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Can’t catch me!

July 7, 2014

Rain and Chance happy in their enclosure

I’ve been getting my Morab gelding, Chance, going this summer. He’s a great horse, but a little wary of humans and sometimes defensive. He is extremely obedient, but sometimes the pressure can be a little much for him. I’ve taught him to catch ME and if we’re in an enclosed space (round pen, even a large arena) he does great. This past weekend, he went to his first endurance race in Wyoming. Everything was going pretty well until he got out of the enclosure and decided he didn’t want to catch me so much. Oh boy!

It was 5:30am and I woke up to Rain’s call – she does a very specific call when there’s trouble or she’s getting anxious. I’ve had her for 10 years and I know all the different sounds and what they mean. I popped up and looked out the window to see Chance on the outside of the enclosure. Dang it! I immediately knew this was going to be a challenge.

The horse women next to me saw that he was out and wanted to offer a hand. I appreciated that, but I knew that extra people would cause more pressure and catching would be even harder. Also, the 50-mile racers would be leaving by 6am. I had a terrible thought of that group riding off and Chance wanting to follow that herd. That could spell disaster in a heartbeat! There were 75 or more trailers parked at the camp site with horses at each one, and I had a vision of Chance visiting other horses or bothering other people or picking up speed and racing through camp, knocking other enclosures down or causing other horses to panic. I had to act fast.

So, I came up with the plan to halter Rain and lead her off into the pasture next to us. We were on a ranch with thousands of acres and there was plenty of room for me to take the horses off and get Chance calm enough to catch me. I had Rain and I knew Chance would follow us. I asked him to catch me and he said, “NO!”. Dang it, again! He learned this negative behavior before he came to me. We’ve made nice progress, but I was kicking myself in this moment for not developing our relationship enough for this to be a non-issue. I promised myself to make this a top priority after the endurance event.

Still, I had a horse to get haltered. So, I walked Rain out into the pasture. After about 50 feet, I asked him again to catch me. He replied again, “NO!”. Hmm… I could see the 50-milers gathering to leave, getting their trail instructions from the ride manager. I had to remain calm so Chance wouldn’t feed off any nervous energy from me. I decided to walk again, another 100 yards or so.

The grass was so tall, sometimes up to my hip. The horses could eat and not even need to lower their heads. I tried again, got a negative response, decided to keep walking. Luckily, Chance kept choosing to stay with Rain versus going to camp to potentially wreak havoc. We crossed some water. (I was not dressed properly or wearing the right shoes for this little field adventure!) Still, he leaped the water and stayed with us. We were about 300 yards away from camp now and I felt good that we had our own little situation and neither the endurance riders leaving nor the horses at camp would be an issue.

We made it to a fence line. I thought that perhaps, if he had only a half-circle around Rain to make, he would think to me a little more quickly. I hesitantly tied Rain to a t-post at the fence line and started playing the catching game. He walked away from me, I stayed quietly at his rear and he quickly looked at me and connected. I took pressure off and he disconnected. OK, a deep breath, and back to his rear. This time he connected and followed me as I took pressure off by backing away. I began to pet him, I gave him a cookie to reinforce his thoughts of connection and pulled the halter out of my pocket.

At this point, I felt good. We’d practiced so much with this part, that I knew once he’d connected with me we’d be ok. When I had first gone to halter him at the trailer, he was not offering a connection at all. We were in much better shape now. I haltered him, rubbed him, stood with him a bit, then attached the lead rope and we walked back.

Chance and I enjoying a break from the trail

Chance and I enjoying a break from the trail

Thank you to natural horsemanship and the great horsemen of this natural movement, I knew what to do and saved my horse from causing a lot of trouble. The women next to me who’d offered to help thought that I had chased him all that way. They didn’t understand that I was taking him to a place where he and I could have a discussion. They were the type to yell and cuss at their horses and they were completely prepared to try to corner my horse when they first saw he’d escaped.

I’m so glad I was able to have a calm experience for him catching me in such a large space, and that I stuck to my good horsemanship principles to nip this situation in the bud. He’s better for it, but so am I. Take care of your horsemanship and your horsemanship will take care of you. We’ll get this developed much more at home, growing the space for the game as he gains confidence in me as his leader and in being a partner with me.

All told, it took about 30 minutes from noticing he had escaped to having him safely tied to the trailer. Maybe cornering him with help would have been faster, but what would he have learned?

  1. Alice Corbett permalink

    Great post! If the other riders could have seen the whole thing, it might have influenced their philosophy…at least, given them something to think about! 🙂 So glad you and Chance had a happy ending.

    • Thanks, Alice! Our time together today was very peaceful and he was happy to catch me as soon as I showed up. I’d say that’s progress. 🙂 More to come…

  2. I love you for sharing this experience. All animals I think would prefer establishing a connection with humans rather than being frightened into submission by humans.

    • Thank you! The horses continue to teach me a better way. I’m really glad you read and digest my posts, means a lot to me.

  3. Lynn J permalink

    Great job Tia- it was great to see you , Chance, and family on the trail this weekend!

  4. Chancellor permalink

    Nicely done! Having the know how, and the patience to do the right thing, the right way isn’t always obvious to others.

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