Walking away - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 01-27-2013, 04:49 PM Thread Starter
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Walking away

My horse walks away from people. It generally doesn't matter what you're doing, what you have in your hands, etc. It also doesn't matter what he's doing - even eating - and he doesn't get aggressive or pin ears. He just... walks away. I'm aware that this is disrespectful. In the past we've had a catching issue, where I learned he responds best to building a relationship and doesn't respond well to being driven away. In the past, I've driven him away and then caught him and allowed him to relax, but this isn't helping. I did try a few times just walking after him, and after a minute he stopped and let me catch him without any more issues. It's very strange....

While somewhat annoying, this isn't problematic when I go catch him as I can usually do so after a minute and it's not a big ordeal. However, it was very problematic when my colt let him out the other day and my boarder spent an hour and a half trying to catch him. She said she was eventually able to catch him by walking toward him (not running or chasing), stopping when he stopped, and backing up to invite him in. Without me, she came to the same conclusion that I did a long time ago: pressure does not work for him. It's about mutual trust and respect.

So, how do I get him to be more willing to be caught? I'd love to have that "meet you at the gate" horse that wants to be with you. He doesn't like being alone and I know he's comfortable and not worried with me, but he's still much more concerned about himself (he's a very preoccupied horse haha) and isn't very lovey at all. maybe there's something I can do to improve his relationship with me, and help him be more willing to trust others and allow himself to be caught easily?
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post #2 of 14 Old 01-27-2013, 04:50 PM Thread Starter
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Some more details - he's a full Arab, and I've heard of other Arabs doing the same thing and being aloof and weary, more concerned about themselves. He is much more comfortable with me than anyone, and I try to be out there daily giving them food and cleaning their feet while they eat (my colt needs to behave better for the farrier lol). Even so, he still often walks away from me when I approach him in the pasture with my hoof pick in my pocket and nothing else.
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post #3 of 14 Old 01-27-2013, 05:35 PM
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In all honesty, and I'm sure people will disagree with me, I DON'T think that is disrespectful. Think about a herd of horses. If the lead mare walks up, walking away is always a valid option for the lower ranked horses. There is never a time where the lead mare will 'order them' (for lack of a better word) to stand still while she approaches. She can invite them closer, but she can't MAKE them come in. If they give her attitude as they move off, she may chase them further away, but she's not going to say "come here and let me do something to you" like we ask of horses on a daily basis. Even if she wants to do some mutual grooming, the lower horses can still leave if they'd rather not. Sounds like he's not excited about your plans for him and would rather not volunteer himself, but when you make it clear you're not leaving him alone, he complies without any drama. I'd just chalk it up to his personality and not worry too much about it.

If you'd rather he volunteer more, you'd have to find what HE thinks would be worth his while. Maybe he's a treat horse, or one for some good scratches he can get after volunteering to be caught. Some horses don't seem to like any of it and that's just them.
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post #4 of 14 Old 01-27-2013, 06:24 PM Thread Starter
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You make a good point about he herd behavior. Whatever it is, though, he needs to learn not to turn and walk away. Thank goodness her property is gated - otherwise I would have had a real issue on my hand. He's not interested in treats and will actually walk away from food. It's more like he's just not interested. Most of the time when I've caught him in the last few months I haven't actually done anything with him and have usually just caught and treated him or brushed him since he was first injured and it's been too cold to ride since he got better.

His attitude says he doesn't want to be caught and doesn't want to be messed with. He is the top horse, and, though he doesn't challenge me, there are other small signs of disrespect and lack of attention paid to me when he's loose or when I'm working with him. Though he doesn't mind going on a ride, I also don't think he likes to be taken out of or messed with in "his" space and so tries not to be caught, but knows he will be, so he doesn't put up much fight. (This is a HUGE improvement and different ish attitude than he had last year, when we came to a point where we had to lasso him in the pasture and he was kept in a stall for a month or two after that until I was confident I could catch him.)
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post #5 of 14 Old 01-27-2013, 08:20 PM
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People have been doing the approach and retreat for centuries to catch horses. Not a new idea. And there are always going to be some horses that flat out don't want to be caught.

Even horses that have nothing to do the live long day for years may still resist being caught easily.

I have a horse that has to be done like this, he is not a treat horse, nor is he a people horse. Just him. Nothing wrong with him, nothing has happened to him. He just sees no reason to be caught, period. Not even for feed.

Sending horse away firmly might help, might not. And some of it may depend on what horse feels like too each day.

Horses make me a better person.
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post #6 of 14 Old 01-27-2013, 08:28 PM
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Funny enough, sounds like my boy. He's an Arab too

I have learned that I walk up to him until he thinks about leaving and starts turning, then I stop and invite him in. Works well. Sounds strange, but that's what works. He doesn't hang around unless there is food or he is being admired (yes, he has a very high opinion of himself).

