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I've got the "HARD CATCHER" problem, and it's bad....

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  • I've got the "HARD CATCHER" problem, and it's bad....

    OK....
    I'm the proud owner of a 2000 Standardbred. I've known him for three years and owned him for a little over one. He's ALWAYS been a very hard catcher.
    -He doesn't have a sore back, teeth, those kinds of issues
    -He really really enjoys being ridden and is very eager to go out, in every part of his demeanour (so he's not trying to shirk work)
    -He's never been abused or maltreated
    -Very easy-going ground-wise and incredibly patient and quiet. He loves people and kids and is incredibly friendly.

    But when I go to catch him from the pasture, it seems like he just plain values his freedom. He may come to pick a carrot from your hand, but try to take his halter and he'll wheel around in a flurry of hooves. Unrelentlessly. Then he'll get more and more stressed up about it. I can follow him slowly around the pasture for half an hour and he just won't give up.

    I've developed several techniques for catching him. Lately out of laziness I've taken to following my BO's technique and just open the gate and let him walk inside by himself (zero problem). Otherwise in summer in the huuuge pasture, I'll use fencing tape to gradually reduce the size of the pasture to trap him in a small enclosure where he allows me to approach.

    ***We DO have a border collie who has an extreme herding instinct - she loves to chase him and his buddy around. This has led me to wonder if he actually perceives it as a game. I've never considered this option before but I'm starting to wonder... Sadly there's nothing I can do about the collie.

    If I have extremely tasty treats with me I can get the big guy to follow me around the pasture like a dog. However, only nice treats will do this... And if I just try to approach him business-like, I'm up for a view of his butt.

    I'm growing frustrated with this, and wondering what it is I'm doing wrong in my horsemanship. Is it just a game, or am I behaving wrongly towards him? He's very submissive and never questions my authority in handling. I've also lately taken to just visiting him in the pasture with treats and then leaving again, so that me in pasture doesn't necessarily equal loss of freedom. But so far this isn't really giving results.

    I've had hard catchers before but this one is just getting the better of me! Also, this is the ONE big drawback of this lovely horse. Aaaargh HALP!
    :-)
    Equine portraits in oil and pencil at www.facebook.com/ecrklaveness

  • #2
    People are going to tell you to walk him down. If that doesn't work, which it didn't for my mare, try clicker training, which did work for my mare.

    Nobody could catch this horse, and I mean nobody. I've actually won bets with self-described expert horse-catchers who never met a horse they couldn't walk down, yadda yadda. But she's a fit Arabian and outlasted'em all. Dashing away with a smirk is this mare's favorite game, and as a big game-lover, clickering was right up her alley. It took me about a week and a half to fix her. Here's what I did:

    First, approach to arm's length with carrots (or whatever -- I had to start with a small bucket of sweet feed), no halter. Stand still and extend hand. If the horse doesn't move away, click and treat. Repeat for 10 minutes, then scram (if he does move away, stand with treat extended until he re-approaches. You may need to adjust treat quality to ensure this behavior. If he takes a step toward you, click and treat. If he lets you pet his neck with your free hand, click and treat. Never step toward the horse. Make him come to you).

    Once the horse is reliably standing in front of you while you touch his neck -- and I won't lie, this could take days -- bring the halter with you, but leave it slung on your shoulder, and don't touch it or look at it. Repeat the click and treat for standing-still-for-neck-petting behavior.

    Next session, touch the halter with your free hand, but don't move it. Click, treat.

    Eventually you will move the halter slowly down your treat arm, possibly over a period of days. Hang it in the crook of your elbow, click/treat, next drape it over your wrist, then hold it in your hand with the carrot.

    Next, the horse will have to allow you to touch his nose with the halter. Take the halter away before he has a chance to step off. Next, you'll slip the noseband over the muzzle, same deal. Gradually progress until you can buckle the halter. Immediately remove the halter before he has a chance to step off.

    Next you will gradually lengthen the amount of time the halter is on. Until, voila. Horse is caught. I can catch my uncatchable mare now without treats of any kind, although once every couple of months or so I give her a refresher just to keep her chops up.
    Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life

    Comment


    • #3
      Feel your pain.

