How do you catch a horse that doesn’t want to be caught? We all know how frustrating it can be to chase a horse around the pasture for an hour while he runs in circles. Would you love to have a horse that actually approaches you when you walk into the pasture? It’s easier than you may think.

Quick note: If you’re having trouble catching your horse, then there’s a high likelihood that you’re dealing with other problems too. I’m doing a free online training on the top 8 ways to screw up your horse where I’ll cover what most people do that hinders their horse’s confidence, willingness, and ability to learn. Highly recommended!

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Gimmicks People Use To Catch A Horse

One crutch people often use is to have a bucket full of feed in tow to entice the horse to come close enough to snag him. But what if your horse gets loose out in the open and you don’t have any feed nearby? What if he totally ignores you and takes off into parts unknown. It’s a nightmare we’ve all had.

Another gimmick is to try and sneak up on the horse like a predator and quickly toss the lead rope around his neck before he bolts away. This can be dangerous and is detrimental to establishing trust and respect.

Key Concept For Catching A Horse

Convince your horse that his evasion of being caught is unpleasant while simultaneously, your horse that being caught is a good feeling.

First, Prepare Your Horse To Be Caught

The place to actually start this process does not even involve catching your horse. Instead, it’s all about preparing your horse to be caught.

This begins by being particular about the way you approach the horse. If you approach from the front, and not from the back or side, he’ll feel less threatened.

As you approach from the front where they can see you with both eyes, watch for subtle changes in the horse. If he shows signs of feeling the need to run off, back up a step. Being able to ‘read’ the horse will make this go much faster.

If there are other horses in the pasture, ignore those and try to get them away from the one you want to catch. As you approach the horse from the front, if he turns his attention towards you, turn around and walk off. This decrease of pressure is his reward. You must be willing to walk away when he has a positive change.

If he turns tail and tries to run past you, be sure to step out in front of him and block his path. If he gets past you, keep the pressure on until he makes a change by attempting to stop and give you back his attention.

The Approach Continues

Approach the horse again, but don’t try to catch him. When he is not looking at you, keep walking towards him (pressure). When he turns to look at you, turn your back to him and walk a few steps away (reward). Gradually approach closer and closer using this same process. Never get so close that his instinct to run off kicks in. With good timing of your approach and retreat, the horse will realize that the way to decrease the pressure of your approach is to accept you. When he makes a change, you make a change. Any time he gets unsure, use your retreat as a reward for him to remain stationary.

Will He Follow?

At this point, you can move your body position right and left and see if the horse will follow you with his head. If he looks at anything else, make a gesture to bring his attention back to you. When he begins relaxing you could now step to him and pet him on the head. Don’t try to catch the horse yet. Pet him and back away. Gradually increase this process as well, adding in some rubbing of his face. At this time, you may have a small amount of control of his head and can use that advantage to keep him focused.

Do Not Catch Your Horse

Now when you walk away a few steps, he will likely follow you. Reward all positive changes. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t try to sneak the lead rope or halter on his neck to trap him. Continue petting and rubbing the head, keeping his attention on you. Now when you walk off, he will probably follow you in a relaxed manner. 

What Now?

The next time you go out to catch him, the process should be much faster. When you can skip all the other steps and go straight to the approach, you know he’s finally ready to be caught.

Once you catch and halter your horse, do this exercise to make sure he can yield to halter pressure and won’t pull back when tied: Pulling Back | The Ultimate Fix.

Carson James
Carson James

Carson James' background is in Vaquero Horsemanship, and for the majority of his career, he worked on cattle ranches where he rode horses all day, every day. His knowledge comes from real life experience using traditional Buckaroo horsemanship to train horses and fix problems. He is now taking all of this knowledge and experience and sharing it with horse owners through his blog, his Insider list, and his Buckaroo Crew. He has a unique way of breaking things down where they're easy to understand, both for the horse and the human.