He also got out the other day (in to the other pasture, not off the property). The BM and two family members tried catching him for a while, all while he was racing around the field. So they called me and I came. I walked up to him, asked him what he was doing and put the halter on his head. No problem. Now, he used to run when not wanting to be caught, but I have made it a point that when I come to catch him, I will end up catching him. Even if it takes a while. So he knows running is futile. Maybe you can have your BO and whoever would be catching him if this happens again just go and randomly catch him and release him so he understands he can't get away by walking off and being caught isn't necessarily bad.
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post #7 of 14 Old 01-28-2013, 09:00 AM
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Jilly, it's nice to know he trusts you enough to know that if he walks away there will be no repercussion. This builds huge trust. One of my horses might do this. I'll stamp my foot to get his attention and he generally turns and comes back to me. I think they leave since nothings happening and the grass over there is calling.
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post #8 of 14 Old 01-28-2013, 09:14 AM Thread Starter
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I considered carrying a crop for a moment and giving him a nice little "smack" but not chasing him when he turns around, but I can see where that will lead to him walking away as soon as he sees me pull up rather than waiting until I'm actually in the pasture and within about 5 feet. I know it's all a game because, in the past, my strategy has been to immediately turn away from him and go towards my other horse when he turns away or even just go straight for my colt. When I do that, he decides he's interested in what's going on and comes over since I'm not "going for him", and after that, he won't turn away even when I do walk toward him. It's almost like he wants the attention, so he plays "hard to get" to get it. (However, this was not the case with my boarder - ever time she approached, even with hay, he turned away before she even had a chance of getting him)

As far as the herd thing, this does remind me about when he used to let me approach his sides and flank, and even come up with his nose and head, but would walk away as soon as I approached his shoulder because he knew he'd get the lead rope thrown around his neck.

I think he might really respond to clicker training, which I've done with my other horse but not this one since he was already trained when I purchased him. Maybe that'll appeal to him as a game he's excited to play. And when we do targeting, I usually train them to target my fist. I think maybe taking this approach and helping him be excited to work with me (like my other horse is since he was clicker trained from the beginning - he actually DROPS for the clicker and his attention is always on me, the complete opposite of this horse) will help him to meet me at the gate so that he'll be caught first (that's what my colt tries to do haha). Maybe, to get him to come to others, we could also play a clicker game to come when called. I know there's one where, once they've gotten to a certain point, you can even have more than one person stand in the arena/pasture and call him one at a time until he comes. They learn to respond to this just like any cue.
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post #9 of 14 Old 01-28-2013, 09:19 AM Thread Starter
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The difficult thing is I can't work on this behavior directly. Yesterday, I went out to see what I could try to get him to come to me rather than me going to him, and he was ready for his snacks so he was ready at the gate (he does that when my car pulls up because I bring a beet pulp mash daily) and then followed me EVERYWHERE until I fed it to him! The other thing is that this will only happen once each day tops. If he does it once, even when I'm just coming to pet him OR if I do catch him and work him, he seems to get it out of his system and doesn't do it again. I could walk right up to him over and over and not have a problem.

I think the trick is getting him to come to ME under any circumstances, instead of me going to him. He's super smart, and I think he might just get a kick out of making ME work for once! But he doesn't act up bad enough that I make him work instead!

Ironically, that's what keeps me attached to this horse: we are always playing games trying to figure each other out.
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post #10 of 14 Old 01-28-2013, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by jillybean19 View Post
You make a good point about he herd behavior. Whatever it is, though, he needs to learn not to turn and walk away.
Don't count on teaching him something his instincts do not want him to learn.

My strong alpha-dominant horse has been with me 22 of his 25 years; he is a TWH. He is so socially incorrect that he takes sadistic delight in showing strangers the whites of his eyes when they walk in the barn. He won't even acknowlege them if they have a treat in their hand and he's locked in his stall. Maybe he will eventually warm to you and maybe he won't but he can do as he pleases in that regard; it's who he is and nothing's going to change him. When I say "Duuuuke that wasn't nice", he sticks his tongue out the side of his mouth and nods his head up and down, then everybody laughs and thinks I taught him that trick. I didn't teach him but many years of encouragement has morphed it into a trick - lol lol lol

He will not come to the fence and if he does get close to the fence out of curiousity, that lasts about 30 seconds to size everyone up, then he swaggers away. I never cared about trying to force him to be any different.

My Arab is also very stand-offish, he is second in command. If he's loose in the pasture, you could have an entire bag of horse treats and you'd never get close to him, if he doesn't know you.

I am perfectly fine with that because I can catch any of them anytime I need to

The two horses most likely to take candy from the hand of a stranger are horses #3 and #4 in the pecking order. I would be happy if they did NOT come running to the fence to say hello; they are the first two that could easily be loaded into somebody's trailer and go missing

A Good Horseman Doesn't Have To Tell Anyone; The Horse Already Knows.
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