      When I got my Hackney pony 2-1/2 years ago he was the original Wild Thang.
      Did not help he had basically been turned out by himself for the 2 years before coming to me.
      When I got him home, haltered, I made the error of removing the halter.
      FF 2 days! before I could catch and halter him again - and then it was only because I snuck up behind him in his stall.
      (my stalls are open to pasture 24/7 - horses come in to get fed)

      The sneak-up-behind method was my GoTo for quite a while, then eventually I'd walk him down while telling him "Go to your house" and let him think it was his decision to go into the stall.
      Once inside, and after some time circling and getting his exit cut off, he would allow me to put the halter on, but freaked when I took it off.
      I just let him geek around in the stall, all white-eyed - 12h pony, not hard to do - and now he will finally allow me to approach him when he's loose (always unhaltered) and slip the halter on.
      Not always, about 50% of the time it's still "Go to your house" - but once in the stall he's as well-mannered as any other horse.

      Patience is the key.
      You may need to walk your guy down for more than an hour.
      Pick your battles - do this when the weather is nice enough so you can spend that hour without becoming miserable <wear good walking shoes!
      Bring those "speshul" treats - fastest way to a gelding's heart, etc.

      You may be right about the collie, but I'm betting your horse knows the difference between you & the dog.
      He may be trying to engage you in the same game, but he can certainly learn that you don't play.

      Hope this helps
      *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
      Steppin' Out 1988-2004
      Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
      Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

      Comment


      • #4
        My old Chippers has been this way his entire life and he is 25 yrs old now. Sees you coming with a treat and he nabs it and stays just out of arms reach. See you coming with a lead and halter and he is all about playing catch me if you can. He has never been an in your pocket best friend type of horse.

        Small pen, larger turnout, or pasture I use basic round penning type discipline each and every time. If he moves away then I make him move on until it is my choice that he whoas and stands. BTW the 2 commands are different for him. Whoa means come to a stop. Stand is a reinforcement. Meaning I already told you to whoa now stop being a jerk you idiot and stand there like you know how. Of course I say it the right way even tho in my head I'd like to toss out a few more select words in his general direction.

        My stock dog comes in handy in the pastures cuz it is impossible to keep him moving alone when there are acres and not just feet to deal with. But the idea is the same. He gets to whoa when I say so. Not when he finally decides to give in.

        Following thru with this every time since he was 1st mine (7yrs old then)...well he and I both know he is going to move away from me when I go out there to catch him. He and I both know after a circle or 2 around me he will give me his ear, and then he knows I will allow him to stop and walk up to him. It does not take hours or minutes like those first few months. But just a 20 or 30 secs. He is worth it tho and great horse undersaddle.

        But you can bet at dinner time he is all about being right there....no games. He is a smart old man and he likes to remind me how smart he is.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Ah, exciting responses, people! And SOOO lovely to hear from someone who's experienced that frustration.

          So if treat quality should stay high, I'll go with that. The hilarious part of THAT story is that those superamazing awesome treats = actually free bags of bread heels from the grocery store... Beats any carrot, and actually enough to whittle away at that gentleman's star manners!

          I HAVE tried some clicker training with him, and I find that I did get some results with it. The problem with this is that I'm not interacting with him consistently enough (studies abroad, long story) to make it stick. But if you guys think it's a path worth following I'll get to work on that - I've got a month in which to train over Christmas.

          BIG QUESTION #2:
          Do you guys think I should try to do this while he's alone in the pasture? His buddy is a very pushy 2-year-old stallion and the last time I tried to corner the two to get at my horse in escape mode, and I ended up getting physically run down, with bruised and swollen bones in foot&arm and hoof-shaped blue spots everywhere.... At risk of broken spines and skulls, I think I'd rather put the stallion inside, or do you think that might interfere with the general mood of things? Sorry I sound like a bit of an idiot, but I've had enough broken bones for now...

