Catching a horse is designed to be hard to do…that’s how horses have survived for millions of years.
Horses have the innate ability to out-think their predators on the ground. A human trying to catch a horse reads like a “predator” to them, so they use their best evasive maneuvers to avoid capture. When you’re trying to catch your horse and they’re avoiding you, they’re not being difficult; they’re just trying to survive!
When a horse is hard to catch, people tend to gang up and surround the horse…just like wolves or other predators would do. They corner the horse, then lunge and grab at him. This scares the heck out of a horse. In response to any aggressive measures, horses will go into total panic mode. In an effort to survive, they’ll fight, try to jump over tall walls or run blindly right over the top of you.
These behaviors sound extreme, but in order to understand what’s going on in the horse’s mind you need to understand that to the horse, the situation is extreme. Your horse isn’t afraid of being caught when you are chasing it, he is afraid of being killed and eaten.
• The Parelli Natural Horsemanship encourages you to think in terms of the relationship with your horse. If you couldn’t catch your spouse, child, or friend, would you insist the problem was with the other person and that he or she is just “difficult” – or would you look at the dynamic of the relationship itself and wonder what the problem was? The natural horse training approach is that instead of employing strategies for catching a horse, you think about ways you might “attract” your horse, i.e. learn to develop a relationship that will make your horse want to be with you rather than run from you, which is what our Natural Attraction DVD is all about. It’s not really horse training that’s needed when a horse is hard to catch; it’s relationship training. Learn to be really good at relationships and your horse will come running.
• Instead of chasing a horse that is running away from you, try the opposite. Chasing the horse just adds fuel to the fire; backing off is the better way to go. When you walk away, you remove the pressure and defuse the chase. Sure, it’s natural to want to run after the horse, but it just makes the predator/prey dynamic worse. If you back off, he’ll come around.
• Every time you go out with a halter and lead rope, your horse knows what’s coming because you never do anything different. So try something new instead. Walk over to him with the halter, but just give him a scratch or a carrot or something. Don’t try to catch him, just visit him. Just rub and scratch him with the halter–use it as a tool to “make nice” and that’s it. Or walk out there with your equipment and just leave him alone; don’t even try to approach. His conditioned responses and associations will change and so will his running away behavior.
These are just a few natural horsemanship approaches to catching a horse. Notice that none are punishing or aggressive, and all are designed to break the predator/prey barrier in the human/horse interaction – the secret to the partnership relationship.