Horses can be difficult to catch for many different reasons and this problem is undoubtedly one of the most frustrating and unpleasant aspects of horse behavior. Finding out why the horse is hard to catch can help solve the problem, but not always. Like many things equine, once you have a hard-to-catch horse, you’ll build up a pool of knowledge and experience in the same way you would if your horse is hard to hold or carry.
Why are some horses hard to catch?
Most horses can have a bad day when they see the collar and turn and run, but some horses are just persistent offenders. This stems from their basic survival instinct, which is to flee at the first sign of danger and ask questions later.
Some horses are still hard to catch because they were never started properly and don’t have a great bond with people, for others, they are a bit smart and know that the head sticking out can mean work or trimming or worming.
In an ideal world, you want the horse to come to you in the field or when you call it. New horses can be more difficult to catch, but not if their base has been done correctly and they mate properly with humans.
Top tips for catching horses
- Leave a collar on the horse, you have very little chance without one, but be sure to use a secure design as collars can be an entrapment hazard.
- Some people leave a piece of baler twine dangling from the bottom ring as this gives you something to hold on to, although you need to make sure you don’t grab the horse in a hurry.
- Never go to the field in riding gear unless it is what you usually wear and try to avoid wearing a riding hat as this is a real sign for some horses.
- If you can, leave the one that doesn’t want to be caught for last, who can play the ‘herd instinct’ card but it doesn’t work if there are a lot of horses in the field unless you want to bring them all just to catch the rogue
- Try to keep a hard-to-catch horse in a smaller area
- Bring the horse in regularly for grooming and feeding sessions and then head back outside so the input isn’t necessarily associated with work.
- Spend time in the paddock without catching the horse, so pick up the droppings or weed or check the fences, keep calm if the horse approaches you, most horses are quite curious and their curiosity will often get the better of them. If the horse gets close enough for you to touch, pat or scratch or rub the withers, which horses do naturally when grooming each other.
- Trapping with feed can work if your horse is grazing alone; in a herd, you can wreak havoc and risk injury to yourself or the other horses. Bribing with food can work up to a point, but smart horses quickly become adept at grabbing a bite and running away. Food is relevant as a reward for a successful outcome, rarely as successful as a bribe or inducement.
- If your horse does not respond well to people on the ground, then you can spend time with him in a small, enclosed area: a small paddock or large yard is perfect, a round pen is probably too small for these purposes. There are many training techniques that involve moving the horse away from you and being able to control his response so that you decide when he approaches and what he does; this can help build a bond of mutual trust and an effective partnership on the ground. .
- Horses that are difficult to catch because they haven’t had adequate groundwork can be difficult in other aspects of the horse/human relationship, so improving this aspect of your partnership may have a positive impact in other areas, such as clipping or loading.
- Always remain calm and patient, even if inside you feel the opposite; horses can read people like a book and any suggestion of annoyance or concern will send the horse galloping for the hills. If you can’t fake it, have someone else catch you, but if your horse is suspicious of strangers, this may not work either.
- Be positive, but don’t approach the horse aggressively, equally, also don’t be too hesitant and hesitant. Avoid eye contact and walk towards the horse’s shoulder rather than straight ahead. If the horse allows you to get close enough to touch it, then don’t grab it; you can catch it this time, but next time you probably won’t be so lucky. Spend time just scratching or massaging it.
- Hard to catch horses are like horses that are difficult to carry or impossible to hold, these problems, whether man-made or simply within the character of that particular horse, will take time and patience to improve or resolve.
- Always remember the golden rule of ‘catch, treat, release’ when looking to make improvements. If you can add to this some other management controls, such as using a smaller paddock (not always possible), grazing with another horse that you can remove first (although this doesn’t always work), or leaving a collar where it may be unsafe, then you Might find a combination of handling and more training that gets the horse to the right side of the line. Some horses can remain persistent offenders regardless of what you do, and some horses will occasionally revert to type even if most of the time you’ve fixed the problem. And remember, never approach any horse to catch if you are upset or in a hurry, as this is the quickest way to injure yourself, even with a horse that is normally good at catching.