          Any other input greatly appreciated! This is my first post on the site so thanks for making me feel welcome
          Equine portraits in oil and pencil at www.facebook.com/ecrklaveness

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            And Taylor, you mentioned the "you're running so I'll reinforce that by asking you to run" technique. I've considered it, but scrapped it for fear of making him stressed - he's a guy that stresses easily. Still worth considering?
            Equine portraits in oil and pencil at www.facebook.com/ecrklaveness

            Comment


            • #7
              It is not so much you are running away so I am going to make you run.

              It is more you moved away from me when I approached so now you only get to stop when I say so.

              I am not chasing him. I am moving him forward until he gives me his ear. That is a horses way of saying "OK, I am ready to pay attention and what do you want me to do?"

              Some of my horses give me their ear when I walk out the door in the morning. The mustang has his ear to me no matter where I am. He generally is my most respectful aminal. But not Chip. He is a tad defiant and perhaps a bit to smart....and def way too much energy.

              So dont think of this method as chasing. Think of it as another means of getting him to focus and listen by getting them to do something you can enforce.

              Cuz until you have their ear you are wasting your time!

              Comment


              • #8
                Change the game.

                I had an OTTB who was "unwilling to give up his freedom", shall we say. And the only thing that worked was to not play HIS game (the "I Refuse to be Caught" game) but to make him play MY game (the "You Get To Guess What My Plans Are Today" game). My method is somewhat similar to The Crone's, but here's what worked.

                I took a week off from work in the middle of the summer. Every day around 11 a.m., I trundled out to that pasture with a lawn chair and a cooler w/ lots of drinks (for me) and lots of carrots (for horse). AND a good book - you'll need it.

                I then proceeded to COMPLETELY IGNORE Horsie while he cavorted around going "Neener neener you can't catch me" and proceeded to park in my chair and read my book. (This is where they start to wonder why you're not Playing Their Game.)

                Eventually, since TBs are innately curious, he started keeping an eye on me from a "Neener Neener you STILL can't catch me!" distance. At which point I took a carrot out of the cooler and simply held it where he could see it, all the while not making eye contact and still reading my book. (This is where they start to think "Hm. She doesn't SEEM like she wants to Play My Game - so what game IS she playing?"

                Gradually over a period of *hours* Horsie crept closer. I continued to read, though I might occasionally speak quietly: "Here, you can have the carrot if you want it, but this book is really GOOD and I'm not fixin' to Play Your Game. You do have to come get it though."

                Eventually Horsie crept up, grabbed the carrot and left Dodge immediately at warp speed. I carried on reading my book...

                So then Horsie thought "Hm, well, THAT time she definitely wasn't Playing My Game - but is she LYING about it? Let's TEST that." So he slowly crept back. Got another carrot. Left Dodge at warp speed again. When he started creeping around again, I CHANGED THE GAME: I packed up my stuff and LEFT.

                Day Two: largely the same, only hopefully Horsie is coming around to get the carrot a little more quickly. After the first round, which reinforces yesterday's, the NEW game is "Horsie Lets Me Touch Him THEN He Gets Carrot." Not on the head/neck, just whatever body part happens to get in range. (This is where being seated comes in useful.) Horsie will probably leave Dodge at warp speed again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Once Horsie has grasped concept and agreed to play the New Game - LEAVE.

                Day Three: Horsie met me at the gate. I smirked. And did NOT try to catch him. I trundled back out there with my cooler and my chair and my book. Today's New Game is "Horsie Lets Me Stand Up and Touch Him, Horsie Gets Carrot." Repeat repeat repeat. Then LEAVE.

                Day Four's New Game: "Horsie Lets Me Put Lead Rope Around Neck, Horsie Gets Carrot." Repeat Repeat Repeat. Then LEAVE.

                Day Five's New Game: "Horsie Follows Me With Lead Rope Around Neck, Horsie Gets LOTS Carrots." Repeat Repeat Repeat. Then LEAVE.

                By this time, Horsie should be meeting you at the gate and following you when you leave. And you STILL have not tried to catch him in any way shape or form. Because Not Being Caught is HIS game, and you're not playing, remember.

                Day Six's New Game: "Horsie Lets Me Put Halter On/Off, Horsie Gets Carrot AND Gets Turned Loose Again." Repeat, etc... Then LEAVE.

