Sometimes horses can be difficult to catch! Horses have varying reasons to be difficult to catch. This article will give you some tips on how to catch your horse. First, you should try to assess why your horse is be hard to catch. How you catch a horse depends on what the horse’s motivations are for not being caught. Sometimes horses are hard to catch because they have learned to associate getting caught with unpleasant things. Other times horses, like those who have been abused, are hard to catch because they dread any interaction with humans. And finally, some horses are difficult to catch simply because they know they can get away with it!
Before trying these more complicated training-based approaches to catching a horse, try these simple tips:
1. When approaching a horse you expect may run, don’t enter the pasture with an erect posture. Slump your shoulders and look down at the ground. Walk slowly, and do not walk directly towards the horse. Walk in a zig-zag.
2. A common cheat for catching horses is a bucket with a few handfuls of grain in the bottom. Most horses will volunteer to be caught for food. Alternatively, to make sure your horse is always willing to be caught, you may want to consider regularly feeding a treat to your horse after he accepts a halter.
If your horse is in the first two categories, avoiding being caught because they are afraid or avoiding something unpleasant, you need to help your horse reassociate what it means to get caught. If your horse is avoiding being caught because it expects something unpleasant, like being overworked, being medicated, or something similarly unpleasant, start catching your horse frequently and doing only pleasant things or nothing at all. Catch the horse at least once a day, perhaps before feeding time, or just catching to scratch or groom the horse and release them again. This helps teach the horse that not every time they will be caught means they will get something unpleasant done to them. They will learn to voluntarily be caught.
If your horse is avoiding being caught because it is genuinely afraid (this can be observed in a tense body, eye whites showing, or a horse panicking when cornered) this is a more difficult problem. You should get the horse into a smaller pen and spend more time nearby, but not asking the horse to be caught or do anything the frightens it. If your horse is terrified of having a halter but on, then back off and merely stand nearby until your horse is comfortable with you in its presence. Over the course of time push the comfort zone until your horse is more comfortable with you being closer, touching, putting a rope around the neck, and finally sliding a halter on. This takes time and should be done in a small, enclosed area. If the area is too large, the horse will simply move away instead of becoming accustomed to your presences. Examine clicker training for an excellent training alternative for gentling frightened or feral horses.
So what if your horse’s just being naughty? If your horse is avoiding being caught because he thinks he can get away with it, you have to get inside the horse’s head: make what you want the easy choice, and the alternative harder. So, if the horse is running away every time it sees a halter, make the horse run more! If your horse is running away when you try to catch it one good idea is to section the horse into a smaller area like a small paddock or round pen, and when the horse moves away when you try to catch them, let them go- then make them keep going around the perimeter of the pen. Make the horse continue to run and allow them to stop only when it is you or idea. When you allow the horse to stop, calmly approach the horse with the halter. If the horse moves away again, repeat. The horse will eventually choose to be haltered rather than continue to run. This may take an extended period the first few times, but absolutely do not give up part way through and if your horse is worn out from this exercise, don’t ride heavily once the horse is caught. This exercise helps assert you as the dominant herd member, and the horse will submit easier to being captured.
These are all tips on how to catch a horse. If you still cannot catch your horse you should look into working with a professional horse trainer to teach you how to catch a horse.