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Hard to catch horse

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  • Hard to catch horse

    Ok I just acquired a mare that is completely halter, farrier, and trailer broke she leads like a champion holds her feet well and loads without issues, she's even had corral work BUT that is if you can catch her. Somewhere in her life before she came to me or her previous owners she became pretty much uncatchable, she lost all trust with all people well except for my husband he can walk right up to her and pet her only because he doesn't want anything to do with horses and she probably knows that hes just going to pat her on the head or scratch her neck and leave her be...

    Anyway I have been working with her since May once a week for about an hour she now lets me pet her and I was able to rub the halter all over her while she stood there she was nervous but for the most part relaxed. I'm wanting to move to putting the halter on and taking it off for my next session as I feel that rubbing her with it is pointless (to an extent) she already knows what it is but I don't want to be jumping the gun either and wind up losing all the progress and amount of trust I've gained so far.

    What would be your suggestions? I really don't want to start over by moving too quick but I don't want to be moving to slow either and have something else happen. Thanks for any advise!

  • #2
    From reading your post I get the impression it's the halter she's afraid of or resistant to? Or is she also uncatchable with a halter on?

    You said she leads and trailers well, and stands for the farrier -- so she has had a halter on ??? -- was this before you acquired her?

    I also get the impression you are not riding this mare -- that she is not yet started under saddle? How old is she? What do you mean by 'corral work'?

    Does she live outside 24/7? Do you have access to a stall or round pen? Are you able to get the help of a trainer?

    Need more info as to 'where else' you are able to work with this mare besides outside. And IMHO working with her once a week is not enough. Can you devote more time?

    I'm sure other COH'ers will need more info too before offering advice.

    But in the meantime, you could put a 'horse ID' neck collar on her and leave it on -- that way when you 'pet' your horse you can gently hold onto the collar or even slip a lead rope through it and lead her by that as a way to ease her into being caught and led -- and then gradually introduce the halter. Also give her a treat AFTER you catch her, as a reward.

    Comment


    • #3
      Once a week doesn't fix catching issues. Lots of treats, time, not-scary stuff with a halter (walk up with it over your shoulder, give her a treat, walk away) twice daily does.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        She had a halter on for 3 years since the previous owners bought her then one year they got super drunk and she went outside and decided to set her free and took her halter off and haven't been able to get one on her again.
        She is 13 and has no saddle training at all but she does know the basics of ground work like lunging that's why I said corral work.
        I do work her in a small paddock but to get her into it I have to catch the other two horses that are in the pasture and tie them up leave the gate open and try to encourage her to go in without force as that's what the previous owners would do they would chase her into the paddock then clap the lead onto her.
        I currently have only been able to go out once a week because I can't drive (I have epilepsy) and Dr's orders to have someone out with me while working with my horse but I was able to change it to twice hopefully 3 times a week.
        but yes it is the halter that she doesn't like and I don't want to rush her if there is a better way to go about it then just trying to put it on her

        Comment


        • #5
          It took me 3 months of daily work to get my mare to be easy to catch. She did not trust people at all, had been abused, neglected, and left for dead. She had every right not to trust us. I spent the first week walking out and feeding her a carrot. That's it. No touching, no leading, no haltering, sometimes not even talking. Just give her the treat and leave. Over the next weeks I made her walk up to me to get the carrot, let me touch her face before she got the carrot, let me snag her halter before she got the carrot, let me lead her around the pasture a bit before the carrot, etc. When she was good for little walks in the pasture I would bring her up to the barn to feed/groom her and then turn her out again. I slowly introduced working and riding and she's remained fairly easy to catch. She no longer wears a halter in the pasture and most days will walk right up to me. She does have her days that she would rather not come to me and she might take off a time or two, but she's good most days. I've had her for nearly 3 years now. It takes forever.

          *Side Note* She lets anyone catch her now, she only runs from me and it's because she knows I work her.. She's a fickle one, but that's an Appy Mare for you...

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Thank you for the advise

            Comment


            • #7
              If you had her in a smaller pen (not sure how large your paddock is) you could work her feet until she allows you to catch her THEN give her a reward and rub on her. You want her to think you and getting caught mean a break and a good snack. I would catch the other horses and move them safely out of the paddock before you work her. By work her I mean make her move her feet. If she wants to run away, that's her choice, but mine quickly finds out it's more work to run away from me than to just suck it up and let me catch her. Disclaimer, sometimes it takes her a little to get it through her head. She is stubborn. *BUT* I don't know your mare. Take this with a grain of salt. This could just make her upset and go backwards in training. When my hard to catch mare wants to be a heifer I make her run around and change direction, giving her many chances to make the choice of facing me and holding still (eventually walking to me). Now, that mare has had lessons in the round pen. She is not scared of me. She knows what she is doing.

