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Q: I recently started working with my horse in the roundpen and have made decent progress. He gives me two eyes and follows me around the roundpen. But now when I first show up, if he even suspects a workout, he runs to the far end of his 2-acre turnout and won’t let me get any closer than 50 feet or so to him. What should be my strategy for catching him? – Traci R.
A: It sounds like you’re off to a great start with your horse, mate. You’re on the right track by working with him in the roundpen to establish the foundation of respect. If your horse will give you two eyes and “catch you” in the roundpen, it’ll be much easier to have the same thing happen in the pasture. I don’t think your horse’s problem is that he’s hard to catch necessarily. Let me explain.
Put yourself in your horse’s position. Let’s say that every time I came over to you, I handed you a shovel and made you dig holes under the hot sun for five hours. It wouldn’t take too many repetitions of me coming over to you, handing you the shovel and making you work hard before you’d start to run the other way when you saw me coming. Your horse is doing the same thing. He sees you coming and figures there’s only hard work waiting for him because so far that’s exactly what you’ve done with him.
Change up your routine. Every time you go out in the pasture, don’t always put the halter on him and go work him. Instead, go in the pasture, give him a treat and rub on him. Then walk away. A few times of that and your horse will say to himself, “That’s interesting, she’s not as bad as I thought. Just because she comes out here it doesn’t mean I’m going to have to sweat and work hard.” Give him a positive experience, and then walk away. Keep him guessing so he never knows if you’re coming to the pasture to give him a treat or to work him.