A common issue for many riders is a horse that will not stand still to be mounted. It is often one of those issues that is covered up rather than resolved. The rider asks someone else to hold their horse still while they jump on, or they get a leg up, or put the horse between a wall and the mounting block, or they just scramble up on the move. It can look like merely an inconvenience but this habit can have fatal consequences. A lady in Yorkshire, tragically, lost her life after her horse moved off while she was mounting. She did not make it on board and suffered a fatal head injury. Standing still while being mounted is not just a nicety it is an essential safety precaution.
Teaching your horse to stand still to be mounted is not a difficult task, it just takes consistency and persistence. Set yourself some time aside to teach this task to your horse, remember, just as when you buy a new riding hat, you are investing in your safety, or even your life.
Start by teaching your horse to stand still without you attempting to mount. Use a halter & line, although eventually you will mount this is essentially a ground exercise so ground equipment should be used. A bridle is not suitable equipment for this task. Position him a few feet away from you, at least as far away so you can hold your arms out straight and move them around without bumping into your horse. You may need to use a longer lead line so you are not just holding on to the very end of your lead rope. I recommend a pressure/release rope halter and 12 foot line for this training. Relax and let your body come to a standstill, if your horse moves put him back in position and continue. You are waiting for your horse to relax into standing still, not to be still but tense. If you are interested in more information to help you with this please see the link below for my book ‘Leading Light’.
Once your horse can do this ask him to stand still with you in position as if you were going to mount. I recommend using a mounting block. Do not position the mounting block for the horse, rather stand up on the block and ask your horse to move up into position for you to mount. Keep yourself at a ‘standstill’ energy. You may need to ask him into position a number of times, but be persistent and do not let your horse out manoeuvre you.
When he can standstill with you in position you can proceed to putting on his saddle and repeating the process.
Once still again, start to move his stirrup leather as if you were going to get on, don’t get on, just move the leather as if you were going to. Again, hang in there with your horse until he can keep still. Keep asking him back into position if he moves off.
Now you are ready to start lifting your leg as if to put it in the stirrup, repeat this until your horse can keep still throughout your movement. I guess you are getting the jist now; you are going to work on each element of mounting one part at a time until your horse can stand still throughout.
The next step will be to put your toe in the stirrup, repeat until he can standstill and relax while you do this
Then put some weight in the stirrup, repeat until he can standstill and relax while you do this
Next, step up so that you are standing up in your stirrup, but do not throw your leg over the saddle yet, repeat until he can standstill and relax while you do this
Now you will throw your leg over your horse & back again, repeat until he can standstill and relax while you do this
Finally, you will sit down on your horse, repeat until he can standstill and relax while you do this
Once you have achieved this put on your horses bridle and repeat the exercise.
Your aim is to have him standstill while you find your other stirrup and get yourself organised to move off.
Now, your horse stands still for you to mount, you can think about how you can make the mounting experience better for him. I recommend routinely using a mounting block so as to reduce stress on your horses back. Don’t hold your reins tight, remember he will take responsibility for standing still, so you can allow his rein to stay soft and comfortable for his mouth. Don’t dig your toe into his side, if you have a tall horse and you are not so tall you may need to find a good position to mount from so you do not do this. Keep your hand on his neck, rather than having both hands on the saddle, this allows him to feel your movement so he can anticipate you getting on. It will also allow you to feel him beginning to move so that you can support him to stand still. Pause before you throw your leg over so that he can re-position his weight to accept you on his back. And finally, lower yourself onto his back rather than slap down.
Make sure that at each step your horse is at stand still and relaxed. This make take some time, and as I say at the beginning of the article, consistency and persistence, but not only will it make the beginning of your ride a simple, relaxed and pleasurable experience for you and your horse, it may save your life.
A note on consistency & persistence:
Consistency - This does not mean always do it the same, it means identify your priority and keep that at the core of what you do. If you want your horse to stand still while you mount, you must prioritise standing still, and not be tempted to just scramble on while your horse is fidgety
Persistence – Don’t give up. Your horse will test things out, particularly if they have a habit of moving while they are mounted, you may have to invest some time and energy in retraining this behaviour. If he does not do what you want try to see it as him asking you what you want, and show him, rather than seeing it as him defying you or trying not to do it.
My Book Leading Light is available through all major eBook retailers. Leading Light; an Introduction to Ground Work for You and Your Horse is a simple, descriptive ‘how to’ book to teach you to use a rope halter & lead line. It introduces you and your horse basic handling and ground skills using a rope halter & line that will not only help your horse to be safe and responsive on the ground, but also open up a communication link that will allow you to establish a relationship based on trust and respect that will affect every aspect of your life with you horse.
If you would like a copy with a 25% discount follow the link below and quote the code: BZ98C (valid until 30 June 2014)
If you are interested in buying a high quality pressure release rope halter & line please contact me at email@example.com Each Halter & Line comes with a free copy of ‘Leading Light’
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