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So! My family surprised me with a 6 month old Shetland foal for Christmas. Ive had my horse for 7 years and have been around enough trainers and green horses to know the basics, but I’ve never dealt with a horse this young (or tiny!) so this is new territory for me.

He knows pretty much nothing and has just begun learning to walk on a lead. The actual handling hasn’t been an issue at all so far. He’s a super fast learner and is extremely brave. He handles “scary” situations very well, and after doing something once he does it again without hesitation.
Of course it’s only been 3 days, but so far I’m really happy with his brain.
My biggest issue is catching. He’s currently being boarded until my barn is done being built and is in a small turnout with 2 other ponies. He won’t approach people and runs as soon as anyone comes close. So catching him is a 2 man job. So far the only thing that works is getting him into a corner and sliding the lead rope under his neck so we can hold him to halter him while trying to cause as little stress possible.
Any ideas on how to work on getting him easier to catch?
 

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Note: Even though I say "horse", I am including ponies.

He has a new owner, moved to a new place, has new ponies to interact with, and depending on his history, may have even been recently weaned. That is quite a lot for a little guy! Although you are probably anxious to work with him, let him just be... him. Whenever I move my horse to a new place, I have difficulty catching her. Once she settles in after a few days, she will come when I call - a very easy catch. The adjustment period varies from horse to horse, but three days is generally considered a short amount of time. Spend some good quality time with him in "his" space/pasture. You could bring a book to read or make a picnic. Some curious and/or friendly horses may even come up to you to say "hi" or to graze nearby.

Unless it is an emergency, I do not like to trap a horse to catch it. This essentially forces them to be caught, and I want my horse to come willingly, and if possible, happily. Also, trapped horses can feel inclined to fight back, which is not a good lesson to be teaching a horse, let alone a colt. As a prey animal, they usually take flight over freeze or fight. When you take away their flight option, they can go into freeze ("acceptance") or fight.

What do you know about this colt's history? He may not know how to be caught or how to be caught willingly. You may have to go out there to have catching sessions where you do nothing but catch him, reward, and release.

Horses may not want to be caught for a number of reasons. The most commons reasons are due to pain, bad habit (running away gets release), no habit (does not know how to be caught), being over-worked when caught, not being properly worked enough (not seeing you as the leader enough to be caught).

There are many different ways to catch a hard-to-catch horse. Shaking a treat bucket and "join-up" are the two most common methods. I, personally, like the "join-up" (pressure and release) method. You say that you have worked with other trainers and green horses, so you may be experienced enough to see and reward his tries. However, if you miss his tries and advance, you could make it worse and teach him bad lessons. Although a six-month-old colt is young, I would treat him similar to a green horse or a generally young horse. If you are unsure, I suggest getting an experienced horse-person to help you in-person.

Shaking a treat bucket is rather self-explanatory.

Here is the "join-up" gist:
I like to think of it as a cat and mouse game. Although you are not hunting nor stalking the horse, you have to think of a psychological game to get the mouse (horse) to you (cat). Most horses are curious and like release and treats.

Walk towards him calmly but with purpose. Be aware of how you approach him. Horses usually do not approach face to face like we humans or other predators do. Until he gets better at being caught, approach his shoulder of flank. If he walks or runs away, walk with him, but do not move faster than a walk. If he stops, you stop. If he looks at you, start walking backward to draw him to you. Imagine that you have a rope on him and that you are pulling him towards you. Get smaller to lower your center of gravity. To a horse, backing away and getting smaller is release and makes most of them curious, like they are "pushing" you back (not in a dominant way) by looking at you. After backing a little start towards him. Rinse and repeat, working your way towards him. Once you get near to him, catch him, give him a treat, release him, and walk away. Rinse and repeat.
 

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Being as he is so new to you maybe just catching him the way you are and make it really fun and nice for him once you have him. Give him scratches and grooming for a few minutes and a little treat and then just let him go. Let him get used to that for a couple of weeks and then start working with the little things like leading, feet and stuff. After about a month, he should be pretty used to his new surroundings and waiting for you to catch him or even walking up to you if it means scratches and a snack.

