A common problem that many horse owners have is dealing with a horse that does not want to be “caught”. This is particularly frustrating when the horse will allow itself to be done some days, but not others or will come for the barn manager but not for his owner. The reason a horse does or does not want to be done is basically about the relationship between the owner & the horse.
Horses that like to be with their owners are OK with what happens to them when they go with that person are willing to be thought & will often come to the person … no catching necessary.
Pay attention to the word we use when talking about getting our horses … “catch”. Predators catch their prey. But, prey animals’ avoid being “caught” as their survival depends upon their ability to get away. Are you hunting your horse? What we absolutely want is for the horse to willingly come to us because he wants to be with us.
Here are three tips to apply if you have difficulty getting your horse from the paddock.
- Push her away. If your horse runs away when you walk towards him or her, push her around. Separate your horse from the rest of the herd by pushing him or her out of the group, Put yourself between your horse & the rest of the herd. Horses understand that being sent out of the herd is a punishment for inappropriate behavior. A rude horse will get pushed out of the herd by a higher ranking horse and kept out until she signs of respect. The horse will stop trying to run back into the herd, face up, stand with front feet square (a sign of not needing to move) and give a bow. This tactic may take a lot of effort on your part the first few times you try it. Your horse may not give in easily. But the effort pays off in the long run.
- Walk towards the shoulder not the head. Horses do not like impulsive (pushing) energy going towards their head or neck. If you walk directly towards your horse’s head, your horse will move her head away from you. As the head turns away the body generally follows and the horse moves away from you. Horses move in arching paths. Walk a “rainbow” that arches away from her head and toward your horse’s shoulder. Horses read your entire body so be aware of your body alignment so that there is no push from your hips, core or shoulders towards the head or hips.
- Analyze your relationship with your horse. If your horse enjoys your company and feels good about being with you, she will leave her herd mates to come to you. If your horse does not enjoy spending time with you, then you need to take a hard look at how you are treating your horse when you are handling, grooming and riding her. Is she engaged with you in a positive way and being a willing partner both on the ground and in the saddle? Or is she stressed, angry, resistant or shut down?
Developing a relationship with your horse based on mutual trust & respect creates positive, lasting results but requires consistent awareness, good body language, and empathy. The real diagnostic question is “Why does not the horse want to be done”. The reason is extremely about the relationship between the owner and his / her horse. Horses that like what happens to them when they are with you (ie how they are handled, led, groomed, tacked, ridden) do not need to be “caught”. They give themselves to you.