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Teach Your Horse to Come When Called
WRITTEN BY: Cheryl Sutor   [1999]


This "trick" should be trained to any horse that is difficult to catch in the pasture. Or, to any horse who's owner is lazy! (just kidding).

The #1 rule to teaching your horse to come when called is: Never, ever call your horse when you are going to do anything unpleasant! Especially for shots/deworming, long workouts or anything your horse might think is unpleasant and avoidable by not letting you catch him.

I'm Outta Here!


For the first part of this exercise, you will not catch your horse at all. If you are accustomed to fetching your horse daily out of his luscious green pasture to do work, you are going to have to put this habit on hold for awhile.

If you never have problems walking up and haltering your horse in a pasture, then you can skip down to Part 2 of this lesson (below). Otherwise, you must to do Part 1 if you want this to work!



Part 1: Advance, Retreat, Repeat.
In this step, you will teach your horse that walking after him with a leadrope (or anything) in your hand is not, in any way, unpleasant or threatening. Do not bring anything with you into the pasture except yourself. Leave the halter, leadrope and any other equipment you use back at the barn. Do not touch your horse at all during the first 3 steps.

1. Advance: Start walking toward your horse. Watch his body language very, very carefully.

2. Retreat: The instant you see his muscles tense as if he is about to walk away, turn and walk away from him first.

3. Repeat: Repeat this until you can walk all the way up to him, and turn to walk away without him even thinking about leaving. When you walk away, you should walk at least 20 ft. away. I know, you'll get plenty of exercise...but in the end, it will really pay off!

Once he will do the above steps well, you should leave the pasture. Come back 15 minutes later and start over again. This time, you will realize that you can walk much, much closer before (if at all) he thinks about leaving. Repeat this again the following day.

Vary the exercise! Now that he feels at ease and not threatened by you walking up to him in the pasture, you can repeat the same exercise as above, with a few variations.

Variation 1: Walk up to him, pet his neck, and walk away. Then repeat.
Variation 2: Walk up to him, give him a carrot, and walk away. Then repeat.
Variation 3: Drape a leadrope over your shoulder, walk up to him, and walk away. Then repeat.
Variation 4: Drape a bridle over your shoulder, walk up to him, and walk away. Then repeat.
Variation 5: Hold a saddle over your hip, walk up to him, and walk away. Then repeat.
Variation 6: Drape a leadrope over one shoulder, a bridle over the other and hold a saddle over your hip, walk up to him, and walk away. Then repeat.
Variation 7: Walk up to him, put the halter on him, then lead him out of the pasture. Stop right outside the pasture gate, give him a carrot, then immediately turn him back out. Repeat.

.....you get the idea.....



Why and How does this work?
If you take a look at this from the horse's perspective, you will see exactly why and how this works so well! Your horse is obviously avoiding the catching process for a reason. It may be because he has to go through something unpleasant every time you catch him, or it could even be that he fears people in general. Whatever the reason, he feels threatened. You will want to find out that reason, and if you can't completely eliminate it, then minimize its unpleasantness as much as you possibly can.

If on Monday, your mailman busted into your house, hopped on your back and made you carry him piggyback around your block 50 times, you would definitely try to avoid him tomorrow! This is exactly how the horse feels. You are taking him away from his delicious green grass and pasture buddies to do something unpleasant.

Now, on Tuesday, if your mailman walks up to your door and sets a $5,000 check on the doorstep you will most likely be waiting at the door on Wednesday for him. This is how your horse begins to think once you have taught him this exercise.

He first thinks, "Oh no! Here she comes again! I better get outta here!!!" Then when you turn and walk away before he starts to leave, that is his paycheck. He thinks "Whew...that wasn't so bad!"

Now, on to Part 2...



Part 2: Come When Called.
In this step, you will teach your horse to come to you when you call him. This will save your poor legs from walking an extra 50 ft or so. Never, ever call him when you are about to do anything unpleasant!!! That would reverse what you are trying to teach him! If it is time for his shots, then walk out there yourself and get him, don't be lazy!

You will have to decide on a voice command or a sound to use for the call. This could be the horse's name, or as simle as you whistling. Whatever you decide, use it consistently. Don't call his name one time, and whistle another.

1. Walk through the pasture gate and stop. Call him with the sound you've decided on. Make sure he can hear you!

2. Wait a couple seconds, then walk up to him, give him a carrot, and immediately walk away from him.

3. Repeat.

The first time you call him and he walks up to you on his own, give him a whole handful of carrots, stroke his neck, and tell him "Good Boy". He will begin to associate your call with something pleasant, and will begin to come to you when you call him.

Have Fun!



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This article was published in: 1999. Last updated in: 1999.