                Day Seven's New Game: "Horsie Gets Halter Put On, Gets Carrot, Gets Led in A Circle And Turned Loose Again."

                If you have another day to play "Horsie Gets Haltered, Led Out Of Pasture Then Gets Carrot And Gets Turned Back Out Again And Gets 'Nother Carrot", so much the better. But pretty much, my TB's problem was solved by Day Seven.

                It's a long boring PITA but it DOES work!

                Day Seven:
                "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief

                Comment


                • #9
                  Get a breakaway halter and lots of halter fleeces. Leave his halter on for turnout. Take 2 or 3 carrots when you walk into the field, and make sure the lead rope is out of sight - tied around your waist with a quick-release knot, so you can untie it 1-handed, is best. If he thinks about walking away, noisily break the carrot, even crunch & munch on a piece and make a lot of mmm, nom nom nom noises while you do it. When you get to him, keep breaking up that carrot and feed him little pieces. Let him relax into his treat-fest. At some point, while you're "fumbling" to give him a piece of carrot, GENTLY reach out with your other hand & grab his halter. GENTLY, without trying to sneak him. Then user your carrot-hand to untie the lead rope & snap it on. Continue treat-fest until carrots are gone.

                  This is what I used to have to do for a very smart, very alpha mare. I swear that mare knew, from across a 5-acre field, if I had brought 1 carrot or 2. She had me out-smarted at every turn.
                  "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." - The Little Prince

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Priceless! Keeping this one for future reference!

                    Originally posted by War Admiral View Post
                    Change the game.

                    I had an OTTB who was "unwilling to give up his freedom", shall we say. And the only thing that worked was to not play HIS game (the "I Refuse to be Caught" game) but to make him play MY game (the "You Get To Guess What My Plans Are Today" game). My method is somewhat similar to The Crone's, but here's what worked.

                    I took a week off from work in the middle of the summer. Every day around 11 a.m., I trundled out to that pasture with a lawn chair and a cooler w/ lots of drinks (for me) and lots of carrots (for horse). AND a good book - you'll need it.

                    I then proceeded to COMPLETELY IGNORE Horsie while he cavorted around going "Neener neener you can't catch me" and proceeded to park in my chair and read my book. (This is where they start to wonder why you're not Playing Their Game.)

                    Eventually, since TBs are innately curious, he started keeping an eye on me from a "Neener Neener you STILL can't catch me!" distance. At which point I took a carrot out of the cooler and simply held it where he could see it, all the while not making eye contact and still reading my book. (This is where they start to think "Hm. She doesn't SEEM like she wants to Play My Game - so what game IS she playing?"

                    Gradually over a period of *hours* Horsie crept closer. I continued to read, though I might occasionally speak quietly: "Here, you can have the carrot if you want it, but this book is really GOOD and I'm not fixin' to Play Your Game. You do have to come get it though."

                    Eventually Horsie crept up, grabbed the carrot and left Dodge immediately at warp speed. I carried on reading my book...

                    So then Horsie thought "Hm, well, THAT time she definitely wasn't Playing My Game - but is she LYING about it? Let's TEST that." So he slowly crept back. Got another carrot. Left Dodge at warp speed again. When he started creeping around again, I CHANGED THE GAME: I packed up my stuff and LEFT.

                    Day Two: largely the same, only hopefully Horsie is coming around to get the carrot a little more quickly. After the first round, which reinforces yesterday's, the NEW game is "Horsie Lets Me Touch Him THEN He Gets Carrot." Not on the head/neck, just whatever body part happens to get in range. (This is where being seated comes in useful.) Horsie will probably leave Dodge at warp speed again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Once Horsie has grasped concept and agreed to play the New Game - LEAVE.

                    Day Three: Horsie met me at the gate. I smirked. And did NOT try to catch him. I trundled back out there with my cooler and my chair and my book. Today's New Game is "Horsie Lets Me Stand Up and Touch Him, Horsie Gets Carrot." Repeat repeat repeat. Then LEAVE.

