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I have a four year old unbroke mare. When we are in the round pen, she runs, then stops and licks her lips. If I have a rope in hand she takes off again. If not, then she lets me pet her and rub her down. I don't know what to do. She was halter broke and lead rope broke. I can't even get near her. Nobody wants an unbroke four year old Arab -- even for a free lease program. Next to just plain shooting her, help please.

P.S. I don't have the money for a trainer.

M. C.


So, what's the problem? It sounds like the mare is doing just what she should do. The chewing motion with her lips, with her head low to the ground, is the signal that she has submitted to you and wants you to tell her that it's okay for her to approach you. At that point, you take a few slow steps backwards and look a little to the side of her (thus taking the "confrontational" pressure off of her). When she walks up to you, give her a quick stroke down the front of her head with your hand and praise her. The fact that you have a rope in your hand shouldn't make any difference -- just don't use it in a threatening way.

As for a horse being hard to catch, take a look at the tips in Q&A #18 -- "How can I stop my mare from running away from me in the pasture?" Many folks believe in hiding the rope so the horse can't see it until it is close enough to swing over the neck or attach to a halter. Personally, I think that's a bad idea. In the first place, suddenly whipping out a rope will tend to startle a horse and make it fear the rope. Secondly, I want the horse to learn to obey me, no matter what I happen to have in my hand at the time.

Your next steps will be to teach her to stand hitched, to sack her out with a saddle pad or blanket, get her used to the saddle and other tack, and start some long-line training. From there on, you're into the process of taking her from unbroke to well-trained... which is far beyond the scope of this e-mail! You'll find a lot more info by reading through the Q&A pages, as well as in some of the books in the Trading Post section.

Whatever you do, please don't shoot her. She sounds like a fairly good horse who just needs for her trainer to get a bit more training!

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