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Managing a situation vs. Improving the situation - which are you doing?

“I can only tie him up if....”, “I only ride when it’s....”

If you have ever started a sentence with these phrases then theres a good chance that you’re managing a situation rather than improving it.

Now I’m not suggesting that if you know your horse doesn’t like something you go right out there do it and see if you both live through the experience but what I am suggesting is there may be a way to improve the situation with a little time and training.

So here’s an example:

A little horse that I help with has had a couple of incidents where he’s become out of control when he’s seen cows. For whatever reason, as soon as the cows are about, he completely loses it. So there’s a couple of options here:-

  1. Keep away from cows!!!! - this is what I call managing a situation, horse doesn’t like cows, we’ll avoid them for the rest of his life whether practical or not 🤔

  2. Take him to a farm where they have cattle and turn him out with them. This might be part of the solution however, what happens if we find out he has the same reaction to pigs or llamas or alpaca’s (anyone noticed they seem to crop up quite a bit these days?!)

  3. Teach him what to do when he gets scared.... Now here we’re starting to get towards a solution that can be used again and again no matter what the situation.

Familiarising your horse to unexpected or unusual things can be really useful and a great starting point to teaching your horse what to do when something unexpected appears him but you can’t anticipate everything he’s ever going to meet in this world. What you can do, is teach him what to do when he gets scared and give him some positive patterns.

Even my horses spook sometimes, things happen! The difference is what they do after that. They very quickly come back to being calm because I have taught them mental relaxation as a habit and to come back to me quickly.

With my horses I also deliberately put them in tricky situations and help them to become confident in those situations without over-facing them. I start on the ground so that I can be safe and check out how they are before I ride them, then I teach them ridden patterns that will help them find calm in a difficult situation. Then I challenge them with more difficult situations or environments.

It’s a bit like teaching your horse to jump, you start with pole work, then little raised poles and build from there so that when you do start to jump something bigger your horse is confident about it.


Before trying any training technique to resolve a problem it is important to rule out pain or discomfort. Saddle fit, teeth, back, hoof balance and lameness issues should all be checked by a qualified professional before applying any training.

If you have questions or need idea's to help with a specific problem feel free to get in touch with me on


Lyla has been helping riders and their horses in the UK, USA and Europe for over 15 years. She has prepared horses for crowds of over 6,000 people with no calmers or ear plugs for venues including Birmingham NEC, Aintree, Bury Farm EC and Hartpury.

Lyla specialises in horse psychology and behaviour problems with a specific interest in dressage and has worked with horses from grass roots to Grand Prix across the UK and Europe including international competitors and Olympians from Spain, the US, Canada and the UK.

See or email for more details.

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