Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Catch and Release Game

Here's a really easy "training" game you can play with your horses if you don't have time to ride, but want to work with your herd--what I call (and maybe others do, too) the "Catch and Release Game".

It's important that our horses want to come to us or, at the very least, stand still when we go to catch them.  After all, it could be an emergency.

Now, a horse in a stall isn't much of a challenge for this game--but I suppose it could be if your horse is really resistant to being caught. Mine are fine in the stall.  I have two convalescents right now, Leah and Lily, who are stalled 24/7.  I have two old guys who get equine senior morning and night, Cowboy and Little Joe, so they load themselves into their stalls quite happily. But I have four who are on 24/7 turnout or pasture--my mare herd--and they're much more resistant to being brought in at this time of year.  You might say they're independent--and they like it.

Last night, I worked with Beautiful, and she wasn't happy about being away from her mare herd.  This morning, I went to catch her, and she would have none of it.  So, it was time for the game.

Pretty simple.  You choose a horse in the turnout or pasture (she was in dry lot turnout with the others) and you catch it.  No matter how long it takes (think of it as your exercise) you catch it. You don't hide the halter and lead--in fact, you present it high and clear--and you put pressure on them when they leave--less pressure when they stop and look at you.  When you get alongside the horse, don't throw your rope over.  Test your horse to see if they're really with you.  Pet them on their withers, their face, the opposite side withers.

When they're truly with you, throw your rope over and gently halter them--all the while, rubbing their face and neck.  When they're haltered, drop the lead rope so that they're ground tied, and start petting them all over on both sides.

When they're good and relaxed, release them and walk away fast--before they can walk away from you.  (They'll be looking at you with sad eyes if you did it right.)

Now, choose another horse and do the same thing.  And another. And another.

Remember the first horse you chose?  Go back to it when you're done with the others.  It should be easier.

Rotate through them again, then go back to your first horse for the 3rd time. Catch the first horse, but don't halter it.  This time, just pet it all over and then leave it wanting more.

By the time I was done with this, all my wild mare herd let me approach them and pet them all over.  Beautiful was practically drooling.  When I get home from work tonight, I need to work on her saddle training, so this practice will come in handy when I go to catch her.

Thirty minutes of catch and release is good, solid training, in my book.  I bet you all have your own versions of this game.  Please share!


  1. This is a great lesson! I have been looking for something to do with my horse since I haven't been feeling well the past few days. I can commit to catching and walking but, much else is tough. He usually is pretty good about letting me catch him but this lesson is great for the entire herd! Thank you.

    1. You're welcome. Let me know how it goes with your herd.

  2. What a great game! I'm going to try it.

  3. Interesting. Never thought of catch and release. I can see how it would be effective.

    1. I think it's a lot like giving them treats--assuming your horse likes to be petted and loved on--otherwise, it would be torture. All of mine like their lovin'. So, catching, and loving, and releasing works pretty good.

  4. I have had hard to catch horses before - not at present- and I have done something similar- but not to the entire group, just catch the one , love up on it with brushing and scratching and maybe a treat, and then turn her loose. Years ago, when I had a big turn out pasture and I had 3 mares= Belle, Gussie, Chickory and Gussies daughter Velvet, I would catch them 2 at a time to lead them back to their evening pen. Belle would sometimes play hard to get, so I would bring in horse #3 and just leave her out there until she changed her mind about being caught because she wanted to go back to her buddies, who were happily munching on their evening feed. She doesn't do that any more- now she is usually waiting at the gate for me, and happy to go back to her little pen. I think 3 years of being in a large mare herd on a few hundred acres didn't agree with her and she likes her small spaces now.

  5. Hi Linda, I just discovered your blog, Beautiful, and the eye candy photos. Was wondering if you and Beautiful would be interested in writing a product review. I can just see this horse in a beautiful brightly colored bridle, or something really classy with stainless studs. We look for really nice blogs, with kind horses, and interesting horse stories to showcase our pretty tack. If you have interest, please drop me an email: My name is Jacke. Love the blog!


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.