Which of these Horse Catching Mistakes do you Make?
The other day, I was invited to see my friend’s new horse. He had
her for about a month before I got to see her. When I arrived at
his house, he met me outside and said, “C’mon…let’s go see her.”
We stood at the fence and marveled at how beautiful she was.
Excited, he asked, “You wanna pet her?” “Sure!” I said. So my
friend grabbed the halter and went after her.
As I watched him chase her I was reminded of those silent movies
where everyone is moving comically fast with the music in the
background. As I chuckled to myself I heard him ask aloud, “Why
does she keep running from me?”
That was a good question. Lots of people have that trouble. There
are lots of reasons horses run from their owners. One reason is
fear. Horses are the epitome of fear. If they sense their life is
in danger they’ll run.
If a horse is comfortable with their herd, even if its one or two
other horses, it can be uncomfortable for him. His entire DNA
speaks loud and clear to him that the herd is the safest place to
be. Therefore, if he leaves the herd it could mean his life is
threatened – at least…that’s his thinking.
One of the biggest mistakes I see are new horse owners that make
their horse work almost every time they go to see them. Picture
it. You’re a horse standing there with your buddies. It’s
ninety-four degrees out side, the flies won’t leave you alone,
and you were doing fine just standing there doing nothing – thank
you very much. And because you are enormously alert due to your
innate fear, you quickly spot your owner coming to you holding
that weird looking, not-so-good-fitting rope thing that goes on
The last 400 gazillion times your owner walked toward you with it
in his hand, he accidentally jabbed your cheek while clumsily
jerking it on your head. Then he made you leave your friends and
go run in circles for thirty minutes. Boring!
Rather, the horse owner should alternate working and pleasure for
his horse. In other words, one day walk to your horse with the
halter in your hand and pet him. Talk to him. Tell him how
beautiful he is. Take your halter and rub it on his body as if it
were a brush. Get him thinking that the halter will give him
pleasure so when he sees it he’ll feel good about it.
The next day, with halter in hand, go see your horse and pet him.
Talk nice. Then put his halter on. Pet him again. Keep talking
nice. After a few minutes, take the halter off and rub his body
with it. Then walk away.
Now your horse is starting to think, “Great! That’s all he
wanted.” For a while, alternate when you ask your horse to work
versus not work and take your halter with you each time to keep
him guessing, “Is he gonna pet me and tell me I’m purty, or are
we going to work a little? I’m guessing he’ll pet me so I’ll stay
Other reasons horses run from their owners is they may lack good
training. Another reason is maybe the horse is getting positive
reinforcement at the wrong time. How can that be? A horse could
learn to run from his owner - and if he does he gets a carrot or
some kind of temptation AFTER he runs.
So how do you stop the running and catch your horse?
It depends why the horse runs. If your horse is fearful then you
need to get his trust back. You do that by doing positive things
with your horse. When you catch him, don’t ask him to work. Get
out your brush and groom him. He’ll like that. You want him to
think of being with you as a pleasant experience – one that he
wants when he sees you. This is especially crucial if you’re
going to take him away from his buddies in the herd.
Because the horse feels safe being with his buddies in the herd,
you must make him feel safe being taken out of the herd. Thus,
when you catch him you can groom him and give a good experience
to make him feel safe.
A good practice is to put your horse in a small pen and go up to
him. Teach him that it’s good to be with you. This will give you
a good foundation to catch him later when he’s in an open field.
Another nifty trick you can do is use lunging to teach your horse
to come you. Don’t simply run him in boring circles. Have him
change directions, go over and through obstacles, etc. Make sure
to praise him when he does well and give him rest. Don’t run him
into the ground. If you do, he’ll go back to thinking you’re
going to make him work real hard.
As you’re lunging him, use commands to get him to do what you
want him to do. As you and he get good at this, he’ll respond
much better to you in the open field.
A mistake many people make is chasing the horse to try and catch
him. You simply can’t do it. They’re too fast and agile. Not only
that, it tends to reinforce a horse’s instinct of being preyed
upon and they need to get to safety…which means…get away from
Sometimes you can use another horse to help you catch a horse by
being buddies with the horse you don’t want to catch. If you go
to pet a horse it can sometimes draw the horse you want to catch.
He may want petted too.
Be sure to never punish a horse once you catch him. First, he
won’t know why he got in trouble. And second, it’s a great way to
get him to NOT want to be with you. If he doesn’t want to be with
you, he will evade you often.
Andy Curry is a nationally known horse trainer and author of
several best selling horse training and horse care books. For
information visit his website at www.horsetrainingandtips.com. He
is also the leading expert on Jesse Beery's horse training
methods which can be seen at