In June I moved my cob, Belle, to a field with 3 other
ponies. She settled down very quickly and is very
happy there. She has been a bit tricky to catch
from time to time but never too bad (usually just a
couple of minutes then she would stand still and let me
approach her), and she was actually improving. However
last week a new horse joined the herd and she has now
decided that she prefers this new horse from her
previous best friend, and she hates being separated from
her. It started off with her being very reluctant
to leave the area where the others were grazing and me
almost having to drag her out of the field. She
has also been rushing home on hacks (a habit which I was
just beginning to stamp out before). She has now
decided that the best way to avoid being separated from
her new friend is not to let me catch her in the first
place. Yesterday it took me about 10 minutes to
catch her, today it took me 45 minutes in the pouring
rain. Once I have started trying to catch her I
will not give up, she is very strong willed and to give
up once I am sure would mean she is twice as determined
next time. If she moves away I follow her (only at
a walk) and when she stops I approach her, she then
moves away again, sometimes at a walk, sometimes flat
out. I don't give in or let her stop near her new
best friend, or stop and put her head down to graze.
She is in a big field (currently about 4 or 5
acres) so it is a long way to walk. Cutting their
grazing down is not an option, and separating her from
the others would not solve the problem properly. I
take a treat into the field with me to catch her but
never a bucket (I would get mugged by the others!).
She doesn't get a feed at the moment, but is not
ridden every time she is caught.
Tonight I have left a headcollar on her (which I do not
want to have to do too often or for too long) and
tomorrow I intend to go down there in riding clothes
(she is not thick - she knows the difference between
jodhs and jeans!), I aim to catch her, feed her a
treat, let her go, then after doing this a few times I
want to catch her, lead her away from the others, give
her a treat, let her go. Then I aim to get her out
of the gate, and give her a few apples in a bucket (out
of sight of the others to avoid jealousy!) then let her
go back, but not actually ride.
Has anyone got any suggestions or advice to improve on
this plan and hints to make my horse decide I am a nice
person to be with again and realise that she will be
returned to her equine friends every time I take her out
without needing to hurry? I don't have the time to
spend 45 mins trying to catch her every time I want to
ride her, and quite frankly I don't have the patience
either! Even if it wasn't raining tonight I
wouldn't have ridden her after spending that long
catching her as I was getting to the end of my tether!
I am a big believer in 'walking em down' and, as you
say, once you start you MUST finish!
However, try a slightly different approach (literally) -
the first couple of times you approach her and she moves
off, stop. She will move around in a circle and then
stop herself. Once you have established here 'mental
circle' you then need to use what is now called 'join
up'. Basically, as she moves round her circle, you move
on an inner on, keeping your eye fixed on her. Try to
get her to change the rein a couple of times by stepping
towards the outer 'track' in front of her. Yes, you are
actually sending her round this area, away from you,
working her. Eventually (!!!) you should see the
response aimed for during 'join up' - dropping the nose,
licking and chewing etc. When this happens, break the
eye contact and turn your body away from her slightly.
Then, VERY SLOWLY, approach her, without making eye
contact. If she steps away from you, send her away again
and repeat the whole procedure.
Yes, this can be tedious but it does work. I am now the
only one on the yard who can catch my grandson's
shetland - and all I have to do now is walk into the
field and wait for her to come to me - irrespective of
what horses are out there.
Once she has let you catch her, make a big fuss, give
her your titbits and then walk away. 'Sending her away'
is an equine punishment. When she has responded to this,
don't ask her too much at once. Go back the next day, work
her in the same way and maybe see if she will
go to the next stage - to follow you towards the gate.
Another method that often works is 'jealousy'. Walk into
the field and feed a treat to the first horse you come
to - ignore yours. Go to each horse in turn and wait
until yours comes and asks before casually slipping a
treat into her mouth and then ignoring her again.
However, a lot of horses 'suss it out' fairly quickly so
it's not always successful.
