Loose Horse

It’s one of every horse owner’s top nightmares:  Your horse is not where you left him.  He’s LOOSE!

This could be one of several scenarios:

  • You fell off the horse and now he’s running free
  • Your are leading, grooming, or somehow handling your horse in the barn and he somehow slips free of you.
  • You come to the barn in the morning to find that your horse is missing from his pasture or stall.

What do you do?

This post deals mainly with the 2nd scenario: your horse slips free from you somehow and is now loose.

  • First, Don’t Panic!  I’ll say it again for emphasis.  Do. Not. Panic.  Stop for a second and get your brain in gear.

People loose horses all the time.  He breaks the cross ties in the barn, a horse pushes past you at the gate while you’re trying to get one out, you’re leading one (or more) horses somewhere and for whatever reason he escapes.  Some horses are known escape artists and can open stall doors, unlock field gates, and untie themselves.

Here’s the important part:  99% of horses are food motivated

Most horses when faced with freedom will run a bit.  This is normal.  As long as they’re not galloping down an interstate, there is no need to panic.

  • Grab a bucket of grain.  Don’t fill it up, but make sure you have enough that when you shake it, it makes noise.
  • Calmly walk within sight of the horse and shake the grain bucket.  Most horses will enthusiastically make their way over to your grain bucket.  I’ve seen horses stop dead in their tracks from a full gallop to turn their attention to the sound of grain shaking in a bucket.
  • Let the horse have a mouthful of grain so they know you do, in fact, have something to offer, then calmly place a lead line around their neck.
  • Once you have the lead around their neck, you should have control of the horse.  From there you can either lead it with the lead line around the neck, or you can now grab the halter and attach the lead line (or put a halter on if the horse was “naked”).

Wherever you go (a horse show, a trail ride, anywhere), you should always have with you a little bucket of grain, an extra halter and lead line.  This will go a long way to catching a loose horse, whether it be your own or someone else’s.

DO NOT chase a loose horse.  Ever.  They are prey creatures.  You chase, they run.  Bad idea.

Remember, don’t be embarrassed if you happen to let a horse get loose under your watch.  It happens to all of us.  Calmly grab a bucket of grain and approach the horse slowly, or better yet, let him come to you!  Make sure you never chase the horse and be sure that all of your movements are slow and calm.


Do you have a question or scenario that you need solved?  Let me know in the comments and I’ll post the answer!

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