                    Day Four's New Game: "Horsie Lets Me Put Lead Rope Around Neck, Horsie Gets Carrot." Repeat Repeat Repeat. Then LEAVE.

                    Day Five's New Game: "Horsie Follows Me With Lead Rope Around Neck, Horsie Gets LOTS Carrots." Repeat Repeat Repeat. Then LEAVE.

                    By this time, Horsie should be meeting you at the gate and following you when you leave. And you STILL have not tried to catch him in any way shape or form. Because Not Being Caught is HIS game, and you're not playing, remember.

                    Day Six's New Game: "Horsie Lets Me Put Halter On/Off, Horsie Gets Carrot AND Gets Turned Loose Again." Repeat, etc... Then LEAVE.

                    Day Seven's New Game: "Horsie Gets Halter Put On, Gets Carrot, Gets Led in A Circle And Turned Loose Again."

                    If you have another day to play "Horsie Gets Haltered, Led Out Of Pasture Then Gets Carrot And Gets Turned Back Out Again And Gets 'Nother Carrot", so much the better. But pretty much, my TB's problem was solved by Day Seven.

                    It's a long boring PITA but it DOES work!

                    Day Seven:
                    ~Rest in Peace Woody...1975-2008~

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ecrklaveness View Post
                      Then he'll get more and more stressed up about it. I can follow him slowly around the pasture for half an hour and he just won't give up.
                      Oh, that's a piddly amount of time

                      I got my TB mare when she was 7, and shortly after she realized that her 4 legs let her move a lot faster than my 2 legs. After a particular day where she was a little snot, I understand what I would have to end up doing.

                      Luckily she was in a field with boss mares who simply ate while she avoided my by gallavanting like a fool. I went out on a Saturday and walked her ass down for 2.5 hours. Legit. The field she was in was big enough for her to manuever around me easily, but small enough to where she could only graze one or two bites before I caught up and she had to run off again.

                      At the end of those 2.5 hours she finally went "Jesus, lady, fine! You caught me." Gave her a treat, and rode her.

                      Next time out I walked her down for 20 minutes before she finally understood that I was the energizer bunny from hell. She wasn't so much of a PITA after that.

                      Lucy (Precious Star) - 1994 TB mare; happily reunited with her colt Touch the Stars

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I've had 4 horses do the same thing. 2 mares, 1 Geilding, and 1 stud colt. I finially figured out that I hated chasing down my horses with grain, treats, or whatever just for them to get a bite then take off again before I could get a halter on. I decided one day that if I walked out to the pasture and they ran from me then I would walk away and go back inside. No Grain, No Hay. Obviously they had pasture to munch on so they wouldn't starve. I went back 6 hours later and tried to catch him and he thought about standing for a minute but took off again. So, back inside I went, No grain or hay. The next time I went to catch him, he came right to me and let me put the halter on. No problems since. One of my mares did the same thing but she still likes to test me every once in awhile, where I will do the same thing.

                        If they are in a smaller encloser I will use some round pen training on them. Make them move forward until I get signals that they are willing to listen to me. The large pastures make it extreamly difficult to make them move forward consistantly.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Is there any way the barn can lead him in to eat? This is what I did with my "herd" over the summer. I would halter the easy horse in the pasture. The other four in tow, we'd all go into the paddock where I would shut the gates. Then, one by one, every horse HAD to be haltered and led in. I did let one mare miss a meal, and she's the worst of the lot. She will herd the group AWAY from me if I have a rope in my hands! But she likes food much better than freedom, so she came around rather quickly. Maybe something that could help.

                          Oh, and I've never found treats to help at all!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The only thing I would add, is that he absolutely would not get a treat until he is caught.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              try not to taake the dog out there when catching him what you precieve as a game isnt always seen the same way in a horses mind remember hes prey animal and animals like wolfs go for neddies that are weak or ill etc

                              so the horse has learn to be advassive , so try when you have caught him adding a little bit of plaited baling twine to your head collar the same width as your hand ie 4inches ,this will allow you to grab him when hes near you for a carrot yet wont hurt him whilse grazzing

                              so now think trust issue - 1st let me explain in a horses mind they have 2 fear factors - 1st is to flee 2d is to advade you be that ridden driven or handled

                              in his case - hes the 1st and the 2nd as hes fleeing from the dog but also advading being caught.

