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The Scared Horse - Flight

Ever found yourself on the other side of the arena and wondered how you got there?! If you have then the chances are you just experienced flight mode in your horse 🚀

A horse is a prey animal and as he doesn’t have horns like a cow or goat his primary means of survival is escape. Because of this horses have evolved to have lightening quick reactions to be able to get out of danger as fast as possible.

Modern breeding has meant that we have either enhanced or reduced these reactions depending on the function we want the breed of horse to perform. For example a racehorse will be bred to have faster reactions than a horse bred for pulling logs. No one wants a horse to run fast when he’s attached to the trunk of a tree 🙈

The flight response is the reaction most of us expect when a horse gets scared but there are others, more on this in later posts.

Some typical signs that your horse has gone into flight mode are…

🏇 Wanting to run

🏇 Finding it difficult to stand still

🏇 Jogging

🏇 Chomping on the bit

🏇 Claustrophobia

🏇 Over-reactive

Some riders enjoy this feeling of power underneath them and for others it brings up confidence issues and feelings of dread. Either way, what you have here a scared horse and when he is scared, he is scared for his life so things happen very quickly.

When adrenaline comes up in a horse, he needs to move his feet to feel safe. The trick to calming a scared horse is to allow him to move his feet in a controlled way. Usually a series of small circles is a good option as he can’t go very far and can’t get up too much speed that way either.

This will keep things under control until your horse starts to slow down and relax, look for signs of relaxation such as…

✅ Lowering the head and neck

✅ Blinking

✅ Licking and chewing

✅ Sighing or blowing out through their nose

✅ Slower more rhythmical stride

Flight is only one of the modes of a scared horse, check out my other blogs on Fight & Freeze to learn more


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.

See or 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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