The Nature of Natural Point of view

Why the horse has a flight response! Survival

The more often the flight response occurs as a solution the more often it will be the solution of choice. This is because the flight response is extremely reinforcing. It takes only a few repetitions before this becomes the solution of choice. A conflicted horse will choose the flight response especially if basic learning for solutions has not occurred.

Hot tip: The flight response is expressed by moving feet. So being able to slow the feet down or even stop them completely is particularly important. Spend time on downward transitions, stops and backups for this reason.


If conflict without resolution persists to long for the horse, hard-wired anti-predator behaviors may appear such as shying, bolting, bucking or rearing.

Hot tip: Some trainers push the horse through these responses with hope that the horse becomes used to the stimulus that is causing the behavior. Often this does not work because the response has already occurred and actually reinforces the flight response as opposed to discouraging it. At this point the flight response becomes a regular feature because it’s now been practiced.

When two or more drives compete in a horse’s brain the one with the greatest survival value at the time will be predominate. Hungry: It will seek food Alone: It will seek company Feels pain or pressure: It seeks to remove the cause Fear: It flees

Hot tip: Study your horse closely to find out what his trigger points are to different situations. The ever popular flight response varies widely in individuals and breeds.


The biggest problems you will probably have with your horse are perception problems. He perceives something to be threatening (novel) and reacts to it with the good old fashion flight response.

Hot tip: This reaction can happen in the blink of an eye so teaching your horse about lots of different stuff and how to deal with it is in your best interest!

Flight Response
Flight Response
Mild expression of the flight response
Mild expression of the flight response

Ginny is currently working on a long-term project that overlays applied behavioral science and Classical horsemanship.  She is researching how applied behavioral science relates to classical methodology and how principles that have stood the test of time are as current now as in the golden days of the great masters.

"Great horsemanship combines both art and science. Science removes subjectivity but the genius lies in the art." GCE