It’s Not About Being Caught, It’s About Feeling Good Being Caught

When a horse has learned how to avoid and escape, teaching them usually entails them trying what works for a while. They’ll try what always works, and when those things don’t work, they may try them harder. You might think they’re being stubborn, obstinate, impossible to teach, etc, but they are doing exactly what they’ve been taught. It takes significantly more time to teach a horse something new when they have very ingrained habits of avoidance.

This horse probably has never felt good about being caught. He’s been roped to get caught, given treats to be caught, cornered to be caught, but never caught with him feeling good and participating. After many years of this, he’s both nervous about the whole ordeal but has very set ideas about how it should go.

He’ll let me approach the left side of his neck, but the worry causes him to turn his head to the right. When I ask him to draw toward me, he feels very worried, and tries to put me back where he’s the most comfortable.

Today, we’ve worked on just getting him to think about being caught a little differently. I asked him to draw and relax with me in some scary spots. He did really well, and was feeling a whole lot better about being caught by the time we were done.

Sometimes, it takes more repetitions of a good thing than the bad things – and for horses with a long history of bad experiences, that can take some time.

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