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Naughty Horses, Part 4 - Horses that are scared

You get off, you look like you’ve done ten rounds with Tyson and you’re sweatier than your horse! And by the way this is supposed to be your hobby!!!

A naughty horse can be anything from frustrating to down right dangerous so why do horses misbehave? And, more importantly what can we do about it?

In the first blog in my ‘Naughty Horses’ mini series I looked at 5 reasons horses can misbehave. Here’s a recap of the 5...

  1. They don’t know what to do

  2. They have learned to respond incorrectly

  3. They are scared

  4. They don’t have enough incentive

  5. They are in pain

In this blog I’m going to look in a little more detail at number 3...👇👇

Horses that are scared 😧

Scared horses tend to be flighty, they are usually the one’s that shoot off at a moments notice and leave you sitting in the sand looking around for what happened!! 🤷‍♀️ It’s not always the case, they can freeze up as well but let’s start with the one’s that run off.

If you have a flighty, very forward horse that you need to slow down then circles are your best friend! ⭕️ This is because circles help a horse slow down and straight lines can speed them up! It’s also because pulling on two reins with a very forward horse doesn’t always work, if you’ve ever found yourself galloping flat out with your horses chin on it’s chest you’ll know what I mean 🐎😱

When I was a kid I was taught that if a horse bolted the best thing to do was ride it in a circle until it slowed down. This is great advice! Nowadays I’d go a bit further and say that I would start circling BEFORE it bolted!! In fact the very moment I felt the horse getting too fast and out of balance I would be starting to circle and making that circle smaller and smaller until the horse slowed down 😅

Why does this work? The horse in flight mode keeps his body very straight, he has the most power in this position to run at great speed. If you can get the body to bend, then you help the body to naturally relax and you are in a better position to control this power. This is why lateral manoeuvres and hind quarter disengagement also work really well for this situation.

The horse that freezes 😬

No I don’t mean literally!! This horse is the one that freezes through fear, it’s different to the horse that plants (see my blog 'On the road to nowhere, napping why it happens and what to do about it' for these ones)

This horse is scared and if you aren’t very careful can react extremely ‘as if out of nowhere’ these are often a lot more dangerous that the flighty ones as they can look like nothing is going on at all and then all hell breaks loose!

These horses need a lot of time and patience and also need you to notice when they’re getting scared, look for the tiniest of signs, eyes stop blinking, they get tight in the mouth, seems like they stop breathing, any and all signs of tension. Look for all of these things and the key is don’t add any pressure on them when they are like this.

Lyla spending time with Desi to help her relax on the lorry

They need time to process, so just wait with them until they can come out of it. Look for licking and chewing, sighing, head lowering, then calmly and quietly carry on with what you were doing. If it happens again, see if you can find a way to ask more slowly or quietly or make the task a bit less challenging.

In my opinion these horses often need expert handling to come through their problems so do get some professional help if you have a horse that freezes from someone who understands how to read and respond to this sort of behaviour.

For the next blog I will be looking at horses that don’t have enough incentive, these ones are often labelled ‘lazy’ or ‘stubborn’ and really once you get into their way of thinking they can be great fun!!!

In the meantime I’d love to hear your comments, questions and experiences.

Have fun with your horses 😃🦄

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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.

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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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