Whether it is in the stall, arena, or out in a pasture, it is important to make sure you are able to catch your horse safely.
Get your horse’s attention
In a small stall, it may not seem as important to get your horse’s attention as it might be in a pasture, but you should never assume your horse knows what you’re doing or where you are. When you walk up to your horse, make sure to say hello and get his attention. I have a particular whistle I use when I greet the horse (I also use this whistle when I feed the horses, so they definitely perk up and pay attention when I greet them with it). Whether it’s saying hello, whistling, or giving a click, make sure your horse knows you are there.
Ask the horse to come to you
Just like in the round pen, you need to turn your shoulder and ask the horse to come in to you. I do not go to the horse- he comes to me. This may not seem like a huge issue, but in the wild, the horse who has to move is the submissive, and the horse who doesn’t move is the dominant one. You should never chase your horse- you can make your horse move in the stall, just as you would in the round pen, and then ask the horse to come in to you.
Catch the horse
The first thing I do when the horse comes up to me is I put the lead rope over the horse’s neck- this shows the horse that he is “caught” and will give you a moment to put the halter on the horse. You should be standing at the horse’s shoulder, facing the same way the horse is facing. Put the halter on from the side, not the front of the horse. Once you have the halter on him, gently give a pull on the lead rope (not hard!) so he knows he has the halter on, and then you can lead him out.
Leaving the stall
When you leave the stall, arena or paddock, make sure you keep hold of the gate as you lead him out. I see a lot of people open the gate, then the gate ends up smacking the horse on the back or rear- not only can this be dangerous because it can make the horse bolt forward and knock you over, it’s also not nice to allow your horse to be hurt like that. Always hold onto the gate as you open the gate, lead the horse around your body, then close the gate behind you- or, if the gate should remain open, keep the horse away from the open gate so it doesn’t hit him.
If these seem easy, common sense practices to you, that’s great- if you find that you are spending time catching your horse or having issues getting him out of his stall or paddock, try practicing these simple tips to ensure your horse knows what is expected of him and of you.