Monday, January 09, 2017

Catching horses

In the previous entry, I addressed the fact that the electric fence was down and we needed to move the horses away from where they were, which was with the calves, eating their expensive feed and hay.  Cliff's method is to chase the horses from one place to another, using an off-road vehicle if necessary, to guide them along.  That's a process that can be fun for the horses, who consider it a game, and frustrating for the people chasing them.

My methods are those I learned from books written by Mark Rashid that I stumbled onto when I first bought Blue, "Considering the Horse".  Blue hadn't been ridden much for a few years, but he was gentle and quiet when I tried him out before buying him.  Once we got him home and bought a saddle, I rode him around the place a few times.  After perhaps half-a-dozen rides, he began running from me when I went to put a halter on him; he had figured out that a halter meant he was going to have to work.  

There's nothing more frustrating than a horse that runs away when you're wanting to ride.  

He was in a smallish lot, so he didn't have far to run, but he could certainly stay out of my reach.  I'd started reading Mark Rashid's book and saw a suggestion that it might be good to spend time with your horse when you aren't trying to put him to work.  So I got a lawn chair, took my book outside, and sat in Blue's pen to read.  It wasn't long before he was easing closer and closer to me, and soon he was by my side letting me scratch his neck.  Next time I went out I took the rope and halter.  When he came up to me, I rubbed his neck with the halter.  Soon we were great friends, but he still had a tendency to run if he thought he was going to have to work.  Because it wasn't a big pen, he didn't have far to run.  When he'd take off I'd start swinging the end of the rope and making a hissing sound to keep him running.  Soon he'd tire of this, slow to a stop, and let me walk up to him with the halter.  I felt like a regular horse whisperer.  

Blue, shortly after I got him, with granddaughter Natalie, 2004.
Here's what I learned from Mark's books that allows me to catch most any horse (I'm not talking about wild mustangs... I don't break horses!):  Do not approach a horse from the front, and don't make eye contact.  Approach him from the side, slowly, still not looking at him.  If he starts to move away, stand still, or even retreat.  Silly as it sounds, once the horse is pretty close to you, give a deep sigh every once in awhile.  I don't know why, but this seems to calm them.  Don't look directly at him though.  Now, if he'll let you, reach a closed hand to his neck and rub with your knuckles (You are not to "pat" a horse as you would a dog... they like a rubbing motion).  Usually after a little while doing this, you can put the rope over his neck and put the halter on.  

I gave my cousin, who is not a horse person, one of the many Mark Rashid books I used to own, and she said, "That book isn't only about horses, it's about people, too."  

So true.  Mark's books aren't filled with boring rules and instructions.  He tells stories to illustrate his points, and the stories would hold anybody's interest.  And, as Betty said, you learn some things about people, as well as horses.  My favorites were "Horses Never Lie" and "A Good Horse is Never a Bad Color".

I can't break and train a wild horse.  I may not know a lot about horse anatomy and diseases.  But if you have a horse you like to ride, and he always runs from you, I can probably get a halter on him.  Unless his name is 'Tude.  There's an exception to every rule, isn't there?  Actually, I did catch 'Tude once after his master had chased him for an hour, but it wasn't as easy as what I've described above.  'Tude is a professional work-dodger, and when he used to be with the herd, he'd see to it that you didn't catch any other horses either, by keeping them all running with him.  Now that he's in solitary in a smaller pen, Adam has no problem catching him; he seems to know there's no hope of getting away.

I am so thankful to Mark Rashid for teaching me enough about horses so that I was able to have a genuine friendship with my last horse, Blue.

Oh, and we used my method yesterday to get the horses where we wanted them.  I put a halter on one of the mares, led her out, and the others followed.  Yes, it was that easy.  


Mary Degli Esposti said...

Your method does meet with good results, but I do rather like the idea of horses having fun while human beings are least much more than humans having fun at the expense of frustrated horses.

Blue is so very beautiful. The grandchild's ok too ;o.


Blue looks sweet and is missed I know. Your cousin was a wise woman about the book saying, "That book isn't only about horses, it's about people, too."