Anytime you’re around your horse, you’re teaching him something. Horses are keen observers of human behavior, so it’s important that we always behave in consistent and trustworthy ways around our horses.
You may see some folks chasing their horses around in an attempt to catch them, and this tells you two things about these folks: First, they are not very smart if they think they can run as fast as a horse. Second, they don’t understand the first thing about horses.
In this article, we share sound tips that will help you show just how smart you really are and just how well you understand (and can catch) your horse. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
Teach Your Horse To Want To Come To You!
Don’t just catch your horse when you want to do something to him or when you want to go for a ride.
If your horse only associates getting caught with being seen by the vet or the farrier or being ridden, he will naturally avoid it.
Set up a daily routine wherein you catch your horse and tie him up for feeding and grooming at the same time every day, even if you’re not going to go for a ride or have him seen by a professional.
When you do this, your horse will learn that being caught every day is a regular thing and something to look forward to.
If you have a new horse who is not used to this sort of thing, but it is your regular way of dealing with the horses you already have, you’ll see that the new horse quickly learns by simply observing you and your other horses.
If you have just one horse and he is difficult to catch, try calling him into a stall or corral at feeding time several days in a row.
Always call in the same way every time. Call his name and/or choose a specific way of whistling him up.
Once he gets used to the idea that he will be fed and pampered if he comes when called, you can begin working on catching him in the smaller, more contained setting of the stall or corral.
Catching A Horse In A Stall
In a stall, this is a fairly simple matter since you’ll have a small space to work in. With your halter and lead rope in your left hand, approach your horse quietly on a diagonal from the front, left-hand side.
Keep your hands at your sides and walk slowly toward his left shoulder. When you reach the horse, quietly bring your right hand up to firmly touch the side of his neck or right shoulder.
If he doesn’t shy away, gently reach around his neck with both arms and put the lead rope around his neck. In this way, he knows he’s caught and you have him slightly contained while you put is halter on.
Catching A Horse In A Corral Or Pasture
In a larger setting such as a corral or pasture, it may be a little bit harder to approach the horse and get a halter on him.
In this case, you may want to just work on desensitizing your horse to your presence while he eats by doing quiet chores around him and perhaps working towards grooming him while he’s eating even if you haven’t caught him yet.
Always be mindful of your safety by staying well out of kicking range if you’re doing chores around a loose horse.
Always approach from the left front as this is what horses expect, and they can see you better if you approach a little bit from the side rather than head on.
Catching A Difficult Horse
Generally speaking, it’s not a good idea to leave a halter on a horse when he’s loose in the pasture, but if you have a horse who is notoriously hard to catch you may need to do this temporarily.
With a horse who is very hard to catch, leave the halter on when you turn him out, and follow these eight steps to teach him to become easy to catch.
- Establish a daily routine of calling and feeding.
- Always feed in the same place every day.
- Set a sturdy plastic lawn chair in the feeding area. Leave it there so the horse can become accustomed to it.
- After you have established an every day feeding routine and the horse is coming reliably when called, sit in the lawn chair with the horse’s feed dish on your lap and a lead rope in your dominant hand.
- Call the horse then sit quietly and wait for him to come to you. He may be a little bit spooky at first, but he will eventually want his feed more than he fears (or wishes to avoid) you.
- When he comes to you, give him a minute or two to settle in and eat then quietly raise your non-dominant hand and take hold of the side of the halter. Get a firm grip and hold on in case he pulls back. If he pulls very hard, let go. Don’t get hurt! He’ll come back.
- Once you have a firm hold on the halter and the horse is eating, snap his lead rope onto the halter ring, and your horse is caught!
- Sit quietly and let your horse finish eating then move on to grooming and doing enjoyable things with your horse.
Follow these eight steps every day, and your horse will soon learn that coming when called and being caught are the first steps in a series of good things that will happen daily.
Once your horse learns that getting fed and groomed and spending quality time with you is dependent on being caught and haltered, he will come to you willingly and stand quietly while you put the halter on.
Frequently Asked Questions
This almost never works. Take a halter with a lead rope attached when you go to catch a horse. Once you are able to stand beside (on the left side) and pet the horse, put the lead rope over his neck and hold the two parts of the rope together with your right hand while you slip the halter on with your left hand.
Horses that are hard to catch usually don’t trust whoever has been handling them. They have learned that getting caught is not an enjoyable experience and doesn’t lead to good things. Getting past this takes a lot of trust work.
This is a mean spirited and ineffective way of catching a frightened horse. It is based in continuously following and chasing a horse, never allowing him to rest, eat or drink until he finally gives up. It is very cruel, can take hours and results in a tired horse who will not be any use to you. It’s the sort of thing a kill-buyer or someone rounding up wild horses and shipping them off to slaughter would do.
You must be consistent, quiet and non-threatening. Sit still and let the horse come to you. Don’t make any sudden moves. Don’t shout. Talk quietly. Always bring good things (like hay and feed). Take time to build a trusting relationship.
Pay close attention to your body language. You should neither sneak up on a horse nor approach aggressively. Stand quietly where the horse can see you clearly. Lower your shoulders, breathe deeply, relax your core muscles, avert your gaze a bit. Wander toward the horse at a rather obtuse angle approaching his left shoulder. If he turns away, walk along beside him at a distance for a while. When you have a chance, turn and walk across his path without looking at him. Continue quietly, gently mirroring his movements and making yourself available until you are no longer seen as a threat. This can take a very long time, and you may not be able to catch or even touch him the first time, but the eventual end results are worth the time and trouble.