I have one horse who is ok to catch but if her last experience was something she didn't like she will be a pain to catch again. So now, If I go out to catch her to do something icky to her (like de worming) I will then lead her around a bit, scratch her good feeling spots and then a little treat before I turn her loose. Makes it easier for catching the next time.
 

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About a month ago, I got a new colt. He hadn't been handled much. When I brought him home, I put him in a large stall. Every morning, I would put fresh hay out for him to eat. While he was eating, I rubbed all over him. I would do it 2 and 3 times a day. Just feed him a little hay and rub all over him while he was eating. Just to let you know he turned his butt toward me when I walked into the stall he didn't really trust me yet. I would talk to him and would not try to touch him.

I would focus on talking to him and keeping my voice soft and friendly. While he was relaxed eating, I started from his butt that was facing me and scratch and rub on the spots that I could tell he liked. As he got more comfortable with me, I would work my way up to his head and rub all over.

Each time it was getting easier for me to rub all over him and he quit turning his butt toward me. By the third day, he was meeting me at the stall door and would let me rub all over him as I was putting his feed and hay in his containers and fill his water up.

After he started coming up to me, then I took his halter and rubbed it all over him with it. I didn't try to put it on him. He would pull away a couple of times, I didn't move after him or act like it bothered me. He would come back to me after about a minute. I would rub him again with both hands and one would have the halter in it. If he walked away, I would just wait and talk to him in a soft, cheerful voice. When he stood there with out moving then I would put his halter on. Rub him all over with the halter on, then take it off and call it quits and tell him what a good boy he was.

I kept this up until he would come straight to me and let me put the halter on without him turning his butt to me. I think it was about a day with me going in and out of his stall 3 or 4 times a day following the same steps.

When I able to halter him in the stall with him coming to me and putting his head down without any trouble, then I hooked the lead rope to his halter and lead him around in his stall. We went to the same routine until he was easy for me to catch, halter and lead around. When I say easy to catch, I mean he literally met me at the stall door, would put his head down to be haltered without putting his butt toward me or walking away. The next step was take him to the smallest pasture lot I had.

In the small pasture without any other horse in the field and walked him around in the field with the lead rope. I did this until I could tell he was getting tired. Then I took him back to the stall where I had put fresh hay and grain in his containers. Once inside his stall, I rubbed him all over before I took his halter off. Then I would take his halter off, rub him again before I let him go. While he ate, I picked up his hoofs, tapped on his feet and rubbed him all over while I softly talked to him. I did this a couple of times a day take him to the pasture without any horse in it. Let him play awhile with his halter and lead rope on him. I would let him loose and then walk away a few feet, then walk back up to him rub him down and then go back and forth like it was a game. Then take him back to his stall, where fresh food, and water was waiting on him.

After, I could catch him in a field without any trouble, I let another horse in the field with him. All my horses are very easy to catch. They always meet me at the gate. If they are in the back lot, I can whistle for them and they come running. I feed them all in their stalls and brush them down while they are eating. Lakota the colt has even learned now to come running when I whistle and he is the 3 acre lot now with a buddy.

I have had him a month, and he is 6 months old now, and he meets me at the gate and stands there while I put the halter on and take him to his stall to be feed. I never give any of my horses treats in the field to catch them. I walk out with their halters showing call the name of the one I want. Usually the dominate horse first to get him out of the way. He wouldn't let the others come near me anyway. They stand back and they know which order to come to me in and I stall them up. The only problem I have is that I have to stall all of them up first if I am wanting the horse that is the lowest on the pecking order because he will not be able to get close to me.

I have trained all my horses and husband's horses this way. It has always worked for me.

I hope this helps.
 
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About a month ago, I got a new colt. He hadn't been handled much. When I brought him home, I put him in a large stall. Every morning, I would put fresh hay out for him to eat. While he was eating, I rubbed all over him. I would do it 2 and 3 times a day. Just feed him a little hay and rub all over him while he was eating. Just to let you know he turned his butt toward me when I walked into the stall he didn't really trust me yet. I would talk to him and would not try to touch him.

I would focus on talking to him and keeping my voice soft and friendly. While he was relaxed eating, I started from his butt that was facing me and scratch and rub on the spots that I could tell he liked. As he got more comfortable with me, I would work my way up to his head and rub all over.

