How To Catch The Un-Catchable Horse
How frustrating is it when you head to the yard to ride, prepare a lovely stable for your horse, you wander up to the field to catch him and at the mere sight of you he turns and runs in the opposite direction? Very, is the answer!
Ok, so I may have over-promised in the title of this blog, I have no guarantees, but here are a few things that have worked for me over the years with really difficult catchers....
1. First of all, try not to take it personally and stay calm. It's easy to do, but the more frustrated, offended and stressed you become with the whole situation, the worse the situation will become. You'll get more animated and angry and your horse, and the others in the field will become riled-up. You have next to no chance of catching a horse cantering round a field with his herd.
2. Simple things can make a difference, try leaving a field-safe head collar on your horse while he's turned out so you have something to grab when you get close enough.
3. Hide the lead rope from view so your horse doesn't immediately think you're going to catch him - maybe you're just going to give him a cuddle and a treat!
4. Not everyone likes giving their horses treats, I don't mind them at all, particularly when they are for a reason. To make point 3 more effective, don't only go to catch your horse to bring in to ride - go and see him, give him a cuddle and a little treat from time to time.
5. Create pleasurable routines for your horse like that above where he learns that being caught leads to great things like a good groom, a massage, a nice feed and a comfortable ride, Sometimes our horses associate coming in with discomfort or unpleasant situations.
6. It's a practical solution for some just to bring your troublesome horse in last. Fine if you share with just 1 or 2 other horses, not so easy if the field is shared with 15 others.
7. Consider creating a small corale area beside the gate in the field with electric fencing and at bringing-in time, lure your horse in with some hay/feed. Close him in away from his friends and he'll be much easier to catch.
8. Some catching-diffiulties can be due to horses lacking confidence in their place in the herd so a potential solution can be looking at the field arrangements you have. Would a smaller field be better? Would just one other companion result in easier management? Is it a particular field buddy that causes the insecurity? Sometimes a trial and error approach here can find a solution for you.
9. Be positive and confident when you go to catch your horse. I know it's difficult to do when you've had history of bad experiences but if you walk in thinking you're not going to be able to catch your horse, everything about your body language will tell your horse you are not someone to take seriously.
10. Equally, don't fake over-the-top confidence as that can often be read as aggression. A quiet, assured confidence is required, walk straight up to your horse's shoulder with purpose!
As ever, I'd love to hear what you think on the topic and please share your experiences, solutions and tips!