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How to catch a horse in the field

Updated on July 14, 2010


Horses that are kept out in a field or pasture will need to be brought in when they are ridden, shod, groomed - or for many other things. But this can sometimes be a problem if the horse doesn't want to come inside.

This is a common problem for anybody who owns a horse or who has worked with them. It can be frustrating and time-consuming. But the good news is that the problem can be easily overcome.

Firstly, lets look at the terminology. People often talk about ''cathing'' a horse when it's out in the field. They say that they want to ''catch'' the animal. Catching is what a predator does to its prey - and that's not the kind of relationship anybody wants to be having with their horse. A horse is a prey animal that has developed natural instincts over thousands of years to evade predators who want to catch them. So is it any surprise that your horse runs away when you go into the field to catch him? No, of course not. So first of all, change your terminology. Say you're bringing in your animal or leading them in.It's a much friendlier term.

Now, horses that wont come in can be a deeper problem that requires several weeks of work and patience - and that's what every horse owner should be aiming for. But there are a number of quick fixes that will help to bring your horse in.

Quick fixes

The oldest trick in the book is to lure your four-legged friend over to you with a bucket of feed then grab with a lead rope or head collar. This works sometimes - and other times the horse won't even come close to the feed if they suspect they're going to be taken in. Whatever the result, this is only really like a temporary plaster and longer term work is needed to change your own behaviour and that of the horse's .

Medium term fixes

Before you walk into the field take a few moments to relax. Take deep breaths and release any stresses and tension from your body. Lower your energy. Try imagining that you have the lightness of a butterfly or you're walking a hundreds of miles through a heavy snowstorm with weeks to go before you reach home. These technique will help to put you in a relaxed state of mind and body. Horses can sense a persons energy and if somebody is hot-headed and frantic they're likely to move away from them. People who're having symptoms of stress should see if there are other areas of their life that could be changed to make things easier.

Approach the horse slowly and walk in a zig-zag motion. Keep your head lowered and approach side on. This is more friendly than walking straight at your horse with your body square. This kind of body language is threatening at the horse may feel intimidated and run away. Also, try walking alongside the horse then turn away and return. Touch them softly, walk away then return. This is the kind of natural bonding that horses will do in the wild and it helps to establish a calm, trusting relationship.

If the two methods above have failed, and the horse continues to move away, then it's time for the next step. As the horse walks away from walk towards them with a slightly higher energy and ask for trot. The horse should trot away. Let them stop and do the same thing again. Ideally, you want the horse to be working around you as if they're on a lunge rope. The idea is to put you back in control of the situation. So rather than being led on a merry dance around the field following the horse you are now telling him what to do. See what's going on? Simply reversing the balance of power in the relationship.

After getting the horse to trot they may still be reluctant to come in. If that's the case then raise your energy even more ask for canter when you approach them. The horse may gallop away, jump, rear, kick, buck and bronc as they run away. Keep calm, and repeat this until they remain still when you approach them. In all likelihood, they cannot keep running all day and night to eventually they will need to stop for a breather. At this point, you can grab them to lead them in.

The most important point is to remember to praise the horse when they accept the rope to be lead in. Reward their good behaviour and they will more willing to be taken in in the future.

Long term fixes

Now it may be that you have a difficult or troubled horse that doesn't want to be ridden. If that's the case then there are deeper issues that may need to be explored with different approaches and therapies. To help, you can do everything you can to change the horse's attitude to being ridden.

It may be that the horse doesn't enjoy being ridden. In this situation it's important for the rider to look at themselves and their riding style. Are they gentle with the animal - or are they harsh and unforgiving? The rider should aim for an approach that is firm but gentle and encourages a trusting and rewarding relationship with the animal.

Make a habit of bringing the horse in to be groomed, to chat the them, to massage them - generally spending quality time with them. This shows the horse that they are not just being taken in to be worked. Hopefully, after several weeks they will start to enjoy being taken in. At this point, they should come bounding to the gate every time somebody approaches their field!

A powerful herd of wild horses galloping free!


