Once again, my general notes, this time on catching. More often than not I will use clicker training as a long term solution for a horse that is difficult to catch.
When working with a horse that is difficult to catch you really do need to have the time to follow it through. Each time you give up trying to catch a horse that doesn’t want to be caught you teach him that his behaviour works and if you try for a long time and then give up you can build up his stamina too. Getting cross never helps – quiet persistence is usually the answer.
It’s really important to approach you horse as if you have all the time in the world with soft body language and your eyes not directed straight at his. It’s better to go in a casual and wiggly, relaxed line rather than at a fast walk in a direct line. Having said that, it’s not a good idea to creep about like a stalking predator either; if you act like a predator the horse will act like prey (and leave!). If the horse walks away from you then you need to stay with him and try to aim for where you think the horse is going; mirroring the actions of the horse. If the horse stops then you need to stop too and reward no matter how far away you are. This is his first offer to be caught. Drop your body language, turn your body your eyes away – you might even walk away. You need to reward the horse for even the merest suggestion that he might be caught. If the horse walks away or starts to graze then you walk towards him again and continue in the same way. Most horses will offer to be caught after a short while but you must be prepared for the long haul.
It’s only in rare circumstances that I would push the horse to go faster or even do a Join-Up – most of the time just sticking with them works. If the horse gallops off to the other end of the field I’ll walk down there too. If there are other horses that are interfering by influencing your horse then you might want to ask if they can be taken out but otherwise I would just ignore them – quite often they will co-operate with you because they can see that you are focused on one particular animal.
For a really determined horse (particularly one in a big field), you need to be able to get the horse into a smaller secure section and then work in the same way. It might be worth using a smaller paddock for a while until the horse is being caught consistently.
I will do what works with a horse and if a little handful of food gets your horse to be more inclined to be caught then I would use it – you can always preface it with a click as in clicker training so that he never expects food without hearing a click first.
Horses that hate having a headcollar on
If I have a pony that is worried about having a head collar on then I might put one head collar on over another and then put it on and take it off over and over and over again until the pony feels relaxed about it. It’s also worth considering whether clicker training would help to create a pleasant association with the headcollar.