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Managing and Training Fearful Equids

Fearful Equids


Caring for fearful equids brings its own special challenges but can also be exceptionally rewarding. Here are a few simple tips to ensure your success.


Move how you naturally move, but slower.

One of the things most people do when they start working with fearful animals is to tiptoe around them and move hesitantly. Instead of helping, this can actually make them more anxious and it makes you seem suspicious. Instead, try moving the way you naturally move, but slower. As I often tell my students, don’t be creepy!


Stay in the animal’s eye.

Most equids want you to be where they can see you well, so when your equid spooks and moves away from you, the best way to get them to re-engage is by moving out from behind them to their side, at a diagonal, so that they can see you and turn to face you. You never want them to feel like they’re being chased, so moving at a diagonal, forward and away from them, puts you right where they can see you best.


When in doubt, stand still or move away from the animal.

If your equid spooks, or even hesitates, the best thing you can do is to either stand still and wait for them to decide what they want to do, or move away from them so that they aren’t feeling pressured to engage with you.


Talk to the animal.

A lot of people believe that training animals should be done silently because the training needs to be clear and precise, but in my experience, animals respond very well to our verbal conversation, often times better than without it.


Talking to your animal can be soothing and can help prepare them for what comes next as they start to recognize patterns in your speech and form associations between certain words and events. Predictability is important for fearful equids, so you can help your animals by purposely creating these associations.

Be sure to scroll down for a short video of these tips in action.


About the Author


This article's author Michelle Martiya and a zebra. Both looking off in the same direction.
©Michelle Martiya

Michelle Martiya is a certified animal trainer offering virtual coaching services anywhere in the world. She works with all species and specializes in fearful and feral equids. You can contact Michelle through or




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