Catching a horse
I have already posted on here regarding difficulties catching this horse. I put some into practice, ie. sitting with food but eventually it got unmanageable so I managed to lock her into a stable. I left her there for a couple of days, visiting her a few times a day and taking her for walks.
By the end she was alright with me in the stable, she would let me basically brush her and so I thought I could put her out in the paddock. I did and she was alright, as long as I had a handful of lucerne she would walk up to me and let me take her halter. She won't really let me walk up to her in the paddock, but mostly that was because she started walking towards me.
The place that I was living was not working out so I moved back into town and moved her to another agistment place. She was okay to catch but in the past couple of days she has gotten progressivly worse. She is in a single horse paddock with multiple horses around her but now she just trots away for 15 - 20 mins before she will eventually come up and each day she takes longer. I am worried that it will get to the point where she won't let herself be caught at all.
I thought that the previous problem was that she was scared of people as she is headshy and won't let pretty much anyone but me catch her and sort of shakes at first with other people patting her. She is getting heaps better but for some reason she is getting worse but still seems okay with me otherwise. When I do catch her I don't always work her but always feed her.
Does anyone have any advice for me? I still leave her headcollar on but soon I will need to move her into a larger paddock with a few other horses without a headcollar and I just don't know what to do. I work with her everyday and she is getting better in every way but this.
I personally really dont like using food as a bribe for training. IMO the horse sees you as the dinner bucket. If this horse has fear issues, she needs to see you as safety and comfort. If she is in a paddock by herself, you could try some exercises that will encourage her to want to be with you.
I go into the paddock with the halter and either a long lead (about 12')that I can use to push the horse or a lunge whip. I am looking for the horse to look at me with both eyes. If they give me one eye or turn away, I pop the whip and push them. I aggressivly follow them. At some point they will turn to look and see what you are doing. The instant I get two eyes, I immediatly stop moving and relax my posture. I wait a few seconds to see if they are going to stay. If they turn or give me one eye I repeat the above process.
If they stay and continue to look at me, I walk towards them in a zig zag pattern, not directly at them. If at any point they turn, I push as above until they again stop and look at me. You want to watch them to see their movement, but do not look them directly in the eye when you are coming up to the horse.
When I get to where I am next to the horse, I rub them starting at the neck/whither junction and work my way up to the head. If the horse has head shy problems, you will start to see it the closer you get to the head. Do approach and retreat on the rubbing until you can put the halter on.
If you will do this each time you go to get her, she will start to understand that when you come for her, she will work if she runs or disrespects. Pushing her is what another dominant horse would do, it established your role as the leader. When she sees you as her leader, she will see you as safety and comfort and will want to be with you. That is when you get the horse catching you :D
When I first couldn't catch her I tried that technique. It doesn't really work with her, I know in theory that if you keep doing it that it will work but after about 15 mins she just starts galloping blindly around the paddock and will not stop. I understand that if I kept going she would probably stop but the way that she runs I believe that she would go through a fence first. She just works herself up so much.
I personally don't like using food as a bribe either, a horse has never needed to "catch" food, so getting them to work for it doesn't really work like it does for other animals, but with her I need to catch her twice a day or she gets worse, generally the more handling I did with her the better she was. I don't think she is afraid of me anymore. We did a fair bit of round yard work and there she will easily come up to me and follow me, let me touch her legs and besides the head is pretty alright.
I do the approach retreat method, and the stopping when they look at you when she doesn't let me catch her these days, and if anything it gets her more riled up, even if I don't urge her away with a rope (only use body language). I keep trying that method but she does not respond.
do you have a roundpen?
I would suggest a join up session a day until she gets better - that is, make her move in the round pen until she is relaxed with head down, ears loose, and licking and chewing. then turn your back to her...she should walk right up to you. If she doesn't listen, or turns a different direction, send her off in the trot again (not to run it out of her, but just to keep her feet moving). again stop with your back to her - and let her come to you.
does that make sense?
As you know, this is a relationship problem. This horse doesn't want to be with you so now you have the challenge and responsibility to show her that you are fun to be with. She has to feel safe with you in order to WANT to be with you.
So go out into the pasture with your halter and a couple treats in your pocket. AS SOON as she sees you stop, relax and smile at her. This is like saying to her, "I saw you saw me!" The fact that you will acknowledge this will already set a different tone. So now as you approach don't go in a straight line. Zig zag. If you see a horse going to the water tank, they really don't walk in a straight line. They aren't direct lined thinkers like people are so we need to do the same. Pay close attention to her ears. If you have two eyes and two ears you have permission to approach. If at any moment she takes an ear away or turns her head or tenses up STOP. This is her telling you that you have reached the threshold of her personal space and you no longer have permission to approach. If you blow past this threshold she will leave. Wait there until you have two eyes and two ears again. Turn your belly button away from her as this is where all your pressure comes from. If you wait there for a long time try taking a few steps back. This whole process might take awhile so you must be patient.