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    • profile image

      hopetoridehorses 5 years ago

      I am was wondering what type of horse to you recommend for a beginner rider? I have never ridden a horse before!! Going to this Summer of 2013!! I LOVE 1D!!!!!

    • profile image

      amyhaynes 5 years ago

      i just bought a Paso Fino Walker/Mare for the past few days i have been doing this and she still doesn't want to be caught and than when she gets close enough to me she will bite and kick..when i get frustrated i walk away and start over later..but i dont like the biting and kicking it drives me nutz!!!

    • amynichter profile image

      amynichter 6 years ago from Canton, Ohio

      Nice article! The ones that always get me, though, are the horses who are just plain mischievous and like to have fun with their owners by playing catch-me-if-you-can games. Typically the younger horses. It's always obvious that they're having the best time, too (the horses, not the owners).

    • Rickrideshorses profile image

      Rickrideshorses 6 years ago from England

      Hi Milly. Do your best to take care of the horse. The best tip I ever had was try to see things from the horse's point of view. Imagine that you are the horse - what would you be thinking or feeling? Good luck - pop back if you have any questions

    • profile image

      Milly 6 years ago

      I'm getting a horse on loan this summer I'm kinda nervous!! Any tips?!:)

    • Rickrideshorses profile image

      Rickrideshorses 6 years ago from England

      Hi Kristen, thanks for stopping by. Perhaps it is something to do with the way that he is being ridden. Does he have any undetected injuries that might be causing pain? Try wearing a dark hood, walk with your head to the ground very slowly, and get as close as you can to him. You might feel silly, but you could even try getting on all fours and nibbling the grass near him.

      Once you have brought him in check all over his body for tenderness and swelling. Also, try getting a friend to see if they can catch him.

    • profile image

      Kristen 6 years ago

      I have tried all of these things, and the horse still won't get caught. I have put the halter on just to bring them in, feed grain, and then take them back out. The horse was fine for a while, then he decided one day he doesn't want his halter on at all! I try a grain of bucket, he won't come near if he sees a halter. I have tried chasing, he rain and rain for 6 hours straight and didn't care how tired he got. Nothing bad has ever happened to him...I don't understand why he is dead set against putting on a halter! I don't know what to do!

    • Rickrideshorses profile image

      Rickrideshorses 7 years ago from England

      Thanks, Diana :D Glad it helped. I'll visit your hubs and return the compliment!

    • DTroth profile image

      Diana Owens 7 years ago from My Little Hole In The Wall, HubPages, USA

      Hi Rick,

      Great article. It helped remind me of a few things I had forgot about! Thank you for your very helpful advice and tips. I voted you up and gave you an awesome and a useful. You've earned it! (:

      Take care,


      I LOVE the wild horses picture!

    • Rickrideshorses profile image

      Rickrideshorses 7 years ago from England

      Thanks, Lady_E. Most horses are very gentle. It can be very relaxing and uplifting to massage and groom a horse.

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 7 years ago from London, UK

      Very interesting Hub and unique too. If a horse was gentle and didn't make those whining noises, I wouldn't mind massaging it. They seem friendly creatures.

    • Rickrideshorses profile image

      Rickrideshorses 7 years ago from England

      Nice plug for the website mcarthur76...

    • mcarthur76 profile image

      mcarthur76 7 years ago

      Check out the site called There is all kinds of helpful information. If you are on the email list you get a free video sent to you every few weeks. Some of it you have to pay for but there is a ton of free stuff also. You cant go wrong with free information, especially when its in the form of videos.


    • Rickrideshorses profile image

      Rickrideshorses 7 years ago from England

      Hey John B Badd, thanks for the feedback. Animal psychology is always really useful for understanding problems.

    • John B Badd profile image

      John B Badd 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Great hub. I do not ride but I like your animal psycology. Horses are majestic creatures and you seem to know a lot about them.

    • Rickrideshorses profile image

      Rickrideshorses 7 years ago from England

      Thanks for the positive feedback, Ann Lee. Glad you enjoyed the tips.

    • Ann Lee profile image

      Ann Lee 7 years ago

      These are great tips. I voted you up.