Catching her pal first is a further option.
You need to in effect perform join-up over - it's just
that it's over a wider area so much more walking.
Once started, don't stop until you achieve your aim.
One thing I would say, is don't always bring her in. Try
just walking her away from her friend and make a big
fuss of her when she willing goes with you then release
You could also try doing this and then encouraging her
to mutually groom with you. I find this works really
well as once you achieve this the horse will often then
follow and ask for more, or you are in the field and
ignore them, they will come and subtly ask to be
I have one youngster that loves a bum scratch. He comes
over and asks by presenting me with his back end once
chewing to shows his friendly intentions.
Watch her with her new friend and try to see where she
loves to be groomed or scratched and use this as her
reward rather than food.
When you do bring her out of the field, again encourage
her to see you as a partner to groom with and have some
Try changing your routine around to include some new
things to do from the ground such as Parelli games,
groundwork, line-driving, long-reining etc. rather than
just ridden or lunge work. With time she should settle .
read any of my books on problem horses, I really should
teach her to read, it will save us a lot of hassle
I went down to see her this morning and caught her
without too much bother. However she is now
getting wound up if she is away from the others. I
can lead her out of the field but unless the others
follow she gets upset. I tried tying her up to the
rail near the gate where we always tie up and groom, but
as soon as the others wandered out of sight she got in a
flap. I spent about an hour and a half this
morning catching her, leading her out of the field, then
letting her back in again. Every time I let her
back in she headed towards the others flat out (jumping
patches of nettles on the way!). She has never
been like this before, she used to just amble back to
see the others in her own time. I fed her lots of
apples when out of sight of the others, but I can't
persuade her that it is OK to be away from the others
and it can be fun. I am getting concerned that her
behaviour may lead to something like napping, she does
have a nappy streak in her and I have had the odd battle
of wills in the past.
Have you spoken the the other horse's owner ?
It sounds as though your mare is being insecure and has
found a new friend that is outgoing and confident so is
clinging to him as a comfort zone.
What does she do when he's removed from the field ?
If she is frantic, you could try working with her then
so that she sees you as her alternative safety net.
If you can, try getting together with the other owner
and try working on a similar basis to that of a foal
that is being weaned from mum with your mare being
You could also work this into your ridden work too.
Treat her as a youngster that needs to learn confidence
in making her own decisions.
Start by hacking out with another (or this gelding),
then proceed onto alternating leads and then build this
up to moving further and further apart.
Once you have achieved this, try taking her on her own
and meeting up with another to give her the incentive to
go out and not rush home.
Then start to reverse the above and then mix and match
so that she cannot predict what you are doing .
Once happy with this, get some help and long-rein out so
that she looks to you and the helper for guidance before
then starting to hack her out on her own.
It is very
frustrating. The owner of the new horse realises I
am having problems but doesn't seem to see the scale of
them. If I wait for her before I can do anything
with Belle then to be perfectly honest Belle will be a
pensioner by the time we are going out again.
Belle is 14 years old and has hacked out alone countless
times with no huge problems. She used to rush
towards home a bit when I first moved her to the field
she lives in now, but we had got that under control and
up until the new horse moved in she was only reverting
to rushing when fresh, or when it was windy. Now I
can hack her out, but she will rush home. She is
not napping yet but I am concerned that it will turn
into napping. She is also happy to hack out with
any of the other horses and will go in front or behind
with no problems (though occasionally she gets a bit mischievous
when asked to go behind and invents monsters
). We are very much on our own when it comes to
hacking as I am the only person there who hacks out much
so I could be waiting months for someone to come with
I have only been around when the new horse was removed
from the field once. Belle did get a bit concerned
at first but then returned to the others to graze quite
I am just hoping that she will realise soon that the new
horse is here to stay and that she doesn't have to
panic, at the moment I don't feel that I can do anything
with her alone as I can't even tie her up to groom her.
It is a huge disappointment when I thought I had
got so far with her.