Why Does My Horse Play ‘Catch Me If You Can’?

Here’s why your horse might run away when it’s time to come in from turnout and how you can work to solve the problem.

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why does my horse run away
Horses run away for many reasons, and understanding the reasons why is the first step toward resolving the issue. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Q.Why does my horse run when I try to catch her?

A. Running away can become a persistent (and tiring!) problem because it delays, and sometimes prevents, the horse from being caught. Some horses stay just out of reach, others become aggressive and show dramatic displays of displeasure, and—in rare instances—horses might make a game of it. Horses run away for many reasons, and understanding the reasons why is the first step toward resolving the issue. To get to the cause, it’s important to look at what happens before, during, and after you catch your horse.

What happens while you try to catch your horse?

How you react when your horse runs away will affect her future behavior.   Some trainers recommend “making the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy,” but this approach can, in this scenario, backfire and make things worse. If you chase or punish your horse when she runs away, her obvious advantage in speed and stamina can draw out and intensify the situation. Your horse will also be more likely to run in the future, because chasing and punishment are stressful. There is an added risk that your horse will associate the negative experience with you

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Written by:

Robin Foster, PhD, CAAB, IAABC-Certified Horse Behavior Consultant, is a research professor at the University of Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington, and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington. She holds a doctorate in animal behavior and has taught courses in animal learning and behavior for more than 20 years. Her research looks at temperament, stress, and burn-out as they relate to the selection, retention, and welfare of therapy horses. She also provides private behavior consultations and training services in the Seattle area.

One Response

  1. I am an adult now and will try it your way and see how it goes. As a kid though, I would just have half a juicy apple in hand and my filly can have it if she just slips her head in the halter for me. (Put your apple hand just beyond the noseband) A handful of grain works too. Never fails. “More carrot, less stick”

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