How to Catch a Horse and Recognizing the Blind Spots

Horse training is no easy task, but learning about their blind spots and how to catch a horse are two great starting points.

| March 2014

  • When approaching a horse from the rear, realize that when you are directly behind him, he can't see you. Zipper's prominent eye allows him to see me taking this photo as I approach seven-eighths rear. His ears are tuned back to me and he is experienced enough to know there is nothing to fear and yet, out of reflex, he still takes on step forward with his right hind.
    Photo courtesy Storey Publishing
  • Another blind spot, and a vulnerable one from a horse's point of view, is the top of his head. When I step up on a stool and clip Zipper's bridle path, he demonstrates that he has overcome his fear of the touch and sound of the clippers and my elevated position.
    Photo courtesy Storey Publishing
  • Cherry Hill uses her personal horses as examples in order to explain the process of helping a horse overcome wariness of human touch and restraint while developing trust in a rider or handler.From how to catch a horse to lateral movement, Cherry Hill covers it all.
    Photo courtesy Storey Publishing
  • Unusual things and movements can often frighten a horse until he has been introduced to them and sees there is no threat. Zinger is more interested in me taking the photo than she is of Richard, hobbling with his crutch.
    Photo courtesy Storey Publishing
  • It is a good sign that when a horse sees you coming to the gate, he starts walking toward you.
    Photo courtesy Storey Publishing
  • Seeker triggers off the fact I have a halter in hand and have headed to her gate, so she walks up to meet me and be haltered.
    Photo courtesy Storey Publishing

Every horse should receive a basic education that prepares him to live safely and confidently in the company of humans, and it begins with easing common equine fears. In What Every Horse Should Know (Storey Publishing, 2011), horsewoman Cherry Hill explains the finer points of horse training, including how to help a horse overcome wariness of human touch and restraint. Hill covers every detail from their blind spots and how to catch a horse to lateral work and ranch work. The following excerpt is from chapter 1, “No Fear of People.”

Fear of Someone in Blind Spots

Horses are acutely aware of their surroundings, and because of the location of their eyes and their wide range of vision, they are able to pick up the subtle movements of things all around them. They do have blind spots, however — areas where they can’t see what’s going on — and that can make them nervous. It’s similar to when you are driving your car or truck: sometimes you can’t quite see the vehicle (or even if there is a vehicle) in that spot between your rearview mirror and your sideview mirror. In some situations, you might be tempted to turn quickly and look at that spot or slow down so that if there is a vehicle, it will pass you.

In a similar way, a horse is uneasy if he senses something to his side or rear that he can’t see. He is more comfortable if he can see a thing clearly and head on. If there is a perceived threat off to the side or the rear of a horse, he will most likely try to turn and face it.

You’ve been taught from day one that when you are behind a horse or approaching him from the rear, you should let him know of your presence by putting your hand on his hindquarters. Well, this needs to be expanded to allow you to be able to touch your horse when he is in any position, any time, anywhere. As always, these suggestions need to be implemented with common sense for safety’s sake.

A horse needs to be comfortable with you:

• Next to his head on the near side.
• Next to his head on the off side.
• At his girth on the near side.
• At his girth on the off side.
• In front of his head.
• At his hindquarters on the near side.
• At his hindquarters on the off side.
• Behind him.
• Standing above him in all positions.
• Squatting below him in all positions.
• Farther away, doing all of the above.
• Mounting, and moving around on his back while mounted.

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