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Horsemanship - Catching Your Horse

Updated on March 8, 2019
Msmillar profile image

Since I was a little girl, my passion has been horses and writing. I'm learning and sharing everything I know with you here. Happy trails!


Training Your Horse to Come

When you go to collect your horse in the pasture does she/he run off? Do you hide the halter behind your back while offering a carrot of good will?

I don't chase my horses. I whistle and they come running like mad! When my horses come running it puts such a positive spin on the whole "haltering in the pasture" scenario that I feel its important for you to learn how to teach your horse to come when called as well.

Don't worry if you keep your horse at pasture with other horses. I've had fantastic results when my horse was living in a herd.

The training technique I'm going to explain should be started when the horse is young if possible. You'll get a better response if you start them young. With any training technique, starting at foal is far more beneficial than starting as an adult. But don't let that stop you from teaching your teenage or senior horse the "come when I call" response! The main difference you would notice is your horse may walk instead of run to you, anything is better than you going out and chasing it for an hour! Let's get started!

Time to Feed!

If you're consistent about the time you feed when you go out you'll notice that your horse or the herd comes to eat, or they're already there waiting for you to feed them. Horses have an innate ability to tell time. Feeding time is one of their favorites! Every time you go to feed your horse call their name or whistle. I can whistle super loud so I whistle. Even if your horse is standing right there in front of you, call out their name and then toss them their hay. Make an effort go out and call your horse when you know he/she will be a good distance out. Even if that means feeding fifteen minutes earlier. When they see you, they'll know food is coming and they'll start in your direction, call/whistle several times as they come to eat.

Rewards are Good

After about a week of doing this wait a few minutes after calling them before throwing their hay. When you can go out and your horse raises its head or begins walking your way after you call/whistle its time to move to the next step.

Have a reward like a carrot or apple in hand. Sometime during the day take the reward out and call/whistle to your horse. By this time the horse should turn and start walking towards you when you whistle/call to them. When they get to you, give them the reward. To this day I always take something with me when collecting my horse. I appreciate that they come to me and I thank them by giving them a reward they like. Some people don't believe in rewarding a horse, they believe the horse is a servant and he/she should obey regardless. The one person that rode my horses with that attitude found himself chasing my horses after merely a week of this attitude he un-trained them to come. It took less than a week for me to restore it but what an unnecessary set-back.

A Couple of Weeks Will Do the Trick

If your horse is pastured with other horses the training goes even faster. What you want to do in this situation is give the reward to whomever shows up first. Horses have a natural tendency to be competitive. When there is more than one horse in a pasture one will be alpha mare, or number one mare. It doesn't matter, they will compete. After you begin the call/whistle, you'll notice the horses all realize "there's a treat to be had!". Soon when you call/whistle for your horse they will ALL come. That's OK because they have that inborn competitive nature they try to beat each other to the hay. When I'm teaching this technique with a herd I have a carrot or apple that I give to whomever shows up first, my horse or otherwise. The competition to get to the reward first can be scary if you're the one holding the reward, so you may want to stand behind a fence when they all come running.

After a couple of weeks you will be able to go out at anytime of the day and whistle/call for your horse and he/she will come to you.

Good Job, You've trained your horse to come.

One of THOSE days

Once in a while you'll go out to get your horse and your horse doesn't feel like coming to you. When this happens I will stomp or swing my halter aggressively at my horse to make her move out even more. If you're trying to approach and your horse keeps walkin just out of reach, they are doing this on purpose, they know what you want and they're not in the mood to comply. Swing your halter out and make your horse move away. Continue swinging the halter or stomping to keep your horse moving.

Watch the still shot video to see when my mare wouldn't come in to me and how I pushed her away until she changed her mind.

If you're doing it right:

  • Your horse will be running, head up high, with a definite spring in their step.
  • After a few minutes of this your horse will begin to lower its head and turn an ear toward you.
  • Further pushing and halter swinging, your horse will lower their head even more and begin "licking" as if he/she is eating and their pace will have slowed down.
  • The spring in their step will be gone or reduced. Continue pushing and halter swinging.
  • Soon the head will be down at shoulder level or lower, lots of licking and your horse will resist running when you swing the halter or stomp.
  • At this point drop the halter, this gives your horse the sense that it's safe to come in to you, and call/whistle to him.
  • If your horse doesn't immediately turn to you and begin walking toward you, swing the halter, stomp and push him away again until he does turn and come.

This can take a maximum of ten maybe fifteen minutes. A word of wisdom: This technique does not work when you're dealing with a herd. You'll just have a bunch of horses running all over the place!

Pushing Out Technique

The pushing your horse away technique works on the theory that a horse is herd bound. You are the herd and you're pushing them out, like the alpha mare does to an unruly foal in the wild. Your horse desperately wants to be part of the herd, you. So after you push him out he wants to get back in (even though it was he/she that resisted in the first place). If you're dealing with a herd this doesn't work because he has all his friends to run around with and be a herd with, not you, so use the method explained at the top of this hub.

Every technique you train your horse to do is all a matter of time and repetition. Take your time and repeat the lesson over and over.

I hope this helped! Happy Trails to You!!


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