My heart breaks when I hear people talk about ‘catching their horse’ or worse: having a horse that is ‘hard to catch’. Why is this heartbreaking to hear?
The horse clearly doesn’t want to engage and that’s not a message we want to hear from the horse we love so much. The good thing is that’s pretty easy to reverse.
Catching vs Being Welcomed in the pasture
When you need to catch your horse, it implies that the horse is walking away… That he doesn’t want to be with you! That’s heartbreaking…
Not only for the owner (we have horses to love and we want them to love us!), but sad for the horse.
Walking away from you is a clear signal that should be addressed! The horse clearly has no intention of coming with you happily. If he would, he would be greeting you at the fence or walk up to you to say ‘Hello’.
Possible reasons for this behaviour
Many reasons can drive this behaviour. Think of:
- Horse is anticipating on what he has to do when he’s caught (riding, groundwork, driving, leaving his herd, being groomed) and wants to avoid it
- Maybe he has an unbalanced rider that’s really uncomfortable for him
- Poor fitting tack
- Facing lots of aversives in training and/or punishment
- Horse is unsure what’s expected
- Distrust of people
- Learned behaviour (playing tag with you and enjoys this game)
Choosing a solution
Depending on the cause of your horse’s behaviour of getting away from you and trying to avoid being caught, you choose a solution.
If he’s in pain (poor fitting tack) you could clicker train him to accept the aversive bridle or saddle, but it doesn’t revolve his discomfort, pain or fears.
Often it starts with offering your horse a choice and showing him that you’re listening! That’s when he’ll start telling you more. The more you know, the better you can address his issue and the sooner it will be resolved.
I have a hard to catch horse
Currently I’m riding a horse that is hard to catch. She’s walking away from me and when I follow her, she trots a big circle before you I can approach and halter her. This is how they catch her.
Interesting part is that she will let you halter her, but she clearly doesn’t want to.
I’ve been showing this horse, that she has a choice.
Now I gave her a voice she’s saying ‘No’ to me and won’t let me approach her with a halter. That’s to be expected. It tells me a lot!
I’m not worried. Soon I will have taught her to approach me and nothing bad will happen. Only good things!
I’m confident it won’t be long before I can halter her and investigate further what part of being caught/being with people she doesn’t like. That’s why I’m making a video of this behaviour before the problem goes away. 😉
Give your horse a choice and you’ll get answers!
Some people are afraid of giving their horse a choice or a voice in training. Yes, it’s possible that your horse will say NO. This will give you so much information, that you can use to make riding or training win-win.
Often horses are very willing to cooperate with you, once their problem is solved.
The problem can be anything: from fear of pain or punishment, insecurity, to learned (undesired) behaviours. Once you give your horse a voice, and start acting (!) on what he communicates, your relationship will become better!
Every time you listen to your horse, he is reinforced to communicate more with you. No more unexpected bolting, pulling away from you, spooking or biting will happen. It can take time, but the more you listen (and act on his message!!) the more he’ll tell you and the more he’ll trust you.
So, I’m not worried about my free lease horse trotting away from me. Before long, I can halter her and she’ll be at the fence greeting me. Looking forward spending time together.
Positive reinforcement is giving your horse something he wants, so he’ll give you something you want. It’s more fun working with a cooperative horse that’s eager to work with and for you!
Want to know how I do this? Read the related article (bottom of this one)
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