              I would also say keep going. Do not give up on her. It might feel like she hates you and you will never win her trust, but she just needs to know you are on her side and are worth trusting. Also, do not get mad at her. I know that is easier said than done, but it would be one of your biggest mistakes. I'd also say, go with what your gut says. If you think it's time to put the halter on, do it. All you are gonna find out is a.) she is not ready or b.) she will let you put it on. Making mistakes is part of learning.
              I hope I am any bit of help. Good luck and give us an update!!

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                I am soo sorry I forgot to update! I did catch her Sunday and Monday. Sunday I had her caught in about 30 minutes, would have been sooner if the other horses didn't scare her. I had them in another part of the pasture and they cant get to her but they burrowed a hole through the old chicken pen and they tromped right in there right as I almost had the halter on her nose! I wound up catching her with the lead rope then gently put the halter on her without any issues at all.

                Loved on her then tried to get her to lead she would take a few steps forward then stop. So I would move her hind quarters in both directions then try to walk forward again she did the same thing but I persisted and she finally moved forward without stopping.

                Monday I tried to catch her out in the pasture instead of in the paddock, she would let me get close to her but not quite close enough to catch her and she would hide behind the other horses. So I wound up taking the other two into the other pasture and guiding her into the paddock.

                She almost immediately let me walk right up to her to pet her but as soon as I went to clip the lead on the halter she would take off. So I kept her moving until she stopped and faced me I would walk up pet her again, then try to clip the lead on again. When I finally got the lead on her she led like a champ! I loved on her talked to her brushed her down, I had needed to check her feet also and i'm glad I did! She has thrush on all 4 hooves her front right is so bad I had to set it down as soon as I picked it up it smelled so bad. After I loved on her some more brushed her some more and she was standing there falling asleep it went very well.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  I will keep updating!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I have a horse that used to be just about impossible to catch, he was very smart and never fell for the 'just going to give you a treat or pat' trick.

                    The best thing to for your horse is to keep her in a pasture or paddock by herself. Horses are naturally herd animals and will look for a leader, when you go to catch a horse with other horses in the pasture they might want to stay together with their herd instead of being caught. When separated your horse will become much more dependent on you.

                    Another thing is consisitency. At least once a day interact with your horse in a nonstessful way. If you can't catch her, sit in her pasture and read a book, she will most likely walk up to you. You can give her a treat and a neck rub and then go back, or you can go as for as having a training session with her. As long as the expired is positive there's endless possibilities.

                    You could also create a positive experience with being caught. Instead of catching her and making her perform for you, you can catch her and hand graze her or bathe her. What I do is I catch the horse and put them in another pen to be fed. My horse makes the association that being caught doesn't mean they will have to work, it means they'll get their grain, and if they can't be caught they won't get the grain. Or simply giving treats when you catch them.

                    Whatever you decide to do you must do so consistently and patiently, building trust is a time consuming process.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      I've finally gotten her to the point where I can catch her. I go out Monday Wednesday Friday and Saturday mornings. I would go out every day but I have to be careful because of my epilepsy if I over do myself I can cause myself to have a seizure and then my husband and Dr would be mad at me lol. I might try it for a week to see if it's too much or not idk but right now I'm working on getting her to pick up her feet again. I guess it's been so long since she's been worked with that she needs a refresher.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Glad to see you are making progress with her.
                        "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederatcy against him."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I have a hard to catch horse. Or rather, I did. I've owned her for something like 6 years and she was always a pain to catch. She wasn't overly food motivated, so going in with a bucket of something yummy didn't really phase her. She didn't like the look of a halter/lead rope in my possession. Sometimes, it would take me 4 or 5 hours of walking her down before she finally gave up and let me catch her. Fortunately, I am strangely patient and tenacious. The only time she was somewhat easy to catch is if she was in a smaller pen, but then she was dreadfully unhappy... losing weight, getting sore and lethargic and it just wasn't good. She thrives in a larger paddock so I just accepted I'd always have to expect a few hours to catch her.

                          Last year, I started leaving a halter on her all the time. I use flimsy leather ones and she's managed to lose 2 or 3 since October. But she was marginally better to catch. Not great, but it no longer took hours to catch her.

                          Then someone made a very off-hand remark about her routine. She's a Standardbred and they thrive on routine. On the track, they have schedules every day, right down to the time they are fed and turned out. So I started building her a routine. Whenever I'd enter her paddock, I would hold out my hand flat, call "Vanna....coooooookie" and walk up to her. When she took the cookie from one hand, I reached up and grabbed her halter with my other hand. I would clip the lead rope on, then I'd spend a couple minutes scratching her itchy spots. Then, we'd leave the pen.

                          I'd lead her up to my grooming area, tie her and give her lunch. She would eat that while I groomed her. Then, she'd get more scratches, I'd tack her up and we'd go on whatever adventure I had planned. When we came back, she'd get untacked, I'd give her a cookie and I'd brush her and get her ready to go back to the field.

                          Once in the field, she would get more scratches and I'd give her a cookie before turning her loose.

