- May 28, 2014 at 8:41 pm
I ride a thoroughbred who is really fantastic and clearly feels comfortable with me. He is turned out in a very large pasture with other horses. Lately, when I go to get him, he walks away and then runs away. Just as I get close, he takes off and then stops to look at me. I bring treats but that no longer works. Usually, I can only get him if he stops to go to the bathroom. Sometimes this game goes on for 20-30 minutes and cuts into my lesson time. I’ve tried bringing treats, ignoring he. When he’s being like that and focusing on other horses, sitting down and pretending to be bored and wandering around after him trying to cut hi off. Sometimes he riles the herd and they all run around but most of the time, they ignore him and he runs around like a fool.
I broke down and brought out grain the last time but this is not something I want to do at all. He came immediately but I want him to come to me or let me come to him right away without a game of chase.
Suggestions?May 28, 2014 at 8:42 pm
I meant to add that once I catch him, he doesn’t give me a bit of trouble going in or in the cross ties and he is so good under saddle, you’d never know he was such a brat in the field.May 28, 2014 at 9:16 pmrluedersTopics Started: 5Replies Posted: 24
I agree that bringing grain out is not a good idea and will only make the problem worse in the long run. My mare used to do this, so, I went out one day with the sole intention of breaking the habit. I brought my big lunge whip and halter with me. I would approach her, nice and slow, making sure I was coming towards her shoulder so she could see me. If she avoided me by either running or walking away, I’d chase her with the whip. Don’t actually hit your horse with the whip, no matter how frustrated you get. I just used it as a tool to get her moving. (:
You won’t be able to keep up with your horse, but jog after them. Once you get close to him again, approach him at a calm walk with the whip down and relaxed. If he runs away again, chase him. Eventually, he will learn that running away is tiring and more work than just waiting for you to halter him. Once he is tired and allows you to halter him, reward him with a big pat and let him go again.
Horses will often associate you catching them from the pasture with work and other un-fun things (like riding). Every once in a while, pull him out of the pasture and do fun things with him! If he likes being groomed, just groom him and put him back in the pasture without riding or working him. He’ll realize that not everyday is going to be a work day and, sometimes, being around you will be fun. I make sure to have one day a week where I’m out at the barn and don’t ride. I spend this time just hanging out with my horse and giving her a good groom, letting her graze in-hand, or whatever. Not only has it really helped my mare’s attitude problem about being caught, but has really built up her trust in me.
Now, I don’t ever have to run after her, or even go get her from the pasture; She comes trotting right up to the gate when she sees me. Good luck getting your frisky horse in!May 29, 2014 at 5:01 am
My horse was like that when I first got him, but soon learned that meeting me at the gate meant a treat. It took a while, but for me, chasing after him was not working at all. If he wants his treat (and he would likely eat arsenic he is such a pig), he has to come to me. While I do agree with a lot of the other suggestions, I think that chasing around the field may become a game, and will be harder to keep up than simply standing and waiting for the horse to yield to you and come to the gate. On the other hand, he comes up to the barn like a fruit bat. It’s always something.May 29, 2014 at 9:27 amrluedersTopics Started: 5Replies Posted: 24
I have friends who use the treat method and it works for them. I, however, won’t give my horse treats for letting me halter her. I don’t like giving my horse treats often, because I would prefer for her to want to do something for my affection and praise, not food. Of course, after a hard ride, I will give her a treat. (:
My barn mate’s oldenburg gelding was treated when coming in from pasture and it worked for a long time, but now he won’t be caught with just a treat anymore and now requires a “bigger incentive” like grain to be caught. Every horse is different and if treats are already not working for you, OP, they probably won’t start working again in the future; however, every horse is definitely a unique case and what works for one, may not work for another.May 29, 2014 at 11:55 am
I do agree with you. However, when one is disabled and unable to traipse around a field, having the horse waiting at the gate is a plus.May 30, 2014 at 9:24 pmRhinestone CowgirlTopics Started: 0Replies Posted: 17
Not sure how much liberty you have with the horses in the pasture and the horse you ride, so these ideas may or may not work for you. If the goal is to retrain the horse, then my method for dealing with the hard-to-catch horse is that if they choose to walk away from me, I drive them away one speed faster, so that moving their feet becomes my idea, not theirs. In other words if they walk away to evade me as I approach, I shoo them into a trot. If they trot away, I shoo them into a canter. I don’t use a whip, just swing the lead rope to make them move if it becomes necessary. I remain in place until they have come to a stop, then I approach them again. If they choose to evade again, repeat shooing away, then stand and wait for them to stop. This isn’t about chasing them around. Sometimes they will turn and face me, sometimes they’ll just stop running off and graze while I walk up to halter and lead off (calmly as if nothing happened. Once they submit, all must be forgiven). However, if time is short and it is more important to catch the horse than to retrain it (such as in the case where the horse is not mine), then you can try catching the leader of the herd, and bringing them in. Sometimes this will cause the horse I’m trying to catch to want to come in too. You can keep catching horses and bringing them in until the one you want is asking to be brought in too. Of course this only works if the others are yours or you have permission to handle them. One last thing to consider is how we act when we are going out to halter our horses. Particularly if you are having a lesson and time is short, it’s easy to get into a pattern of rushing out to the pasture and hurrying to halter and bring them in. If I had a friend who every time she came to see me would rush up, grab me by the hand and yank me to where she wanted me to go, I’d eventually dread the meet-up. I make it a point to approach my horses in a calm manner and spend a moment just saying hi, giving a scratch or rub, then haltering and leading in. It makes for a very enjoyable start to our time together.Western Pleasure, Hunter/Jumper, Working Cow...there's an App for that!June 3, 2014 at 4:46 pmMapaleTopics Started: 4Replies Posted: 291
The point is to make the horse’s movement your idea and that he can get rest when he comes to you. I use a lunge whip if my horses are reluctant (such as when they suspect a vet trip), they’ll come right over when they see I’ve got it because they’ve discovered that running begets more running than is “fun”. However, my neighbor needed help rounding up her horses off lush spring pasture – the horses didn’t want to leave it, so I took over my lunge whip (which is never used to ‘whip’!) and the moment one of her geldings caught sight of it, he took to the hills. It was over an hour before I could approach him he was so terrified of it. He normally will approach me easily, but someone obviously had actually whipped that horse. I felt so badly for him. Had I known his terror for whips, I’d have tried something else. The moral of the story is the lunge whip works if the ground work is done in the ring. This involves de-sensitizing the horse to the whip and NEVER ever using it as a whip, and teaching the horse that you are where he can rest. Then try it in the pasture.