Each time it was getting easier for me to rub all over him and he quit turning his butt toward me. By the third day, he was meeting me at the stall door and would let me rub all over him as I was putting his feed and hay in his containers and fill his water up.

After he started coming up to me, then I took his halter and rubbed it all over him with it. I didn't try to put it on him. He would pull away a couple of times, I didn't move after him or act like it bothered me. He would come back to me after about a minute. I would rub him again with both hands and one would have the halter in it. If he walked away, I would just wait and talk to him in a soft, cheerful voice. When he stood there with out moving then I would put his halter on. Rub him all over with the halter on, then take it off and call it quits and tell him what a good boy he was.

I kept this up until he would come straight to me and let me put the halter on without him turning his butt to me. I think it was about a day with me going in and out of his stall 3 or 4 times a day following the same steps.

When I able to halter him in the stall with him coming to me and putting his head down without any trouble, then I hooked the lead rope to his halter and lead him around in his stall. We went to the same routine until he was easy for me to catch, halter and lead around. When I say easy to catch, I mean he literally met me at the stall door, would put his head down to be haltered without putting his butt toward me or walking away. The next step was take him to the smallest pasture lot I had.

In the small pasture without any other horse in the field and walked him around in the field with the lead rope. I did this until I could tell he was getting tired. Then I took him back to the stall where I had put fresh hay and grain in his containers. Once inside his stall, I rubbed him all over before I took his halter off. Then I would take his halter off, rub him again before I let him go. While he ate, I picked up his hoofs, tapped on his feet and rubbed him all over while I softly talked to him. I did this a couple of times a day take him to the pasture without any horse in it. Let him play awhile with his halter and lead rope on him. I would let him loose and then walk away a few feet, then walk back up to him rub him down and then go back and forth like it was a game. Then take him back to his stall, where fresh food, and water was waiting on him.

After, I could catch him in a field without any trouble, I let another horse in the field with him. All my horses are very easy to catch. They always meet me at the gate. If they are in the back lot, I can whistle for them and they come running. I feed them all in their stalls and brush them down while they are eating. Lakota the colt has even learned now to come running when I whistle and he is the 3 acre lot now with a buddy.

I have had him a month, and he is 6 months old now, and he meets me at the gate and stands there while I put the halter on and take him to his stall to be feed. I never give any of my horses treats in the field to catch them. I walk out with their halters showing call the name of the one I want. Usually the dominate horse first to get him out of the way. He wouldn't let the others come near me anyway. They stand back and they know which order to come to me in and I stall them up. The only problem I have is that I have to stall all of them up first if I am wanting the horse that is the lowest on the pecking order because he will not be able to get close to me.

I have trained all my horses and husband's horses this way. It has always worked for me.

I hope this helps.
 

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There's three major things to be aware of when catching a horse.

1. Stress indicators and calming signals.

2. Focus

3. Twitching

I'm going to start with the first one. Stress indicators are little signs your horse is getting concerned. Some horses turn their head away from you, some put their head up, etc. If your horse is showing a sign of stress, that's the time to take a step back and tell them you're aware you are concerned. If you try to keep approaching them or "join up", i.e. apply pressure and force them to look at you, you are communicating to your horse that you're not aware of their feelings. Mind you, these are very small indicators way below the threshold of running off. Once you can tell your horse you are listening, they will start to be more aware of you.

Second is focus. When you approach your horse, assuming their is no stress indicators, you would also take a step back when they look at you. Don't be a focus nazi, you are not trying to maintain focus. You are just approaching them until they notice you for half a second.

Third is twitching, the very most important above all else. This is a little complicated, but one thing I want you to be aware of is your horses muzzle twitching. As you are doing the stress indicators or focus work, is the horses muzzle twitching at all? This could be the upper lip, lower lip, the nerve on the side of their face, their jaw slightly moving, anything at all. If you see this twitching, this means your horse is stuck in the sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight) and assuming the horse is not running around, you should just wait.

