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.

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.

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