"Catching your horse" does NOT mean tricking it with a bucket of grain.

It does not mean having to hide the lead rope and halter as you approach your horse. It does not mean trapping him in a corner. It DOES mean being able to call to your horse, and have him come to you willingly.

At the very least, it means your horse will allow you to approach, halter and lead him/her without resistance.

This is the goal of teaching a horse to be caught. You are not catching the horse - the horse is really catching you!

How to get there? I've found that the "join-up" (Monty Roberts copyrighted term) or "Hooking On" (old cowboy term) part of working in the round pen using traditional horsemanship -  lots of it - does wonders. (And no - no one trainer holds an Exclusive on traditional horsemanship, depsite what many will try to tell you)

Start in a small enclosed space, and gradually expand the range from which your horse will come to you when called. Do not expect him/her to come to you from the far end of a 20 acre pasture ! Set it up for success - until your horse is very solid on coming when called, don't put yourself in a position where the horse is out of range and you need to call him!

Horses who are hard to catch can be taught that it's better to be caught than not - by your taking on the role of the new herd boss: MOVE THEIR FEET! Say, okay, you don't want to come to me, that's okay. But since you don't want to do that, you need to do this: Go Away. Chase him off, then offer him to come in again. If he still won't stand still, chase him off again. Repeat as many times as you need to, but he will eventually decide that he'd rather come to you than continue with this game. It seems strange that you can get a horse to come to you by driving it off, but it works!

Take time to develop this skill in STAGES:

First, teach your horse to come willingly to you in a small space, such as a small paddock or round pen.

Gradually increase the distance:

  •  to a small field
  •  then a medium sized one
  • and finally, a large pasture.

The same principals apply to catching a horse in a large field, but in that case, you will need to be physically fit, and be prepared to expend a fair amount of energy.

If you don't have the time or desire to do that much running, bring your horse into a smaller enclosure before needing to catch him/her.



Here are the same principals of "catching" applied to a wild horse:

This video shows Piney when he was very wild, and at the very earliest stages of connecting, "hooking on", "joining up" - learning to come in to eventually be caught. 

Here he has progressed a little further, allowing some touching. If I had it to do again I would sure be quieter with that whip! But the amazing thing is that even though I was being a bit too heavy-handed, he was willing to work with me and he did progress. Horses are usually resilient and to some extent, forgiving.

1. Move his feet. Getting the horse to move freely and easily, without being too frantic and jumpy, is one of the most important things you can do at this stage. Stop to offer periodic breaks, when you ask the horse to face you.

2. Offer him to "come." In the case of a wild horse, he isn't ready to actually come to you, but at this stage you just want him to look at you. Stop, step back, reward him.

3. Ask again. Reward if he looks at you. If he doesn't, or if he only maintains the glance for a second,  ask him to move for a few laps, then ask again for a look. If he does, stop and reward for a longer time. That may be a good stopping place for that session.

4. If you want to continue the session (or if starting a new session) ask for more movement, followed by another request to look at you. This level of request and response can go on for a few days. Don't be discouraged if it seems you are stuck at the looking stage. It takes time for the horse to process fully that he can face you without being threatened. Be patient, and reward each time there is a positive response. Always quit on a positive.

5. The time will come when the horse will turn its whole body toward you. This is called "facing up." Always reward this by stopping your "pressure" and praising him.

6. The time will also come when the horse will take a few steps toward you, and even follow you if you walk away.

7. Once the horse starts coming close enough to allow contact, keep repeating the same process as described above. It won't be long before the horse will come right up to you.

8. At this point the horse can be haltered and a lead rope attached to begin teaching ground skills.


Here is a quick video clip showing Piney's first haltering and beginning to lead.

Horse Psychology 101
Pressure and Release

Just Spend Time
Bamboo Pole Method of Gentling
Desensitizing, Rope and Flag Work
Clicker Training & Related Operant Conditioning
       and Positive Reinforcement Training
Get Professional Help
Case Sudies
Video Examples
Adventures of a Volunteer Halter Trainer
Raising Orphan Foals
Basic Ground Work:
Leading and Standing Still
Respecting Your Space
Backing up
Forward Movement
Shoulder & Hindquarter Control
Trailer Loading
Working With Feet