Friday, September 25, 2015

The Uncatchable Dylan

If you've been with this blog for awhile, you probably came from Gogo's blog originally. You also probably know the story behind the namesake of this new blog - Imogen, the little mare who was too terrified of humans to be caught. It took a very long time, but I was able to turn her into a catchable, cuddleable, sweet little thing, though we never quite got her turned around far enough to make her a reliable riding horse. She was uncatchable to start, and that is how the blog got it's name.

I did not think there would ever be another creature in my life who even remotely came close to just how uncatchable Immy really was, but I have found him. He surpasses her. He leaves her in the dust. He is.... the Uncatchable Dylan.

The first day I had him, I turned him out wearing his halter and some front boots/bells. I decided to go out after a few hours and take them off, seeing as he has calmed down and had quit running amok in the field. He would not. Let. Me. Near. Him. For an hour, he trotted in circles around and around and around me, until finally I just gave up and went to go get his food bucket. Then I was able to catch him and take the boots off - but I wisely left the halter on. He was not afraid of me, he was not worried.... he knew exactly what he was doing. 

He lives in the halter. I NEVER  take it off. I can always catch him with a food bucket by reaching out and grabbing his halter before I let him take a bite, but I hadn't tried the same trick without him already having the halter on.

I was starting to feel badly though. Poor guy, always has to be in his halter.. that's not very fair, is it? Maybe I can take it off now and he will be better to catch... maybe? 

Well, I got my wish to see how exactly he would be without his halter on a couple of days ago. I came home from work one day to find that he had broken the snap on his leather halter, and had subsequently rubbed it off. Oh dear... well.... here goes nothing....

I walked out with his feed bucket and a halter. The second I walked in, Dylan knew exactly what was up. He knew that he did not have a halter on, and that I had a halter in my hand, and that I was coming over to bribe him to try and get the halter back on him. And he was having NONE of it. 

He is the ultimate in uncatchability. He has all the latest uncatchable technology installed and he is ready to prove it to you. He know ALL the tricks in the book, and he has a counterargument to all of them.

You can't chase him like you might try in a roundpen with a deadhead. I find that some horses respond to that ("whew it is way easier to let this lady catch me than to run around here all day getting tired"), but that others do not. Dylan has energy to spare and an ego the size of Texas - he is not going to give in and just let himself be caught by virtue of being lazy. He has no intention of letting the humans 'win' the game. He surely would run himself into the ground before he just let someone walk up and catch him.

You can't bribe him. I thought maybe this would work, but he knows exactly what you're up to. With a bucket of his dinner, I tried... and tried.... and tried.... but could not convince him to come to me. If he didn't come to me, I would take the bucket and leave - no dinner for you. He was angry that I was doing this - striking the fence, shaking his head - but he still would not give in and come over to get the food. Every time I lifted that halter, he would turn and leave. He wanted that food SO bad but he still would not let himself be lured. 

So, I'd take his bucket and leave. He had plenty to eat out there, but he of course wanted the grainfoods, and every time I came back with the bucket he would come right over nearby me and stare. If I took a single step towards him, he was gone. If I waited for him to come closer, he would try to get to the bucket, but anytime the halter came near him, he was gone.

This went on for TWELVE HOURS. I'd try to get him, it wouldn't work, and I'd say "fine have it your way, I'm not waiting out there for you." I'd leave him angry for a few hours while I napped the night away, then would try again. Same result. Over.... and over... and over. His ego prevented him from giving him. He just would not do it. 

At 6am, I was thoroughly annoyed. Bribing him was not working, and getting angry and chasing him was pointless because it would only make him stay further away. Since he lives outside, I had no way to really corner him safely - he blows past you at high speed if you try and corner him. He can turn on a dime and he is fast. (Note to self: get some panels and build a catch pen.)

I randomly had a stroke of genius. If I had no extra panels, and nowhere to safely corner him.... what if I backed my truck into a corner and created a chute to trap him in? Would that work? 

It did. I wish I had taken a picture, but it was still dark out. I backed my truck into the corner to create a little box area, got out of the truck, and tried again. He was unconcerned with the truck and didn't move from the corner while I was parking, but as soon as he saw me step out he tried to vacate the area. It took a minute, and he really tried his best to escape, but I managed to chase him into the little boxed off area. Once he was in there, he knew the gig was up and he let me walk right up to him and catch him easily. Had he managed to give me the slip while trying to corner him... I'm not sure I could have gotten him back into that chute area, despite it being the closest one to the mares and his favorite place to be. 

Definitely will be building a catch pen. Definitely.

I swear, he was laughing at me.


  1. I am not envious. Not being able to catch a horse very quickly sends me into a fury.

  2. I can so totally relate. Benny now lives in a break away halter and that has been a good solution for us.

  3. I hate nothing more than that! UGH, it makes me want to build an old fashioned standing stall and force them to live in there forever and ever and ever. But we don't do that...why do we love them so much?

  4. Oh that's rough. Glad you're outsmarting him, but yeah. A game or nothing, man.

  5. Oh that sucks. I know you will win him over eventually though, you have the magic touch

  6. Ugh, what a jerk!! Gina went through a phase like this, so I feel your pain.

  7. Royal had a phase like this too. What worked was two things: making him jealous by bringing his favorite treats (the one's he'd practically climb a tree for) out and feeding them to the other horses when he was being a butthead, and just going out to give him treats without actually catching him. I'd just go out, give him treats and scratches, and leave. Sometimes I'd bring the halter, sometimes not. Now he'll often leave the other horses behind when I come out. Once or twice a year, he'll be a butthead again, and I'll shrug and go to one of the other horses and start giving them the cookies. Usually he remembers how to be a civilized horse again real quick. ;)

  8. Yes it sounds like a catch pen is definitely a must!! The truck idea was totally genius!! :D I'm glad you finally got a halter back on him.

    When I first got Chrome he was a little hard to catch. He wouldn't run, so he was nothing like Dylan, but he would duck his head away from my hand (even with the halter on) and turn away so I couldn't get to his face. The way I fixed it was I started feeding him outside of his pen. The only way he could have feed was to let me halter him, lead him out of his pen (still within a pen so no chance of getting away) and tie him up. Once he was done I would untie him and turn him loose in his pen. This would obviously be easier to do with a catch pen haha. I also spent a lot of time going out for no reason, haltering him, giving him treats and unhaltering him. The thing that made the hugest difference (which might be impossible for you considering the time of year) is letting him graze on the green grass in the yard. He had no grass in his pen, so I haltered him, took him out to the yard and let him graze for a while and then put him up. He quickly learned that the halter meant lots of yummy food. These tricks probably won't work on Dylan right now, but they would be a great way to cement that halter=good thing later on.

    What worked for the donkey who is completely wild was feeding him in a catch pen without trying to catch him. Once he was comfortable with that I started closing the gate. Once he was comfortable with that I went in the pen with him. On and on in tiny steps until he was comfortable being cornered and haltered. Of course he completely reverted back to being wild when we moved... oops lol.

    Good luck with him! I know you'll be able to get through to him. :)