Hard to Catch in Large Pasture - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 01-21-2020, 11:20 PM Thread Starter
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Hard to Catch in Large Pasture

Hi there! I'll get right to the issue.

I bought a new horse towards the end of last year, and I've had him for almost 6 months now. I board him at a self-service facility with huge pastures. There are 2 main pastures, one for geldings and one for mares, and several small individual paddocks/pastures you can pay extra for. The main pastures are huge. The entire property is about 700 acres total. Needless to say, there's plenty of space for the horses to run off to.

With that being said, this new horse... likes to run off. He hangs in a group of 3 or 4 other horses that just don't stick with the rest of the herd very much. They don't come up to the barn but every couple of days or so, or they come up at very odd hours. I'm glad he's found his little group within the herd but finding time to ride has become extremely difficult. Even just trying to find him/convince him to come up to the gate for feeding has become difficult. The farmhand tried to feed him yesterday for me and couldn't get the group to go to the gate.

I'm a college student and my schedule is pretty tight already. I'm getting frustrated and feel like I'm wasting my time and money. I bought him specifically to ride (as my other horse is retired) and for stress relief. But, I've probably spent more time being stressed than even riding. I don't want to just give up because I haven't had much bonding/riding time with him, so he has no reason to come up to the gate (besides to eat, which he doesn't seem to care with all the available grass).

There is one smaller paddock/pasture available that I'm considering putting him in for a couple weeks to some intensive bonding, but I feel like as soon as he's back with his friends it won't matter. Not to mention, he's an anxious horse that already struggles to focus on me (rather than his friends), so I feel like separating them would just put more strain on him/our relationship.

I've thought about moving to a place with smaller pastures, but this place is ridiculously cheap even with being a self-service barn. Also, my retired gelding is living the life with the huge pastures and pony who hasn't been separated from him in over 2 years. I'm more emotionally invested in the retired horse, so I can't move him and trying to drive to 2 separate barns everyday is obviously not ideal.

I feel like selling him would be giving up. He hasn't progressed much with me due to lack of working together, and he has such a fun personality for a gelding. I don't want to take the easy way out and sell him because we haven't put in enough work to even see progress, but I can't even find him to work. Does anybody think if I just do as much bonding/riding when I do find him, eventually he'll start coming up to the barn?

I know this was a lot to read, so thanks if you did!
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post #2 of 16 Old 01-22-2020, 08:37 AM
Green Broke
 
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You don't actually say what you are doing to try and catch him.

Bring a pocket of cookies and walk him down. If he walks away, you can position yourself to be in front of his line of sight. They'll usually shift their path to walk with their other eye on you. Then you do it again. It's a way to move their feet without causing them to get worked up or run.

Are you expecting him to come to gate when you call or something? Imo, I don't think that's reasonable. He's got all the grass and friends he could want. Why should he come to the gate? There are horses who practically halter themselves who don't come when they're called.
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post #3 of 16 Old 01-22-2020, 08:46 AM
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Do they have a UTV available to go out to get him? ANd then do as Apuetso suggests. It'll take two at first to ensure he is ok being ponied back with a UTV. That is how we retrieve the lesson horses that are on the backside in the leased pastures.

Some horse people change their horse, they change their tack and discipline, they change their instructor; they never change themselves.
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post #4 of 16 Old 01-22-2020, 08:54 AM
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I've just fixed this issue with a barely handled 2 year old. Couldn't even get near him to start with, and he's in 5 acres with my mare. 5 or 50 is irrelevant - if they choose not to be caught you stand no chance.

So with that in mind: this is easier in a small yard like a round pen, but it can be done (has been done!) with wild horses in millions of acres.

Just... follow. Calmly. Don't push, don't chase, just follow. As long as they're moving away, keep following. Humans are extremely efficient walkers, and we WILL walk down ANY animal. We evolved as long pursuit predators and we can and should use this to our advantage with horses that don't want to be caught!
When the horse stops, YOU stop. Removal/reduction of pressure registers in 99% of horses' minds as a reward and this teaches them that you want them to stand still. Let them rest for a second, then walk towards them again. If they take a step towards you, you take a step back (again, removal of pressure = reward).