                          After about a week, she started realizing that the same thing would happen every time I took her out. She started popping her head up and meeting me halfway when she heard me call her name. After another week, I could wait at the gate and she would come running to me. Now, I can call her name when I'm walking up to the field and by the time I get there, she's waiting for me. When I turn her back out, she doesn't just run away... most times she'll follow me around after I've turned her loose, in hopes of an extra neck scratch or something.

                          Giving her a routine and sticking to it made all the difference in the world. Prior, I was doing all these same things... but randomly. Once I started sticking to a routine, it was like she knew exactly what to expect and she was 100% more comfortable with leaving her group. She knew there would be a cookie waiting, she knew she'd get scratches, she knew lunch was soon, and she knew that I'd always bring her back afterward. Maybe that's something your horse needs, OP, a set routine of things you do every single time you see her, in the exact same order. It's probably worth a try.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by StarPattern View Post
                            I have a hard to catch horse. Or rather, I did. I've owned her for something like 6 years and she was always a pain to catch. She wasn't overly food motivated, so going in with a bucket of something yummy didn't really phase her. She didn't like the look of a halter/lead rope in my possession. Sometimes, it would take me 4 or 5 hours of walking her down before she finally gave up and let me catch her. Fortunately, I am strangely patient and tenacious. The only time she was somewhat easy to catch is if she was in a smaller pen, but then she was dreadfully unhappy... losing weight, getting sore and lethargic and it just wasn't good. She thrives in a larger paddock so I just accepted I'd always have to expect a few hours to catch her.

                            Last year, I started leaving a halter on her all the time. I use flimsy leather ones and she's managed to lose 2 or 3 since October. But she was marginally better to catch. Not great, but it no longer took hours to catch her.

                            Then someone made a very off-hand remark about her routine. She's a Standardbred and they thrive on routine. On the track, they have schedules every day, right down to the time they are fed and turned out. So I started building her a routine. Whenever I'd enter her paddock, I would hold out my hand flat, call "Vanna....coooooookie" and walk up to her. When she took the cookie from one hand, I reached up and grabbed her halter with my other hand. I would clip the lead rope on, then I'd spend a couple minutes scratching her itchy spots. Then, we'd leave the pen.

                            I'd lead her up to my grooming area, tie her and give her lunch. She would eat that while I groomed her. Then, she'd get more scratches, I'd tack her up and we'd go on whatever adventure I had planned. When we came back, she'd get untacked, I'd give her a cookie and I'd brush her and get her ready to go back to the field.

                            Once in the field, she would get more scratches and I'd give her a cookie before turning her loose.

                            After about a week, she started realizing that the same thing would happen every time I took her out. She started popping her head up and meeting me halfway when she heard me call her name. After another week, I could wait at the gate and she would come running to me. Now, I can call her name when I'm walking up to the field and by the time I get there, she's waiting for me. When I turn her back out, she doesn't just run away... most times she'll follow me around after I've turned her loose, in hopes of an extra neck scratch or something.

                            Giving her a routine and sticking to it made all the difference in the world. Prior, I was doing all these same things... but randomly. Once I started sticking to a routine, it was like she knew exactly what to expect and she was 100% more comfortable with leaving her group. She knew there would be a cookie waiting, she knew she'd get scratches, she knew lunch was soon, and she knew that I'd always bring her back afterward. Maybe that's something your horse needs, OP, a set routine of things you do every single time you see her, in the exact same order. It's probably worth a try.
                            We do that with every new horse, until we know they know what we want, before they are turned completely out.
                            We start in a small pen, then larger and they learn that is how life is here.
                            Outside we have all horses come running and then whoever gets to go out is lucky, they think and stand there wishing it had been them.

                            What we do is, every day to start with, some times twice a day, take them in for a bite on a special bucket in the same place for that horse every day.
                            We don't always go on and saddle and ride, but that every time, they are going to the bucket seems to be too interesting to remember they may also do other they may not care for.
                            Most horses have a one track mind.

                            Also, if a horse is really hard to catch scared of people, we teach static tricks, like stretching or lifting a foot and when asked for that and they get a reward, they forget how scary being caught was.

                            You are right, horses thrive on routines.
                            Getting your horse on a routine, that doesn't has to be the same time or thing, just that it is the same a horse can count on, makes managing most horses easier.

                            Thank you for explaining so well how you go about it, so it may help others.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Crazy4horses2 View Post
                              I loved on her talked to her brushed her down, I had needed to check her feet also and i'm glad I did! She has thrush on all 4 hooves her front right is so bad I had to set it down as soon as I picked it up it smelled so bad. After I loved on her some more brushed her some more and she was standing there falling asleep it went very well.
                              Were you able to treat her thrush?

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                I was able to put some iodine on them but really wasn't able to get them as clean as I would've liked before putting it on but it was the best i could do. I had been watching it before and it hadn't gotten any worse and it should start to get better.

                                Comment

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