Ask Chelsie Natural Horsemanship – How to gain rescue horse’s trust

Q.

Chelsie,
I have this horse that I rescued a month about 2 months ago.  He is 4 years old. Prior to me getting him he had never been touched. My problem is, if I can get him to come into the pen there is a cattle shoot that he'll go into then I can halter him then lead him out to do ground work and he's fine... BUT I HATE USING THE SHOOT! I want to walk up to him and just put a halter on him... what do I do??? How do I get him to trust me???
Nichole E. from Cherryvale, Kansas
Chelsie Kallestad of Chelsie Natural Horsemanship and her horse Nugget

Chelsie Kallestad of Chelsie Natural Horsemanship and her horse Nugget

A.

Hello Nichole,

Thanks for the question. What I would start doing is take a bucket of grain out and let him eat out of the bucket. But do not try to touch him at all! Do not go toward him, let him come to you, if he does not know what a bucket of grain is, take one in and leave it there (make sure the handle of the bucket is off so he can't get it caught on a leg), he will get the courage up to find out what it is and enjoy it. After he understands what a bucket of grain is, then you can stay closer and closer to it every day.

If you go to touch him too fast in your relationship it will only scare him. We always want to touch them so bad that we forget to let them want to touch us first. Go into the corral with a chair and a book and just read for a while with your bucket. He will get curious about you and start to get closer. This may take one session or 10 before he finally comes up to you all the way and starts to smell you. Again do not touch him! Let him touch and smell you all over as much as he wants. While he is smelling on you for a while softly hold your hand open while your hand is resting on your leg with a treat in it. Let him take the treat from your hand but do not try to push the treat at his face or again it will be you trying to touch him and it could make him run away because he is a prey animal, they would rather touch than be touched at first. Once you do this for as many sessions as it takes to get him comfortable, then while he is smelling and nosing on you, see if you can give him a treat or a bucket of grain and slowly and softly rub him. Do not pat him or scratch him yet. Soft rubs. If you try to scratch him it could scare him because it could be to ruff for him at this point. Keep doing this until he is comfortable with you rubbing and petting on him without a halter on. Then get a brush, just hold it, do not brush him with it, pet him with your hand while holding the brush, let him smell it if he wants to. When he is comfortable with that then go ahead and start softly brushing him with it. Once he is good with that, take a halter out. Do not put it on him just let him see you wearing it on your shoulder. Pet him, brush him, all with the halter on your shoulder. Once he is ok with that, take the halter kind of balled up in your hand and pet and brush him with it. Once he is ok with that, go ahead and put the lead rope around his neck and see if you can get him to walk soft small circles with you. If he can do that, with the lead still around his neck, see if you can put the halter on him. I hope this gives you a start, let me know if you need any more help.
Thanks,
Chelsie Kallestad

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