Treats: as with anything, there are pros and cons. I like the sneaky approach. Sometimes I’ve got ‘em, sometimes I don’t. But the suspicion that I might have one means that 99% of the time I’ve got the horse at the gate. I believe in using everything I can to reinforce the lesson and treats help me do that. Classical conditioning (feeding treats) is the easiest way to reinforce behavior, but it must be used in combination with other reinforcements, that’s why it will eventually fail if it is the only method used.“You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him participate in synchronized diving.” ― Cuthbert SoupJune 3, 2014 at 5:52 pm
I like all of your responses and except for the lunge whip, I’ve tried them all. I don’t use one at all, so if I suddenly showed up with it, he’d either laugh as I got myself tangled in it or head for the hills.
The refusal to come is fairly new, so it’s a mystery why my treats no longer work. Since I posted, I’ve been extra sneaky. I have a small container with grain in it and I leave it by the gate. I give him one chance to let me go to him. If he walks away, all I have to do is go back to the gate and pick it up and give it the slightest rattle. When he comes to me, I give him a carrot or peppermint. So, I’m sort of winning and so is he.
For a while, I thought I was training him by going over to one of the jumps and tapping on it with the carrot. When he’d come, he’d get the carrot. It worked for a while. Now I just sit there like a fool, tapping the carrot on the jump while he watches from afar.
He is so wonderful once I get him, it’s hard to believe he’s such a brat about being caught.June 3, 2014 at 6:34 pm
He may be testing you, to see how far you will go before giving up. Hard to read their minds sometimes. Lucky for me (I am disabled and could not follow a horse around trying to catch him), mine is such a pig he will head for the gate as soon as he sees me coming out there. Perhaps you could just go out there one day when you have no need to get him in for a lesson or other reason that limits your time, and just sit down ignoring him. Curiosity often catches the horse.June 4, 2014 at 1:28 pmMapaleTopics Started: 4Replies Posted: 291
Rhinestone Cowgirl had some great suggestions, she uses the lead-line to move the horse instead of a lunge whip. I agree with you that the use of a whip is useless if you haven’t laid the groundwork. I usually walk out to the pasture and prop mine visibly against a tree and the horses walk over; but this took a few hours of training (over multiple days) to accomplish. I do not walk up to my horses even if he/she is only two feet away, I make them walk over to me (sometimes this takes more than a minute or two), never taking the pressure off, I stare them over.
You can start with an extra long lead line (over 10′) attached to his halter and lunge in small circles, stop, and pull him over and let him rest for a bit. Repeat and then wait for him to come to you. Allow him to rest ONLY if he comes to you. If he just stops, restart his motion, eventually he will figure out that if he approaches you, you will let him rest. Then try Rhinestone Cowgirl’s approach in the pasture. It will work once he can associate you with rest instead of all-work-all-the-time.
What will not work and may get you hurt is walking into a herd of horses with grain if a few of them figure out they can take it from you. I have heard of someone getting trampled doing this. If you must use grain as an incentive, plan on arriving an hour before your lesson, get your horse and feed him a very small bit of grain or shredded carrot in his usual feed bin, walk him, groom him, and then have your lesson. Eventually he’ll remember that he gets an extra ‘meal’ if he comes with you. In fact, bring him in for an extra ‘meal’ on a few occasions when you don’t work him, just groom him and put him back.
First teach him that if he wants rest, his best bet is being close to you, then that running only means he has to run harder. Then teach him that you are food – at least sometimes – and comfort all the time. Add to that the occasional treat only AFTER he is haltered, and you’ve got a substantially effective training program to prevent cat and mouse games. You’ve made it easier to do the right thing. Good luck.“You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him participate in synchronized diving.” ― Cuthbert Soup
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