9 quick tips to catch a horse

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  1. Keep to a routine with training, feeding, turn-out and handling. Horses will be more comfortable and cooperative if you help them by adhering to a schedule.
  2. Have a young horse that’s started asserting himself with a refusal to come in at night (or in the morning during bug season)? Call his bluff and leave him out – alone. Ensure he has ample hay and water, but withhold grain until he decides it’s time to be led to the barn for a meal. It’s amazing how quickly this trick works with most cocky youngsters coming of age. Most decide to run to the gate when they see you the next time.
  3. Are you dealing with a horse that’s aggressive with the herd and now tries to control you by refusing to be caught? Send her away (this works particularly well when you’ve given hay to the herd) and don’t let her near the other horses. Often, in a matter of minutes, she’ll be begging for you to let her come to you. In fact, this technique is quite effective with most horses. The key is not to approach them – keep driving them away from you until they decide to ask for relief.
  4. Call horses by name. Granted, most of the equine scholars cite studies indicating auditory cues are unnatural for horses, but we haven’t found that to be the case with our herd. If we need help managing others in the pasture, we have a few go-to-gals that will gallop to our location when they hear their name. This works well too if you’re trying to cull a particular horse out of the pasture and seek to avoid a group charge to the gate.
  5. Use the lead mare to help direct the herd. This isn’t necessary the one most would classify as the alpha (aggressive and hostile with the herd), but, instead, the one you see all others following. Moving horses to another location, bringing them to the barn, or catching a selected equine is a lot easier once you have the lead horse in hand.
  6. Loose horse? Grab another to lead them home. Whether on their back or in hand, often simply grabbing another herd member to lure one who refuses to be caught back to the barn or pasture is the easiest solution.
  7. Call on the herd to correct bad behavior. Often, it’s easier to let horses school or guide a bad actor. Whether you use others to discipline or serve as an example, getting creative in how you exploit your equines to help address a challenge can save a lot of time and headaches. When you’re dealing with an obnoxious, arrogant horse, sometimes merely moving them to a herd that knocks them down a few pegs will resolve any prior poor attitude, including trouble catching the horse. Once a young, cocky colt has spent a few days with some older boys – or a pregnant mare – you’ll be amazed how happy they are to come to you with a much more humble demeanor.
  8. Reward your horse for coming to you. Find a spot where he enjoys being rubbed, give him a few minutes of grazing on lush grass, use your voice to express appreciation or find something your horse really enjoys (preferably not something that turns him into Pavlov’s proof positive that we should be producing canine equines) to recognize his effort in a way he appreciates and can note your pleasure.
  9. Make training fun for the horse so he wants to be engaged. If you listen to your horse and ensure lessons are interesting and rewarding for both of you, your horse will likely be eager to see you and go for a ride.

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Horses aren’t just recreational vehicles to be sold off as commodities when times are tough. They’re pets and partners representing ‘me time,’ emotional bonds, spiritual enrichment, psychological stabilizers and confidants. Before you decide you can’t afford a horse anymore, consider the real costs – and try to get creative about how you may be able to hold on.