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Arielle - story of a strong willed (lazy 😂) horse

I bought Arielle as nice straight forward young horse. She was really well behaved and pretty unflappable despite her young years. Whilst this was exactly what I wanted, it didn’t take me long to realise that along with this was a horse that didn’t have a huge amount of motivation.

OK, let’s be honest, she was really lazy 😴 to the point that whilst I could get a slow walk (painfully slow) and a trot that would make any western pleasure rider jealous, if I wanted to canter well forget it!! It wasn’t there! I could barely get two strides out of her on the ground or ridden!! No amount of kicking, begging, waiting until a full moon on Tuesday and a fair wind behind us made any difference at all 🤨

I tried all sorts of things, long hacks, short hacks, leads from other horses, putting her alongside other horses. I even resorted to putting buckets of feed in strategic places in the field I rode in (I’d given up on ever being able to ride in an arena by that point) - nothing!!

I remember many tears thinking I’d never be able to canter a circle on her - it’s funny now but it was soul destroying at the time!

So I’d tried all of these things but what I hadn’t really twigged up until that point was what it was that motivated her. I’d used all the things that I THOUGHT would motivate her rather than looking at what it was that really motivated her. I was looking at it from my point of view rather than hers.

So how did I crack it? It all started to change once I understood what she wanted to do…At first that was really easy - not much!!!

What did that mean in practise?

✅ Break the task down

So small chunks rather than trying to do the whole thing at once, for example could I speed up the trot before even asking for the canter?

✅ Learn what her true motivation was

That was different from giving her what I thought she would like 😉 As I said, I tried using food and it made no difference at all, for her it was rest. Give her a bit of time to stand or walk on a long rein with no input from me as a reward for doing what I asked and she was happy and willing to do it again. So speed up the trot and then have a little break, then try again.

It didn’t take very long before speeding up the trot turned into canter and have little break 🥳

She would even put a bit of enthusiasm into it if she knew there was a break at the end 😄

This is just one of many examples of why it’s important to look at the individual horse rather than make rules about how to do things.

Some things are general and can broadly apply to every horse. How things are applied is often very specific to your individual horse.

These things make the difference between getting average results and getting extraordinary results with your horse as an enthusiastic partner!


Before trying any training technique 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.

Email for more details.


All training techniques discussed are from experience only, it is impossible for to accurately advise on horse/rider combinations without seeing them live. Lyla Cansfield & Equine Mind & Body Training strongly advise anyone considering using any of the techniques discussed to get live help and can take no responsibility for the outcome of applying any of the techniques discussed with or without supervision. Riding is a high risk sport.


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