Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Washington State
I have a couple of mustangs. They sometimes prefer to "revert" to being wild and uncatchable when I go out to get them. After trying a broad assortment of techniques, the one that has worked best for me is a bit of rudimentary clicker training. Here's how it works:
I start off with just me and the horse in a stall (or any pretty small area). I hold my hand out to the horse, such that the back of my hand is facing him. Generally, he'll be curious about why I'm holding my hand out to him and he'll reach out to smell it. The moment that his nose makes any contact with the back of my hand, I "click" with my tongue and take a treat out of my pocket to feed him. Then I repeat... and repeat... and repeat until he figures out that when I hold out my hand and he touches it with his nose, a treat is sure to follow.
After I have him touching my hand fairly reliably, I'll back up a few steps and hold out my hand, requiring him to take a few steps in my direction to be able to touch my hand. Then I repeat that several times, varying how far away I'm standing from him when I hold out my hand to him. Once he's reliably walking to me and touching my hand for his treat, we proceed even further. (I should also note that I intersperse the treat game with a fair bit of petting and stroking his head and neck, to be sure that he's not still going to play keep away when I try to actually touch him.)
Beginning with the horse already wearing a halter, I offer the horse my hand while I am holding the lead rope snap. I make sure that he's comfortable touching my hand and getting his treat while I'm holding the snap, then I add the next challenge: when I hold my hand out to him, he has to not only touch my hand but also allow me to snap the lead to his halter (at which point he gets his treat, a few pets and loves, then I unclip the lead rope and repeat).
With enough practice, you should reach the point that you can walk into his pasture, stop about 20 feet away from him and hold out your hand, wait for him to walk up to meet you, halter him, and give him his treat and a bit of love before continuing on your merry way.
As I said, this has worked wonderfully for my mustangs (they both went through some really difficult phases -- you could spend an hour or more at a time trying to catch them). Both of my mustangs now meet me at the gate and happily allow me to catch them. In their case I think that they feel more safe/comfortable being permitted to approach me on their own terms.