There is nothing more frustrating than looking forward to a nice ride and ending up standing in the field with the horse running circles around you. A horse that evades being caught is a nuisance. It is frustrating for the owner and many busy owners do not have time to waste.
If the horse gets away with it, a regular habit could form. The trick is, to try not to allow it to happen in the first place. When going up to a horse to catch it, don’t just march up head on in a confrontational manner. Horses can’t see directly in front and can be easily startled. Approach the horse from the side so it can see you. Come up quietly at the same time as letting the horse know that you are there. Give the horse a little stroke on the neck, place the rope around the neck so it cannot move away and then put on the halter.
Easy, but not so easy it the horse moves away from you. A horse can be encouraged not to move away by using a tidbit. I am not usually a great fan of tidbits as they can cause horses to nip and make them bad mannered if they are used too much. However, they can be useful when catching a horse as it is a rewarding proper behavior. The tidbit should be horse friendly, either a carrot or a horse tidbit. Give the tidbit and quickly put the halter on at the same time, so the horse doesn’t get away. Some horses that are really accomplished at not being caught will take the tidbit and run off again, so be aware. In this instance, a bucket of feed could be used temporarily. Only do this if there are no other horses in the field because it could lead to kicking among the horses. And only use it while teaching the horse to be caught. It would not be suitable to do this every time.
If the horse is still sometimes difficult to catch, a halter could be left on in the field if necessary. Never leave a strong webbing halter on in the field, because it won’t break if the horse gets caught in something. Leather ones are better but also field halters collars can be purchased that have either Velcro or rubber rings which will break if they are under pressure. A short piece of rope could be left on the halter if the horse is difficult to approach. This should only be about 5 inches which is long enough to grab, but not so long that the horse will stand on it or get caught. This should only be used as a temporary measure until the horse becomes more willing to be caught.
Another option is to bring its field mates in first. A horse will usually come in then, once it realizes that all the other horses are in. The difficulty with this is, it is very time consuming and if the herd mates belong to other owners they may not wish their horse to be brought in, even for a short time. This is also only a viable option, if a very few horses share the field.
Keep in mind that if a horse does not have enough time out in the field, it could become difficult to catch. Horses, like people, need time to relax. And if a horse is always brought in to be ridden, especially if it is worked hard, it may become difficult to catch. Try bringing the horse in just to feed or groom them sometimes. A horse should not be allowed to associate being caught with always being worked hard. It should come in for a variety of reasons. If the horse is happy and has a good with its owner, it will be more likely to be caught. It should not dread the sight of a person coming towards it with a halter.
Provided by Creatures Corner reader Lucy Collins
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