I got a very nice message from a student this morning, and she is having a little trouble catching her horses. I have talked about this before but I know it can be a real problem for folks.
She says that she is able to get them to stop, eventually and stand still, then she is able to put a halter on them but she has to walk a long ways in her pasture, sometimes, in order to get that done.
The best way to teach or reteach this skill is in the round pen or a square pen. You can do it in a pasture or arena, but it will take a lot longer and you will be wore out buy the time you get it done.
Horses that don’t want to be caught see no value in us as leaders, so we have to work a being a good or better leader. Some horses get it pretty fast, others can take what seems like forever, but you have to be patient. Remember there are three things that I look for when working a horse in the round pen. I look for him to hook his inside ear on me, which shows that he is paying attention to me. If I don’t have that, you won’t get anything else either. Sometimes a horse will have to make several laps in the round pen before he wants to listen. So be patient with him. Let him go as long as he needs to, until you get his attention, which is shown by him listening with his inside ear. The inside ear being the one closest to you as he goes in his circle. Once you have that the second thing I look for is licking and chewing. Horses can’t and won’t lick and chew if they are afraid or defiant. So once he start to lick and chew he is telling you that he is not afraid and he is starting to come down off of his adrenalin. This will take time as well. Then the third thing is the lowering of his head, sometimes all the way to the ground. You don’t always get the lowering of the head, or I should say, most people don’t notice the lowering of the head because the are looking for him to lower it all the way to the ground. Most of the time though, he will start to lower is a little at a time, and in very small increments.
Once you have at least two of the three, then he is ready to listen to what you have to say. I try to get my horse to go thru a walk, trot, and canter, in both directions before we even think about stopping and teaching him to catch me. If your horse is in a stall, which is not the case with Diane, the student that sent the email, or penned up, it may take awhile. They have been standing around doing nothing and now they get a chance to get out and stretch their legs, so give them a chance to do that.
You want to make sure your horse is paying attention, then pick a place in the pen and when your horse get to that spot back up as fast as you can to the other side of the round pen. What will happen is your horse will turn in to see what you are doing and when the horse notices that you are backing away your horse may, step toward you. If the horse keeps coming toward you, keep backing up along the rail of the round pen. Try to match your horse step for step. Meaning, when your horse takes a step toward you, take a step back away from him. Once your horse figures out that comfort comes from following you he will hunt you down in order to be comfortable. He may only turn and look at you. If so that’s ok. Just stop and let him rest. He did the right thing, which is look at you. Just wait. If he walks off, put him back to work in circles. You won’t have to go as far as you did before, before you ask him to turn in toward you as I describe in the earlier part of this blog. Once your horse figures out that being with YOU is where there is rest and comfort he will catch you in order to get that reward, rest.
There is a ton more detail and things to look for but this is about all this blog can handle.
If you are having problems with any of your horse program, please feel free to call. It’s free. My hope is you will see enough value in what I can show you that you will want to share it with friends and we can have a clinic sometime down the road.
Be safe out there.
Will try and keep you updated with info on what the heck I'm doing with horses and music.