                              so you can either bring all the horses as in lead him in dont let him just come into the stable and lead him out dont treat him as this will only reward a bad behavior and make it ten times worse but pat him and scratch him and use your tones of voice
                              dont talk like a namby pamby baby coo coo talk they don't understand such rubbish horses like clear commands and tones and direct signals

                              so- talk as you would to another human being and use your tones


                              for exsample if a dog brought you slippers your voice would be of higher excited pitch
                              if hes poohed on the floor your voice would be of deeper tone and angry pitch

                              horses will re-act the same way
                              and horses will re-act to how you act in this case you have to show your horse your the leader to gain the respect to be followed as in aplha horsey you must be assertive and non hesitant in all that you do to prove your alpha the more conifdent you are the more you horse will sucumbe to you

                              you must lead your horse in and out when turning out turn him to face you pat him scratch him and remind him hes a good boy and repeat when you catch him

                              rewards are pats and scratches, beds, stables, feed, hay, work etc
                              and grooming is both a reward and bonding and so is pick his feet up work is some would say not but it is and the voice is your biggest aid and asset

                              whisle working with the horse we are bonding our relationships to another level

                              the power of talk and touch no sweets are needed

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                              • #16
                                You need to teach the cue or lesson of being caught in the round pen first and the progress to a small paddock, then a small pasture.

                                I teach all my horses to turn and face me and stand in the round pen......if you have that cue you can get them to do it anywhere......and it makes catching easy.

                                Dalemma

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                                • #17
                                  I agree w War admiral that sometimes you need to mix it up--that is go out in the field and give him treats and dont try to catch him- catch him and let him go after a treat and scratch, give him treats in stall (so he gets really addicted to them) etc. give treats and attention to his pasture mate and ignore him etc etc...you defniitely also need time a plenty if you want to walk them. Lots of good suggestions! Good luck!

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                                  • #18
                                    I second Dalemma. Works for me.

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                                    • #19
                                      I vote clicker training 100%!! My gelding came to me with a key piece of info left out...you COULD NOT catch him. He finally gave up after 4 hours of running (in shape TBs, I tell ya). I was at my wit's end! I wanted him in turnout, but not if it meant I couldn't catch my horse.

                                      An old instructor and friend of mine who works with mustangs suggested clicker training, and taught me how she does it. Start with targeting - I like an orange plastic cone - click every time he touches the cone. Use a treat he likes, I usually use grain but anything works. Keep it up until he's following you around, touching the cone when put on the ground, etc. This usually takes a week or so. Gradually reintroduce turnout - in a smaller place like an arena if possible. Turn him out, play the game for a few minutes, leave him for 10-15 mins. Come back with cone and treats, halter over your shoulder. Play the game. Catch him, lead him around. You can choose to put him away or leave loose for another 15 mins or so, rinse and repeat. Keep at this, gradually increasing his turnout time and space. And you don't need to do this every day if you can't get out - if he tries to pretend it's not sticking, he's lying! The first few times in my guy's big pasture, he played hard to get for about 10 mins. Be persistent. He'll come around. I started to click anytime he stopped and let me approach him - that seemed to make the biggest difference once we had targeting down.

                                      It took about 3 weeks for me to be able to come out with halter, cone, and clicker and walk right up to him, halter, and go on our way. About a month for him to start cantering up to the gate when he saw me coming. Now he comes up every time, and follows me around like a dog. I only bring the clicker with me every once in a while (maybe once a month) now, just to reinforce. I've since tried this with a few other hard catchers, and found success. I really haven't seen any other method work across the board.

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                                      • #20
                                        Has anyone mentioned the magic of peppermint yet? Don't unwrap it! Part of the magic is in the crinkling sound of unwrapping the wrapper when you're within your target's earshot.

                                        I've had trouble catching my horse a few times when he didn't want to be pulled off the luscious spring grass, but then he likes to play games. Peppermint puts a stop to all that. No horse can resist the allure of the crackling of a peppermint wrapper.

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