In my Horse Master episode called “Catch Me if You Can!” about a Peruvian Paso, his favorite pastime is to make his owner run around the pen chasing him for an hour or two before each ride. The owner is frustrated and disgusted with his antics, but I have to admit, it was rather humorous to watch. The horse certainly had her trained to play his game—one in which he wrote the rules and in which he pretty much won every time they played.
There’s an easy and foolproof cure for the hard-to-catch horse and it has to do with not playing his game and showing him your string level of determination and commitment. I call it “walking off” a horse and there is a detailed article on my website about how this process works or you can just watch the episode.
In the middle part of the episode, where I work with the horse to sort out the problem, we only have about 8-10 minutes to get the point across. I was a little concerned going in that it would take much longer than that to convert this horse, given that his behavior was VERY engrained. I warned the videographer/editor that she would have to film it all and then edit it down, with an indication that it took longer than what was actually shown.
To my delight, the horse gave it up relatively quickly and although not every second was shown, it took less than 15 minutes before the horse was frustrated by my relentless and determined approach and my unwillingness to play his game, and he stopped and faced me and dropped his head in defeat. The next day, after the owner had worked on catching him in the same process several times, he was so good that it almost looked fake. Once again, it was more a matter of changing the human’s behavior than changing the horse’s. So often, when we change our attitude/approach, the horse responds immediately, proving once again that almost all “horse problems” are actually human problems.
Have you dealt with a hard-to-catch horse before? Did he have you trained to play his game—chasing him around like a puppet or bribing him with treats, only to have him take the prize and run off with his tail up in the air? What did you do to solve the problem.
Until next time,
I just watched the preview for “Wave Runner” and can’t wait to see the episode!
I was blown away yesterday when I used your “walk off” method on my 5 year old Paint/Thoroughbred mare and it worked like a dream.
About a month ago I moved my horse KoKo from a barn where she was only stalled to a wonderful barn where she has 8 acres turn out with two other mares and caught and put up at night. I thought I was going to have a problem catching her but I never have. The very first time I went to catch her I took a carrot and she came right away. Since then all I had to do was walk out and she would meet me half way.
Yesterday was different. For some unknown reason, even to me I went to catch her but instead of putting her halter on or even throwing the lead rope around her neck, I just petted and hugged and loved on her. To my surprise she turned and took off like a crazy mare. The other two followed her and before I knew it they were all at the far end of the pasture.
But, thank goodness I watched your “Hard to Catch” show. I tape and watch all your shows. I used your “walk off” method.
At first when I walked toward her head she would go flying kicking up her heals and running like crazy with the others in tow. For a while it was like a game with the three of them. But every time she ran off from me she would stop and turn to look at me. I would turn my back to her for a few seconds like you did on the show. This is 8 acres mind you and in my mind I thought this would take all day. I was prepared to stay and do it and be patient.
My patients paid off. The next thing I know they were staying closer and closer. Soon one of the other mares came right up to me. I haven’t even been around that horse that much. After Polly came to me it was like they all gave up the game and KoKo came right up to me. I slipped the halter over her head and lead her out of the pasture with no incident.
I was shocked because all this took under 10 minutes. It was the coolest thing. I felt so gratified and there was no frustration. Only a feeling of success and I communicated with my horse in a way I never had before.
In the words of Gomer Pyle, thank you, thank you, thank you. Well if that didn’t give my age away. I am no spring chicken but is goes to show you can teach an old dog new tricks.
I love your show and I love the way you communicate with the horses and the people you help.
thank you for sharing your expertise. You really are the horse master.
My patients paid off. Soon she wasn’t running as far
Great episode Julie! I’ve dealt with this often and your way looks like it makes the connection to the horse much more directly. I learned a lot. Thanks I always learn something new and a better way to do things watching your show.
Oh goodness, this episode is coming at a perfect time for me! My 14 yr. old gelding has had this problem with previous owners, but in the year and a half I leased/subsequently owned him, it was never an issue for us. Until the end of last summer when it reared it’s ugly head again. The interesting thing is, he mostly avoids the haltering. Oh sure, sometimes I’ll walk into the pasture and he’ll turn and walk away. And last summer I spent an hour or two playing the “if you won’t let me catch you I’m going to make you work game” until he ran around so much and was so tired out he just gave up. Even then, it would get to the point where I could stroke his shoulder, at times get the halter on his nose, but when I went to do the crownpiece, he pulled back snorting and running off. After he had a hoof abscess in October and I embarrassingly couldn’t catch him for the vet apt., yes, he gimped around on his sore hoof to avoid me; he now wears a breakaway halter. I catch him by putting the leadrope on that halter first so that he’s “caught”, then, halter him over that halter with a regular halter. We are working on dropping his head for haltering. We are making progress, but I am not ready to take the breakaway off and try it without already having him “caught” yet. It’s going to be a long road of trial and error. The walk-a-away and look disinterested always works, he usually comes up to and follows me out of curiosity at some point. That is how I am able to put the leadrope on. He’s still just leery. It’s very strange behavior and any advice you may have would be helpful!