How to Catch a Horse by Pat Parelli
In terms of how to catch a horse, a great way to start is by changing a horse’s opinion of being caught. In order to allow himself to be caught, your horse has to fight the natural instincts that have programmed him to flee from predators and any perception of danger. Don’t blame him for running from you; he is acting out of self preservation.
If you want to create a problem catching a horse, visit him only when you want something, and then put tension on his lead rope whenever you have a halter on him. Start doing the opposite and your horse will stop thinking “Oh no” when he sees you coming and start thinking “Oh good!”
The best way to change a horse’s opinion of being caught is to go to his pasture or corral and play with him. This is what Parelli’s Seven Games are designed for. Put a halter and lead rope on him and play the Friendly Game by rubbing the end of the rope all over his body until it’s obvious he’s enjoying it.
Next, toss the rope with rhythm over different parts of his body until it doesn’t bother him. Then rub him all over again with the rope. Make sure you do both sides. If he gets worried, just smile, keep going and keep slack in the rope so he can move around until he settles down.
Now stand at the end of your lead rope, face your horse and make a game out of distance and approach. Horses stay alive by paying great attention to ‘distance and approach’ for reading a predator’s intention.
See how many ways (walk fast, skip, hop, jump, etc), angles and speeds you can approach your horse from without him flinching or moving then rub him all over with the rope again. This procedure is called habituation through progressive desensitization. You’re not just working on making catching a horse easier; you’re developing your horse's comfort and trust level with you.
For the next session, repeat the first, and then try a longer rope (maybe a 22-foot Line), simulating freedom, but with a safety net for correction. By the third session you should be able to progress to no rope, but use a small corral – no bigger than 60 feet.
When you engage without a halter and rope, do so as if you still have the rope on the horse. If he runs away, make it uncomfortable. Fling the halter toward his hindquarters repeatedly until he turns to you. As soon as he looks at you, smile and welcome him. Allow him to smell the halter and lead, and then play the Friendly Game with it.
Play like this every time you see him for seven sessions in a row without fail until the horse gets it. This will solve most catching problems. For more challenging cases and a longer range solution, add the next step to your natural horse training program.
How To Catch a Horse By Changing Perceptions
Establish a forbidden zone – a small corral your horse cannot enter unless you open the gate. This area should have the only food and water he can find. Give him access twice a day, only long enough to eat and drink what he needs.
Try this for 1-2 weeks every day with no exceptions until your horse gives you credit for providing these life-sustaining substances. Then keep him guessing. Leave the gate open or closed at your discretion. Your horse will start watching for you and come-a-running when you show up. This never fails, even with wild horses, so don’t give up!
Learning how to catch a horse isn’t that different from learning to shift any other horse behavior using Parelli natural horse training. You start by understanding the horse’s reasons for doing what he does and work with him from there. Our Horsenality™ DVD for understanding your horse’s personality is a big help in this process and our Parelli Savvy Club offers even more support for understanding and training horses the natural way.
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