Difficulty in Catching My New QH Gelding
I have just recently purchased an 8 yr old QH who has mostly been used for lease and ranch work in the past, but hasn't been ridden in about a year. I rode him around the arena a few days ago and he was fine. The only problem with him is that he absolutely hates being caught. The pasture where he's kept is quite large and there are four other horses in there with him.
I realize that there are quite a few threads already about using the Join Up method and various others which are similar, but I still have a few more questions which don't seem to be answered in the other threads.
Can I use the Join Up method in the pasture (30 acres) with the other horses around? How do I separate just him from the four other horses? Or am I going to be herding all of them? Should I be doing this in a smaller paddock by himself? When he stops and (hopefully) looks at me, do I approach slowly and hope he stands still and then start the whole 'making him run' exercise all over again if he makes a move to run again?
I'm quite new to this, so I want to make sure that him and I are off to a good start to a trusting relationship. I'm just finding it a bit frustrating and am not quite sure how to 'herd' him with other strange horses around.
Thank you very much for reading my long post!
My first horse had a very similar problem. I would start with catching him in a smaller paddock alone. You want to set him up for success, and running around with his pasture buddies is a big distraction. It's like trying to teach a little kid his ABC's in the middle of Chuck E. Cheese's; gonna be tough.
I would turn him loose in a smaller paddock, roundpen, or empty arena (if you go with the arena, make sure that you'll have time to get done before a rider needs the space :wink:). Leave a halter on him for now, and let him settle down for a few minutes if he needs to. When he's relaxed, approach him. Keep walking toward his shoulder until he acknowledges your presence and looks at you. He'll probably walk away, just keep following at a walk until he looks at you with both eyes. This is where having the smaller space is helpful. The minute that you have his attention, walk away until he ignores you again, then reapproach. If he ignores you and stands still until you actually catch him, great! If you get his attention and he actually takes a step toward you, or even follows you, excellent. When he's comfortable being caught in a controlled environment, introduce another horse into the pen, and try catching him with a distraction. As he gets better and better, keep upping the ante.
When you do catch him, pet him, maybe give him a treat, and turn him loose. This will blow most horse's minds - hard catchers generally equate being caught with something "unpleasant", i.e. work. Another part of fixing the problem is making work more enjoyable, perhaps ruling out physical reasons why the horse would not want to go for a ride; ill-fitting saddle, bit/bridle pain, etc. Catch and release puts the horse's mind on the path of "Oh! I let myself be caught, and it was very pleasant! Let's do that again!"
I've tried the Join-Up method personally, and I found that, for my particular horse, pushing him forward and away and moving his feet that much just made him more excited, and riled the rest of the horses in the pasture up. I've walked miles following a herd of 20, trotting quite pleasantly away, my pony at the head of the pack.
Additionally, as you and your horse get more used to each other, and you demonstrate yourself to him as a leader worthy of respect, I'll bet you find that your catching problems diminish further. :wink:
Best of luck, I know that this can be a tricky and frustrating problem to work through.
Thanks so much for the quick reply Scoutrider! I'm going to give that a try this afternoon in a smaller paddock when he's alone lol the difficult part will be getting him in the smaller paddock alone :P
I'll keep you updated on how we progress through the week!
It CAN work but you better have a lot of stamina. I would be leery about trying it in a 30 acre pasture - I've seen it successfully done in roughly a 7-8 acre pasture with a square shape (nowhere to hide). Shay-la has an almost impossible to catch mare sometimes (not even grain when she decides she ain't coming) and she was in with 6 other horses. Shay-la would have to make the entire herd run, and run hard. The rest of the group typically loses interest after a couple good gallop circuits around the pasture. Once you tire out the rest of the herd not interested in playing your game, the horse you're trying to catch will essentially begin circling the herd trying to find a way in. At this point it becomes much easier, because you just stay on the outskirts of the herd keeping the horse out. Eventually she will stop and Shay-la walks up to her (you can try to just turn your back on him, which is what you're supposed to do for join-up and let them come to you, but as they "know" what you want, walking up usually works).
It typically takes Shay-la anywhere from 15-30 minutes to accomplish this. And it's not a magical cure all either, she still has to do it with Cinder several times a year when she decides she's "not being caught".
As a note, it DOES work to have a partner or two help you tire the rest of the herd out first - I've often helped Shay-la with the initial chasing until the rest of the herd loses interest and starts grazing. Then I back off and let Shay-la go to work keeping Cinder from the herd. You essentially make yourself part of the herd, and it's probably the most realistic form of join up you'll ever do.
This is the advice I was looking for. My mare is almost exactly like that, except for the fact that when she's alone she's easy to catch and she begs (literally) for a companion.
Benny, I'd love to hear how it goes! :D
Haha, yeah, I really doubt it could work in a 30 acre pasture unless you had a few helpers! Shay-la is as thin and fit as they come, and even she was exhausted after trying to keep a herd running on 7-8 acres! Unless you make them really RUN so the rest of the herd loses interest, you could be at it for YEARS!
In the past when I've had one hard to catch, I'd cut him from the herd, and then pretend to be a cutting horse until he give up and stand, or came to me. I would just get between the horse that I wanted and the rest of the herd, and basically prevent him from getting back to his buddies until he let me catch him. Then all you have to do is circle the herd and block his returning, lots less running. Of course, this will only work if the horse is somewhat buddy sour, and if the rest of the herd will cooperate and hang out in a location while you circle them. Good luck!
It helps if you catch the horse a few times a day and just maybe brush him/her or treat him/her or take the horse out to eat grass in your yard. You could also call the horse to the fence at random times a day and just give them a carrot or treat. Soon, everytime you come to the fence they'll come running.
Thank you all for such great advice!
Since he's a ranching horse, I think he associates being caught with working, hard. For two days now I've caught him (not easy, needed help from his previous owner), gave him a good grooming, lots of pets, praise and a treat and then let him go. Goodness knows how many more times I'll have to do this before he trusts me not to work him into the dirt!!
I gave up pretty quickly on trying to catch him in the pasture. As soon as that lead rope was coming around his neck, he'd jump sideways and take off faster than I could blink.
I have to herd all the horses into a paddock, and then weed out the horses I don't want. Then wait patiently until he calms down and 'lets' me halter him. He's still pretty jumpy when he's haltered, hopefully this will subside in time?
I never knew a horse could be so hard to catch!
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