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The Easiest Way to Get a Horse to Come to You When Called

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Dr. Mark raises free-range rabbits, chickens, geese, ducks, guinea fowl, horses, and sheep at his small farm in Brazil.

Do you really want to go out into that snow and chase your horse?

Do you really want to go out into that snow and chase your horse?

No one likes to go out in the snow or rain to fetch their horses. Try this easy method, and your horse will come running.

How to Train Your Horse to Come When Called

  1. Prepare a bucket: The bucket can be blue, green, or a light yellow, but if you really want to make it easy on your horse, slap a coat of white paint on it (a wide horizontal or zigzag stripe around the middle of the bucket is enough) to make it that much easier for him to spot. Have you ever noticed how they paint poles for jumping competitions? Horses can see them a lot better when the jumps are striped.
  2. Put some feed in the bucket: It does not matter what you are using, but when first starting training, use a sweet feed to encourage your horse since it is so much better than the pasture. If molasses sweet feed is not available in your area just sprinkle regular sugar on top of the feed.
  3. Take the bucket to the field: When I stand at the gate and call my horses, I shake the bucket up and down; your horse will quickly learn the sound of feed in a bucket. (Don’t worry if this does not work at first.)
  4. Walk up to the horse and offer the feed: Some horses are not going to stick their heads in a bucket. If your horse is like that, you will need to start feeding on a flat surface the first few days. (If you just put it on the ground instead of on top of a board, it is just going to get spread around.) Some horses even run away when you bring the feed—if your horse is too nervous to even investigate the feed when you are standing there just pour a little onto the board and walk away.
  5. Do not try to catch your horse: You want him to be familiar with the sight of the bucket, and the sound of your voice calling them. If your horse is calm at this point and comes to the bucket easily, you can start throwing a lead rope and halter around your neck so he can get used to the sight of it, and he will also learn that just because you have a halter does not mean that he is going to have to leave the pasture.
  6. Repeat the exercise at least once a day, or twice if you can manage it. At each feeding, your horse is going to get a little more confident and realize he is coming up for feed, never to be caught. Do not forget to call your horse by name when bringing the bucket.

If you need to catch your horse for medication, riding, a visit from the farrier, or anything else that the horse might not like, do not try to call him. Just walk into the field and catch him like always. Calling him and making his day unpleasant is going to make your horse suspicious and set back your training schedule.

More Tips for Calling Your Horse to You

  • Once your horse is no longer nervous, stand at the gate and make the horse come to you for the feed. Shake the bucket to attract his attention, but do not forget to call his name. If your horse knows that you are not going to catch him, it is okay to have a bridle and lead tossed over your shoulder at this point.
  • Groom your horse as he is eating the grain. Grooming is a pleasant experience, which is why you will see horses out in the pasture grooming each other. It is almost as nice as eating.
  • Call your horse, put the halter on while he is eating, run a rubber curry comb over his body, then lead him a few steps before letting him back in the pasture to finish eating.
  • Start taking an empty bucket to the field, call your horse, and when he comes up to you just spend a few minutes grooming him.
My Mares Coming When Called

My Mares Coming When Called

Results Will Vary

All horses are individuals, and this exercise is easy with some and not with others. I have trained some horses in only one day, while others are nervous and take a lot more time.

No one knows your horse like you do, and, although there are other methods you can do with a friend, no one is going to train him as well as you.

Other Tips and Tricks for Training Your Horse to Come to You

Training your horse to come when called is a fast process, but if you want to make it happen even quicker, and have someone to help, here is another step to try.

  • You will need to have two buckets, both painted with the horizontal stripe to make them even more visible.
  • Both people need to take some extra feed out in a separate bucket. Do not take so much that you overfeed your horse. All your horse needs to learn is a mouthful of sweet feed.
  • Have one person stand at the gate and the other person stand at the back of the pasture.
  • After you call the horse when he finishes eating the small amount of sweet feed in your bucket, have the other person call him and tap his bucket to draw his attention to the sweet feed.
  • When he runs over there he can eat a small amount of sweet feed, and when he finishes, your buddy signals you so that you can call the horse to you.
  • Repeat this exercise several times, and if the horse runs to the person without being called, do not feed him. He will learn to come running when called in only one session.
Foals are curious so teach your horses to come when called early if possible.

Foals are curious so teach your horses to come when called early if possible.

Will I Always Need a Bucket?

I cannot tell you how long you will need to take the bucket with you as results will vary depending on the horse. Eventually, your horse will respond to just his name, and you can leave the bucket back in the barn.

If you have an emergency situation and desperately need to catch the horse, revert to the bucket. It only takes a second to bring it along when grabbing your first aid kit.

Having a horse that come when called feels great.

Having a horse that come when called feels great.

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Read More From Pethelpful


Rørvang, M. V., Nielsen, B. L., & McLean, A. N. (2020). Sensory Abilities of Horses and Their Importance for Equitation Science. Frontiers in veterinary science, 7, 633.

Rose RJ, Evans DL. Training horses--art or science? Equine Vet J Suppl. 1990 Jun;(9):2-4.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: What about all the other horses in the pasture? They come running as well when I call one.

Answer: My horses learn their names, but you are correct that when one horse starts walking, it is instinct for the others to start following. The horse that I call usually comes first though, so I try to halter her and get her out before the others are even there.


Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 03, 2018:

That is a great suggestion. I thought of boards since that is what I have a lot of around here.

Bob Bamberg on January 03, 2018:

They sell both. I agree that rubber is better, especially in winter. It doesn't crack when you try to break up the ice in it. I used to recommend rubber feed pans...shallow pans...for people who feed wild birds. You can put water in it, and when it freezes, the black color attracts enough solar heat to melt it a little around the edges providing potable water for the birds.

I would think the shallow rubber feed pans would serve as well as the board you describe in the hub.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 03, 2018:

Thanks for reading this Bob. Not sure if it will ever go to Pethelpful since no one will want to read it. I am happy to get one comment though!!!

Did the manufacturers ever sell rubber buckets or only plastic? Rubber is much better since it will last years, instead of months when the horse ends up breaking it, but they are hard to find. What about up in the PRM?

Bob Bamberg on January 03, 2018:

Great hub, Doc. I found it to be a very interesting read and I don't have a horse. It would have been a good resource to hand out to my customers when I owned the feed and grain store.

The white stripe is a particularly good idea. When I attended trade shows pertinent to my business, the companies that manufactured buckets and other supplies were always touting the new "designer colors." Everything is marketed to the whim of the human, often with little consideration of the science. HP should fast-track this into Pethelpful.

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