“Chase Me!” says Charlie

By Helen

I bought Charlie at 14 and had him 6 years before he would happily be caught in the field. A lot of people I have spoken to before and since had similar issues. Corralling, herding, cornering and taking every other horse in from the field to get my pony on the yard, where he was happy to be caught, may be techniques which sound familiar to some of you.

Charlies favourite game was running a 20 metre circle around and around me. He also thought it really funny to run to one end of the field and wait for me to get close and then shoot off to the other, leaving me cursing in his wake.

I could go into the field with a carrot or even a bucket of feed and he still didn’t want to know. Charlie must have become wise to the hidden head collar behind most backs; he had probably been tricked too many times before. As annoying as this problem was, again like many people I have spoken to since, I could get around it. So I never dealt with it.

I didn’t believe Hannah when she told me I could have a pony who came to call. Especially when the key to this involved treats, in which Charlie had never shown an interest and it had always been drilled into me to NEVER feed by hand unless I wanted a pony who I would lose fingers to.

It took merely two sessions before Charlie approached me in the paddock. That moment when he made the choice to walk up to me, in the opposite direction from his friends, gave me such a buzz. I watched him stop trotting his circle, flick an ear on me then look over to the others a few times, then quite deliberately decide what he wanted to do.

I still had a long way to go but by changing the game from running around me to coming up to me and touching my piece of yellow pool noodle, for a tangible reward, I was one step closer to my ‘come to call’ pony. We worked for 10-15mins every morning for a week to get him coming to the target every time no matter where he was in the field. That behaviour became so strong that I changed his target to a head collar without a problem.

Charlie now comes when I call him and we became closer in a couple of months than we had in the previous 6 years he’d been with me. He is tuned into me and I am much more tuned into him. He is now being a brilliant teacher for me, showing me how he likes to learn new things and picking up new behaviours quickly.