Hard to Catch Update: ...fixed?

I never thought I'd write this blog post!

I've spent so much time staring at this horse trotting circles around me in the field.  Literally from the first week I owned him, when we had to trap him with gate panels to catch him for my first lesson on him with my trainer.  Which we were late to.  Nothing like a great first impression.

Photo by my mom

He's been hard to catch since way before I owned him, and over the years, there's nothing that we or his previous owners haven't tried.  The only things that worked were putting him in solo turnout or bringing in all the horses he was turned out with before bringing him in.

It's not like it's been pleasant for him either.  He's been left outside on Christmas Eve, in sleet, and in thunderstorms because the barn staff could. not. catch him.  After hours of effort in at least one case.

Even a heavy blanket on a warm day (that I was trying to catch him to remove) didn't deter him.

At the old barn, we eventually put him in solo turnout and gave up.  I did make an effort at the new barn though.

I worked on it when I knew I'd have enough time to see it through no matter how long it took.  And I never rode him after I haltered him, even if I really wanted to.  Just caught him, gave him some cookies, took the halter off and walked away from him before he could walk away from me.  Sometimes I groomed him with his favorite curry while he was loose in the pasture too.

I noticed something - he stood like a statue when I walked up to him from the front, straight at his head - you know, like you're not supposed to do.  Approach from any other part of his body and he was off like a rocket.  Armed with that knowledge, we worked on it all summer.

New BO: "You really can't catch him?!  You're so close to him!"
It was music to my ears when I got back from Vegas and my trainer said he'd been "100% on catching" all week as she caught him to ride him.  She gave him some chill time in his stall between catching and riding so he didn't associate catching directly with riding.

Maybe we're done with this?  Maybe?  Photo by my mom.

Am I going to call it completely fixed?  Heck no, it's horses.  He's always going to be quirky, and I need to continue to mix it up when I head out into the field.  But it's reasonably fixed, for these four reasons:

1. He's happier at the new barn in general.
2. He's happier under saddle since I learned how to ride this summer.
3. He prefers me walking straight at his head than his shoulder. #connorthings
4. I've been able to associate catching with cookies, his favorite rubber curry, and scratches instead of just riding.

Oh and probably #5: he hates his muzzle, hahaha.  Poor guy.

19 comments:

  1. Yeah for getting easy to catch! I am thankful Ffergie did not inherit that one particular trait :)

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  2. That is such a great break through. Irish does better too if you walk at him more directly. Irish will also check out what I'm wearing when I'm walking to the barn and if he sees riding pants he will leave the barn and head to the farthest part of the field. He doesn't run away from there, I think he just likes to make me work for it.

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    1. Ha! Irish sounds like one smart dude. Thankfully Connor hasn't caught on to that yet!

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  3. I was just thinking about this the other day and wondering how it was going -- sounds like you've had some major breakthroughs!! 😁

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    1. Awww, thanks for thinking of us. Slow and steady progress!

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  4. As someone who spent years with a horse that was intermittently hard to catch, I respect the effort and heartache you've put into this. Godspeed.

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    1. I know you understand, it means a lot. Thanks for the support.

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  5. We had one that was easy so long as you came up to him from the wrong side. Hater, or add a lead, then you could do what you needed. He was definitely quirky.

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    1. Lol! Funny how they each have their own "things".

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  6. Replies
    1. Oh man, VERY, especially now that they're on day turnout.

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  7. Cash was horribly hard to catch for YEARS. Like you, I eventually broke the habit by catching him and NOT always riding him. It requires a lot of patience tho, and really helps if your barn is close so you can just go grab him in the pasture at lunch, stuff him full of carrots, and let him go again. Glad it's a thing of the past! (we hope)

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    1. Yes! So glad to know we're not alone. Yeah, breaking the catching = riding association seemed to really be the thing that fixed it. He made a couple of half hearted attempts to run early in the summer but the more I didn't ride him after catching him the more it dwindled. I've just been hedging my bets on writing this blog post, waiting til I really felt secure about it!

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  8. Whatever works!! :) Hoping it stays in the past.

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    1. Me, and my trainer, and my farrier, and the barn help, everyone on the planet too :)

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  9. Yay!! So glad to hear that he's been better. It's so frustrating when they decide they don't want to be caught :(

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