn(Look at this unrelated gif of a cute gray horse being adorable.  You may have heard of him.  More on him later.)

Which brings me to my next point.  You don’t learn things better by doing them really fast.  You just don’t.  Let’s say you’re trying to teach your horse to stretch down.  Instead, Mr. Horse says “no thanks, I’d rather JUST RUN AROUND REALLY FAST”.  That’s great, except that the point of the exercise is to access your back and supple those muscles.  Slow repetition relaxes muscles.  Rushing and tension do not supple muscles.  In fact, rushing and tension are the opposite of the tenets of dressage so that is another reason rushing annoys me (but since horses can’t read, I give them a tiny pass on this one).

I’ve never heard a riding trainer suggest that I rush my horse through an exercise they aren’t getting it.  In fact, they usually say something along the lines of “why don’t you take it back to the walk, and then try it at the trot.” So when Mr. Speed Demon horse is like “no thanks, instead of trying to move my shoulders over a little and engaging my inside hind, I WILL INSTEAD RUN THROUGH AND DO A WEIRD UNBALANCED CIRCLE INSTEAD” it irritates me so much because they are so busy telling you what they can’t do that they aren’t listening to you trying to teach them an easier way.

Which is another point in and of itself — it’s a really loud way of not listening. When Murray isn’t listening or is convinced that he can’t do something, I can slow him down to an easier gait (hell, he’s usually slowed himself down already), show him he can do that thing, and then we can work on it at a more productive pace.  When my horse is loudly blasting through my aids and busily telling me that they can’t do any such thing, you have double the work on your hands to get them back to a) a productive gait and b) doing that thing.

Then the evasion builds on itself.  I don’t have to do this hard thing if I just bull through the aids?  Great, I’ll never have to do this hard thing ever again.  Obviously more talented riders can deal with this, but as we see rushing to fences, plowing through the hands, and general pushiness as one of the major problems in amateur horses, I think it’s safe to say that lots of horses use this tactic.  Oh, icorgiderpf I just rush through your half halts, I never have to half halt, great!  If I rush through the shoulder in, I never have to do a proper shoulder in!  If I rush through my entire dressage test, it gets over and done with sooner! (Okay, that is a human one.)

(This picture seems maybe appropriate here — if I rush all the XC fences, they can’t hurt me, right?)

From a totally rider-centric standpoint, I find speed as an evasion literally painful to deal with and manage.  I don’t know about you, but having my arms ripped off on the lunge line is somehow not my favourite way to lunge a horse.  Same when I’m riding — yeah, yeah, slow them with your seat and all that, but even that is challenging when you’re an adult ammy working a perpetual speed demon.

It feels like it’s aggressive.  This is totally anthropomorphic, but speed as an evasion feels wildly aggressive compared to slowing down or stopping as an evasion.  To me, horses that bully with speed always seem to be the one who are happy to throw their body into mine, invade personal space, yank my arms off, ignore polite requests… I realise it’s all (generally) coming from a place of confusion, and it’s not necessarily trying to be aggressive, but it feels aggressive.  And that makes me feel angry and aggressive.  Which is not such a great way to ride, in general.

All of this to say, I don’t really enjoy a horse who uses speed as an evasion.  And also, I really, really, really, like my horse, who is trained just right for me, and is totally attuned to me, and I know how to ride him*.


* Insofar as I actually know how to ride.



13 thoughts on “why I hate speed as an evasion”

  1. Agreed, 100%! I’ve always found speed to be one of the scarier evasions; I mean, I do not want to perform an emergency dismount at a gallop, but I also do not want this crazy ass horse to try to jump the arena fence. No good choices!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ugh this speaks to me…. speed is definitely my mare’s #1 evasion tactic. she’s not scary or aggressive about it, just, ya know. too fast. always. it is really REALLY difficult to work through.


  3. I actually would much rather ride a horse that speeds than one that slows down/sucks back. I think this is probably because I grew up riding crazy-ass fast horses so I don’t find that behavior scary. When I started polo, I rode this older mare who was wicked fast. The only way to stop her was to literally run her into another horse or the wall (polo ponies are okay with running into each other). I would actually laugh and giggle as she did it. Didn’t worry me at all. My coaches loved that they had someone who could handle her. Lazy horses, on the other hand, drive me up a wall. I get so frustrated that nothing positive is going to come of that. Years ago, I took lessons for a while on a poky horse and the trainer really thought I didn’t know how to ride. I finally got to ride a different horse and she was astounded. She commented multiple times on my improvement. And after that I was allowed to ride fast horses and actually look like I knew how to ride.


    1. Perfect! You can ride those guys. Different strokes and all that. 😉

      Though interestingly, I don’t think being speedy and being lazy are mutually exclusive. I know several horses who use rushing as an excuse to get out of doing the real work — shoulder in or sitting back to fences or what have you. I also know un-lazy horses that slow down to think. It’s really just a personal preference thing, it’s how I think, so I understand how to teach that way.


  4. I don’t think using speed is aggressive per se, though it definitely means the horse has checked out. Horses are prey animals (you know this) and they use their speed to run AWAY from lions, not at them.

    So imho, a horse using speed as an evasion is a horse that is fleeing pressure and checked out in full on self preservation mode. That’s not the horse’s fault–this is a training problem created by the rider if it is a confirmed response.

    HOWEVER, horses are also smart enough to try things. Courage has definitely used speed evasions. He also gets lazy. He’ll take the easiest response to my aids at the time, so if I set him up to fail, of course he’s going to stop/rush/spook/whatever it is I set him up to do. Not necessarily what I wanted him to do, but what I actually told him to do with my aids.

    Speed evasions aren’t my favorite either and that does a little bit color my choice of horses–I’m considering a haffie, Morgan, or Cob as my next horse (years in the future). However, horses in general are pretty lazy. If we hold up our end of the bargain, they do theirs.


    1. You are SO right — and the fear/prey drive aspect of it is so spot on. Even when I KNOW that the horse I’m working with is running away with me on the lunge because he’s afraid I’m going to beat the snot out of him, my emotions are like “OMG STOP I NEVER ASKED YOU TO DO THAT WHY CAN YOU NOT UNDERSTAND.” Yes, the confirmed response is DEFINITELY a training problem.


  5. Ugh yah no fun. I definitely err on the side of liking a horse that sucks back as an evasion too. I think it’s mostly that my first instinct is to get hard in the hand or pull back, and that is not the right thing to do on a horse that speeds off so I’ve had a lot of horses bolt with me before I learned to not get hard in the hand. That being said, if the horse sucks back and rears/broncs, I’d probably prefer a horse with a bit of a scoot.

    Or you know, just NO evasions. That is my favorite evasion.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Agreed! Less so now, but when I first started riding with Trainer, she had Bobby CRAWLING almost all the time because his favorite way to get through something that’s hard is just to blow through it as fast as he can. Going slow means you have to think about what your feet are doing, horse. Suck it up.


  7. Oh boy, is this relevant right now. C is speedy when he gets tired or doesn’t want to work his bitty muscles (you have to work them to build them, buddy). It’s like noping the fuck out of real work. Nose in the air, nope nope nope nope!
    That first gif is impressive. I’ve seen stills of it, but never the actual video. Oh, Murray.


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