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September 13, 2008

Walk Down

  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information



Can you explain the "walk down method " in more detail?

Our horse fits your example of "Can't catch". Recently purchased, she did well with numerous lessons and taking child through fair though we have ended up tricking her or spending 20 minutes in field trying to lure her. Disrespect and a bad habit? That's correct, and we need to nip this in the bud right now. Any advice is most appreciated. Thanks for your time.

Kathryn Hugill at ASAP


Hi Kathryn,

The Walk Down Method is described in detail on Cherry Hill's Horse Information Roundup under Ground Training under an article titled "Catching". I repeat part of it here and then below will talk about your situation specifically.

Walk Down

The best method to use if the horse is moving away from you is the walk down method. You start in a small space such as a stall or a small pen and you walk toward the horse's shoulder, not looking him in the eye. When he stops, go up, scratch him on the neck or withers, then walk away from him. Do this over until you can just walk up to him in a small space. He will learn that every time you approach him, you do not necessarily catch him and work him.

Gradually move to larger areas. Repeat the procedure.

This is really the oldest, time-tested way - it does take time and patience. If you discipline the horse when you finally catch him, it will teach him to not be caught in the future. So even if you are irritated that you had to walk for 3-5 minutes before he finally stopped, resist the temptation to give him a scolding or a jerk on the halter. Instead, give him a scratch and walk away.

Longeing and Long Lining the Western HorseIf you have a round pen, you can free longe the horse until he's got the edge off him and then tell him "whoa" and then walk up to him. If he moves away from you, you can exercise him some more.

Pretty soon the horse learns that being caught is his best alternative and nothing bad is going to happen once he is caught.

So, if you are starting in a field, you are starting in an area that is too large. You need to establish the lesson in a stall or small pen first and gradually increase the size of the area. Like all horse training, you start small and basic and build on it. The first couple of times will take the longest - it is when most humans give in and give up. If you are persistent, it will be the beginning of the establishment of a favorable habit.

Of course, as you have realized, trickery or luring might work once or twice but soon the horse learns the games and also figures out how to avoid being caught.

It is understandable that many horses that are very easy to catch when they are used to being groomed or fed after being caught suddenly become very reluctant to being captured when they associate being caught with working hard during a lesson or at a show. They no longer look forward to being caught.

That's why there are certain cardinal rules that you should follow - some Dos and Don'ts.

Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry HillDo reward your horse with a soothing rub on the forehead or a scratch on the withers right as you are catching him.

Do plan to do something that the horse perceives a pleasurable right after catching, such as feeding or grooming. Don't immediately go to work.

Seeker is waiting for me at the gate of her 20 acre pasture every morning so there is no need for an early morning jingle. As I halter her, I tell her what a great girl she is and touch her where she wants to be touched, on her forehead and alongside her neck. Then I immediately lead her to her own private pen and release her. She finds a handful of wafers and 1/2 pound of alfalfa. All of this is a string of rewards. She is then free to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet for at least an hour or so before I return to her pen to gather her up for grooming and tacking.

How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry HillYou never want to punish a horse, physically or verbally, directly or indirectly after you FINALLY catch him. In other words, don't give him a slap or a gruff reprimand or halter him roughly or stomp off toward the barn in tow. These things will just reinforce to him that he shouldn't have allowed himself to be caught. Instead, make a fuss over the horse telling him that he is a "good boy" and be sure you have a sunny disposition about it, not an irritated or gruff manner.

Don't catch a horse and go directly to something he perceives as negative, such as work hard. Help him develop a positive association with you and the barn and the arena so he doesn't view those areas as places where more bad than good occurs........rough grooming, baths he doesn't like, tight cinch, long lessons, working past his fitness level, trailering (if he doesn't like it), round and round in the show ring...........none of these things would be on a horse's list of faves.

If you use a little horse psychology, you can change your horse's outlook from avoiding you to wanting to spend time with you.

Best of luck and realize that it takes time to make a good horse.

    Ask Cherry Hill

      2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

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