We all dream of opening the field gate, calling our horse’s name and hearing a whicker of delight as he canters enthusiastically to greet you.

If the reality is a clean pair of heels and that feeling of utter frustration as your four-legged friend trots off to the furthest, muddiest corner of the field with a wicked glint in his eye, you’ll be able to put a tick against these 14 signs that you’ve gone into battle with the uncatchable horse

1. Your knowledge of horse psychology is doctorate-worthy

Trying to outsmart your horse in the cat-and-mouse game of catch (yes, to him it’s a great game — to you, not so much) has made you an expert in equine body language. You’ve spent hours trying to second-guess his every move, assess his mood, his agreeability and every flick of the ears while circling him like a shark. And yet still you get the feeling he’s mocking you as he prances off into the distance.

2. Your Fitbit says you have the exercise regime of an Olympic athlete

10,000 steps? Too easy. Your daily goal is achieved three times over in the match against a horse who loves his freedom just a little bit too much.

3. Your pockets are overflowing with treat detritus

Polo wrappers, shrivelled carrot sticks and crumbs of pony nuts are lurking in the depths of your jacket pockets and you’ve tried every shape and size of bucket and assorted contents to discover which has the most tempting rattle. But while every other horse in a 10-mile radius pricks its ears and trots merrily towards you, your intended target trudges off in the opposite direction.

4. You can deliver an Oscar-winning acting performance in front of your horse

“I’m just out for a casual stroll in the field. Definitely not here to catch any horses, no, no, no. What’s that hidden behind my back you ask? Oh nothing, nothing at all, certainly not a headcollar and leadrope…”

5. You’ve seriously considered going a ranch holiday in Wyoming just to learn the art of lassoing

The cowboy approach has got to be worth a try, surely?

6. You’re now BFFs with every horse in the field — except your own

“Why doesn’t he like me?” you wail when your gelding turns feral as soon as you close the field gate. Lavishing attention and treats on his field companions does indeed induce jealous glances and a few grunts of disgust from your own pride and joy — just not enough for him to succumb to the lead rope.

7. Bribery has become a daily negotiation tool

If a bucket of pony nuts can work on the four-legged members of your family, it’s got to be worth a try when it comes to dragging the kids away from their games consoles, right?

8. Your friends assume you’ve got a new job/boyfriend/moved to Australia as they haven’t seen you for months

As daylight fades and your horse still shows no sign of admitting defeat, you say goodbye to yet another social engagement. Your sister’s engagement party wasn’t really that big a deal anyway.

9. You’ve developed a very thick skin

But when your yard manager gleefully says for the umpteenth time “Oh he came in like a dream for us last night” you resignedly reach for the “How to bond with your horse” manual, sobbing gently.

10. You’re the most popular person on the yard

In an attempt to make your horse lonely enough to be caught, you’ve brought in all his fieldmates — every horse in sight, in fact. The other liveries are eternally grateful — yet one stable remains noticeably empty.

11. You keep a sleeping bag in the tack room

Just in case this pursuit with your sparring partner should ever turn in to an all-night affair. YOU WILL NOT GIVE IN.

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12. News of a spate of horse-thefts in your neighbourhood leaves you feeling slightly smug

At least they’ll never manage to take mine, you think with a weary smile…

13. Your local supermarket is experiencing an unprecedented surge in demand for carrots

As the manager scratches his head pondering if the locals are on a sudden health kick, you swipe through your ninth bag at the checkout. Adding in a bumper box of polos for good measure. Even if your horse doesn’t succumb to temptation, at least they will keep your energy levels up in the process.

14. The celebratory selfie you post on Facebook leading your horse back into the stable gets over 6,000 sympathetic likes

Success! It’s just a shame that you and your horse are both so exhausted from the countless laps of the field that the gridwork session no longer appeals and you both settle down in the stable for a quiet nap instead…