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Mia Lykke Nielsen

She calls a horse a horse and a spade a spade. She reads horses just like people become absorbed by the twists and turns in their books. She’s walked with them for years – through scorched wilderness and slippery mountain slopes. She sleeps in the barn with them when they are sick.


Offers the kinship of a herd when they are lonely. Takes care of their hooves when the blacksmith gives up. Makes a horse feel so safe that it will stand still while the dentist removes a broken tooth.

Mia and the 300 wild horses

As just 17 years old, Mia Lykke Nielsen left for California to become part of a team of trainers at the Viking Saga Ranch in Santa Ynez Valley. In a hilly landscape, half the size of Funen, 300 wild Icelandic horses were waiting for her. 


They were a world away from the horses that Mia had loved and worked with at the riding school for most of her young life. This experience became a turning point for Mia and her understanding of horses.

From day one, Mia had the task of counting up and registering the wild horses. Every day she climbed into an old pickup truck – that frequently needed water refills whenever the temperature gauge swung over to red – and drove out to the wilderness. When the gravel road came to an end, Mia got out of the truck and did the rest on foot.

Step by step, Mia developed her own brand of horse training that is known today as When Horses Choose.

Mia udviklede sin hestetræning, der i dag er kendt som When Horses Choose.

Some days it took four hours to register all the horses, other days it took seven. At first, Mia found it strange that all the horses would stay together in such a large area. But she got to know the herd and learned about the horses’ behaviour and rhythm. Gradually, she became part of the herd and practically lived with the 300 wild horses for three and a half years.

At the ranch, Mia worked with the Danish owner, Elisabeth Haug, and learned about horse whispering and horsemanship. She attended seminars by Tom Dorrance (the horse whisperer behind the book and film of the same name), Pat Parelli and Monty Roberts.


Monty’s ‘Flag Is Up Farms’ ranch neighbours the Viking Saga Ranch.

Mia’s principles


There are no stupid horses


There are no devious horses


There are no problem horses among wild horses


A wild horse is healthier, stronger and far more balanced – that can teach us a lot about ourselves


See your horse as a horse – not as a person!


Horses are herd animals and should (without exception) have herd members – that includes stallions


Your horse is in growth during its first 3-4 years. Your horse will last longer if you hold back from riding it during this period


If you don’t frequently adjust the saddle to your horse, it can cause damage


The bit is unnecessary in all training


If you use the bit during training you might be putting your horse through agony and it could lead to tooth, jaw and skull injuries


If you use the bit during training, you won’t know if the horse is able to perform the exercise, or if it is just doing it because it will be too painful not to obey you


Your horse can do more than you think if you believe that it can

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