Monty’s Answer: Thank you for sending this question as it is asked quite often. People regularly hear me say, “Don’t catch your horse; let your horse catch you.” I would like to address your question assuming that you understand the basic tenets of Join-Up and you have exhausted the use of these basic concepts of doing a pasture Join-Up® and allowing your horse to trust and “catch you”. I will assume that you are correct in your assessment that the horse is remedial for this issue.
You might have noticed that the other horse who is easy to catch is growing even easier as you ignore him/her while chasing down your gelding. I would like you to set aside some time when you can work for perhaps two hours or even more. I don’t want you to feel rushed or under pressure for any reason. Rushing may have caused the problem in the first place. I need you to create a small enclosure area within your pasture or use a field that has a small catch pen.
Place a very small amount of food like a hand full of grain or a bite of hay into the far corner of this small area within the field. When you enter the field to catch him, I would like you to live by the language of Equus and the concepts of Join-Up®. If you enter passively, fingers closed, equipment quiet and eyes averted, your horse should come to you when you invite him. If he moves away from you, send him away by deliberately fixing your eyes on your horse’s eyes, meaning ‘go away’ in his language.
In this way, drive him to the small enclosure. Once he has found this “sweet spot” inside the enclosure, stroke his neck and head and make that small area a safe and happy place to be. Halter him and lead him out of the small area. Take him to the middle of the pasture, remove the halter and walk away assuming he will follow you. If he follows, walk in arcs and allow him to see you as a leader and a place of safety. Use a lot more of the rubbing in that position.
If he leaves you, again square your shoulders on him, eyes on eyes again, pushing him away with the language of your body. Repeat this entire process until the enclosure, and you in it, become a safe and relaxed place to be. Again rub him on the head between his eyes and on his neck and withers so he may learn to trust that you will not cause him pain. After spending 5-10 minutes in the enclosure, once again lead to the middle of the field giving him another chance to stay with you.
As the days go by, try not to make a big deal out of this catching business. Simply conduct this process and one will see that there will be a reduced time until that day when you arrive and he begins to follow you to the small enclosure. It is at that point in time that one should begin to put the rope around his neck, out in the field. Lead him for a short distance, take the rope off, walk with him toward the small enclosure, give him his handful of grain, and a good rubbing.
Soon there will be a day when the small pen is simply not necessary and you will begin to put the rope around his neck in the field and lead him for a minute. Take the lead off and leave him with a cup of grain while you rub and stroke him. Then start the process of haltering which may set him off again but with the rope around the neck one can begin to expect no problem from catching. He should then stand for putting the halter on several times before leaving the field.
One should always remember that it is a good idea to catch these kinds of horses when you don’t have a hard day’s work for them. Often we should simply catch the horse, rub and stroke him and then simply turn him loose for the day. If we reserve our catching only for those days when there is a hard ride ahead one can easily see how this would become a problem by which the horse surmises that being caught is a bad thing and not a good thing.
Please keep us informed of the progress or lack thereof. We need a good result in order to share these procedures with other owners of horses difficult to catch. Who knows? You may very well come up with some unique idea that will pass the test of being non-violent which can be added to my scenario for the next owner plagued by the same issue. We should always be diligent to observe our horses closely and watch for the tiniest opportunity to meet their needs.