What happens is, in order for horses to run fast they are nose breathers. For example, in a race horse if that bit breaks the lip seal, they can't run as fast as possible. When horses go into the sympathetic nervous system, they shut off their extremities. They cannot physically open their mouth, they get rid of poop, things they don't need in order to survive. What happens is, if you keep trying to work with your horse while they are stuck in the flight or fight state, they will hold onto that anxiety and tension. The twitching means they are stuck there, and if you wait long enough they will have a lick n chew (release of tension) and switch back to the parasympathetic nervous system(relaxed and resting), which is where you would then start to approach her again to see what happens.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.
 

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Hi tgmcr,

Unless you NEED to catch him for something, I would NOT be cornering him - that is only confirming that you're confrontational/predatory so your approach is a cause for worry.

Remember, horses can't think rationally, they learn by *instant* association & emotional rather than rational responses become strong.

Instead I'd devote some time to just going to the paddock & spending time, asking nothing. Take a chair & a book, and a bag of horse treats - horse feed, bits of carrot or apple for eg. 'Ignore' the horse, but every time he comes to you - or even looks your way to begin with, toss him a 'treat'. Soon he will start seeing you as a Good Thing. When he does, DO NOT immediately try to 'catch' him. But you can stand & face him, hold the halter/rope out for him to sniff, see if he will let you give him a scratch, etc. Get him happy & confident with all that first, before even trying to put a rope over his neck. See if you can find some really itchy spots, so he learns to LOVE being touched. You can then use that as a reward, rather than just relying on treats too, which may be the only thing that is effective in the beginning.

When you do get to 'catching' by putting a rope over his neck, reward him for it with a treat or scratch & take it off immediately again. Get him confident & willing for you to put the rope over his neck before putting the halter on. Do the same once the halter is on, to replace any associations he may have with wearing it & having to do something unpleasant.
 

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I don't have much advice to give but I do want to say:


There's three major things to be aware of when catching a horse.

1. Stress indicators and calming signals.

2. Focus

3. Twitching

I'm going to start with the first one. Stress indicators are little signs your horse is getting concerned. Some horses turn their head away from you, some put their head up, etc. If your horse is showing a sign of stress, that's the time to take a step back and tell them you're aware you are concerned. If you try to keep approaching them or "join up", i.e. apply pressure and force them to look at you, you are communicating to your horse that you're not aware of their feelings. Mind you, these are very small indicators way below the threshold of running off. Once you can tell your horse you are listening, they will start to be more aware of you.

Second is focus. When you approach your horse, assuming their is no stress indicators, you would also take a step back when they look at you. Don't be a focus nazi, you are not trying to maintain focus. You are just approaching them until they notice you for half a second.

Third is twitching, the very most important above all else. This is a little complicated, but one thing I want you to be aware of is your horses muzzle twitching. As you are doing the stress indicators or focus work, is the horses muzzle twitching at all? This could be the upper lip, lower lip, the nerve on the side of their face, their jaw slightly moving, anything at all. If you see this twitching, this means your horse is stuck in the sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight) and assuming the horse is not running around, you should just wait.

What happens is, in order for horses to run fast they are nose breathers. For example, in a race horse if that bit breaks the lip seal, they can't run as fast as possible. When horses go into the sympathetic nervous system, they shut off their extremities. They cannot physically open their mouth, they get rid of poop, things they don't need in order to survive. What happens is, if you keep trying to work with your horse while they are stuck in the flight or fight state, they will hold onto that anxiety and tension. The twitching means they are stuck there, and if you wait long enough they will have a lick n chew (release of tension) and switch back to the parasympathetic nervous system(relaxed and resting), which is where you would then start to approach her again to see what happens.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.
This is spot on. As well as @loosie 's post. Your focus should at all times be on becoming someone your new foal trusts. Your little fellow is away from his momma, away from his home; scared and confused even if it's not very obvious from his general behaviour. You can become that figure of leadership that he really needs and wants right now. You have to be trustworthy, strong and kind and you'll get soo far with him. Try not to force him into anything at all. Let it be on his terms. Make him feel that he has a say in what's happening while being a calm leader. I would personally advise being his "friend/buddy" right now and focusing less on "training" like with the halter (but at the same time he can't push you around - it's a fine line and especially important with foals).
Just my two cents; how I would handle this situation. Hope it helps.
Many congrats on your new baby! I'm totally jealous tbh :lol:
 
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