So when you get to her allow her to touch you first. Don't reach out and touch her, extend your hand, palm down, and see if she touches you. If not, you do not have permission to touch her. Retreat some, then do it again. When she does touch you go to her withers and rub the spot just in front of the withers, where horses like to groom each other. This is a sweet spot and if a horse won't let you touch their face they will let you touch this spot. Rub her all over with the halter, find a good itchy spot (try the withers and in front of her shoulder and her back) and scratch REALLY hard. Give her a treat and then LEAVE. This will blow her mind!
Do this every single time you go to get her. On the day you put the halter on her take her out to graze. You have to make time with you be enjoyable otherwise she will continue to be hard to catch. Spend a lot of undemanding time together grazing. If you do this right she will soon be coming to you and meeting you at the gate.
Spirithorse is right on the mark. I have a horse that used to run from me. After much patience and the above sort of "work", she now comes when she hears me calling her.
I read this same sort of "how to catch a horse in John Lyons "Perfect Horse" magazine. It really worked wonders for Vida and me. The zig zagging and watching the ears eyes is really important.
personally I don't like the join-up stuff from Monty Roberts, I find that it can be way too overwhelming for an extremely sensitive horse.
First off, I'd do a whole lot of bonding work...just brushing her, sitting next to her as she grazes.
Secondly, don't always take her out when you go. Go into her pasture, catch her, then release her. Don't even make her walk. Just hook the lead rope to the halter (or put the halter on if you don't have it on already) and then take it off, then walk away totally ignoring her. Just repeat that throughout the day...she'll soon get curious as to what you are doing.
Also are you waiting for her to come to you or are you approaching her? If you are approaching her, make sure you aren't approaching in a threatening manner...meaning don't do a fast paced walk, coming directly at the, with head held up high. That's what a predator would do. Instead walk slowly, keep your head down a bit, and don't want in a straight line. Almost ask your horse to be able to approach. I'd carry a treat in your pocket...not as a bribe, but as a "thank you" for letting you catch her.
Also if your horse turns to look at you, stop and don't walk closer. Wait until her attention is elsewhere that you continue to approach again.
Thanks for all the advice. The paddock that I have her in joins onto two other paddocks that people get their horses out of. The owner and I thought it would be a good idea for her to go there as she sees heaps of people coming and going. Although it seems now that it has made this catching thing worse. I was talking to a girl down there and she says that some of the people when they go through the paddock try and scare her off with their lead when she gets close to them or their horses. I think this has affected the catching a lot as she is getting a lot of mixed messages from people. It does annoy me that these people are doing this after we deliberately told everyone she was their because she was afraid of people and difficult to catch, but I guess they have their reasons. So talking with the owner she said I could either put her in a 5 acre paddock with four other mares, another five acre paddock on her own or in another little paddock between the one she is in and the one with the mares. There would only be a few people going through there but still some that might scare her off. I am reluctant to put her in the little paddock because there is no trees or shelter either, and down here we are coming into summer pretty quick. On the other hand I think the other paddocks are too big, she'll just gallop up the other end and when i get up she would probably gallop back.
I tried doing join up with her when I bought her. She was kind of weird but basically she wouldn't go away from me or she would sort of run sideways then look at me. I am worried that if I tried to push her away she would run around blindly, hurting herself. She's very sensative. But she will follow me in a round yard and when I let her go in the paddock she'll stay and let me pat her.
The way I have been catching is sort of going about two metres away, not really looking at her, and then she walks up to me and smells me, and doesn't walk off when I put her lead on.
I might try the whole treat, pat and walk away or something, just to get her to like me.
Does anyone have any advice on what paddock I should put her in, or something?
I just went out to see her now and I can't catch her at all anymore :(
I tried the approach stop thing for a while until i started being swooped by a magpie. I just don't know what to do with her anymore.
Just go into the pasture and sit down....100% ignore her. If she comes to you, stand up and walk away not even making eye contact with her. Then once you're away sit down again and repeat.
It sounds to me that it isn't something that you are doing wrong, your horse just does not trust you. You must gain her trust if she want to catch her.
Or try something like this:
Walk up to her, the minute she sees you, run away...literally run at full speed away from her. If she has a play drive, she might just start chasing you. If she does just run and run until you can't run anymore. Then stop, and turn around and if she's right there, pet her head and tell her what a good girl she is.
Also another good thing to try is, if you can come out every day, YOU feed her...no one is allowed to give her food....get her so she is dependant on YOU for her food.
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