In a week this took my breaker from wanting absolutely nothing to do with me, to running up to me to be haltered.

I have never hid the halter, I have never bribed with treats. I just use approach and retreat, pressure and release, and it works REALLY well.
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post #5 of 16 Old 01-22-2020, 09:18 AM
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My daughter's mare used to be like that. The old place was "only" about 100 acres or so, but there were lots of little groves of trees, and I swear she would hide in one, then hide in the next one when she heard us coming. It took us over an hour one time to find and catch her. On average it took 20-30 minutes.

Now she's the horse that comes when called (usually) or is waiting at the gate. What did it? Time plus food. We have never had her fed (she doesn't need the extra feed) at either place, so the only time she even got the good hay was if we were there. She only got feed if we were there. She only got treats if we were there. We also went from seeing her only twice a week to seeing her three-four times a week. Now she fully understands that while us calling her might mean work, it also means feed. And she comes in.

There was one time last week where she didn't come in. Someone had tossed a couple flakes of alfalfa hay into her pasture, and you could see her, when I called, calculating whether it was worth coming in or not, and deciding it wasn't. Well, it didn't take her too long to finish that hay, and after that she was at the gate nickering to be let in. I didn't let her in though. I used to let her in and feed her every time she was near the gate, to reinforce the idea that coming in means food. Now she has to come WHEN CALLED or she doesn't get fed. I don't expect the incident to repeat itself -- she is a greedy, starving (in her mind) horse.

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post #6 of 16 Old 01-22-2020, 10:48 AM Thread Starter
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To clarify -
When I find/see him, he will usually walk right up to me or at the very least let me walk up to him and halter without a problem. The problem is usually just being able to find him at all.

There is a UTV but that hasn't been working either. The farmhand went out (with an extra person) and couldn't get his little group up by the gate with one on wheels and one person on foot.

I'll start with only feeding/treating when I'm there. I don't think he needs the feed especially with so much grass.
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post #7 of 16 Old 01-22-2020, 11:05 AM
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So he's not hard to catch? Little confused as you mention he runs.


What's the terrain of the pasture? Is he hiding in bush or is it just hilly?


They pony horses off the ATV at my barn and I hate it, but if you're comfortable with it that would be a faster option. Some people even pony off their vehicles, idk if you'd want to drive your car into the pasture...
Or try a pedal bike?
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post #8 of 16 Old 01-22-2020, 11:23 AM
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You absolutely can work on it. I have no routine so can't rely on thst but I'm out hiking 23 - 40 acres depending what one in use for my girl. At first I had I to find her. But it only took about 5 random field visits, two of which were past midnight coz of work, and she would come running hearing her name. I always bring her an apple and I spent about 30mins to an hour just hanging out, no lead rope or halter. I also know one yard that sends a girl out with a bridle and a bareback pad to ride them back but those horses are accustomed to it. At the end of the day it will require an initial time investment but fix the problem over one month and you could go decades without it being an issue again. It's all discipline.
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post #9 of 16 Old 01-22-2020, 11:42 AM
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So does he run or not? Or he's just hard to find since the pasture is so large? A little confused here. Maybe make it more fun for him to be caught & he will see you & get excited. It takes time, but bring him his favorite treat, or maybe a bucket to shake with some feed in it? Try to make it a routine, do it as much as you can.
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post #10 of 16 Old 01-22-2020, 12:19 PM
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I would put him in the smaller pasture. Is it big enough for your other two also? If it is big enough for all three, I'd put them in together for at leas a while. The other horses will be company plus will help teach him to come to you.

If it is not big enough for all three, but he can see other horses, would still move him to the smaller pasture. You need to be able to destress when you are with your horse.
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