12 PRACTICAL TIPS FOR TEACHING YOUR HORSE TO STAND STILL FOR MOUNTING
by Anne Gage of Confident Horsemanship
Standing still for mounting builds mutual trust and confidence for you and your horse. But since horses are flight animals standing still simply does not come naturally to them. Whenever they feel anxious – even a little bit – they not only want to but have a real need to move! This behaviour, that is perfectly natural to the horse, becomes a problem particularly when you are mounting your horse. It’s especially troublesome if you already feel nervous or stressed about riding. Getting on a horse who is not standing quietly only increases your stress.
When your horse stands quietly to be mounted and waits for your cue before moving off, you will both start your ride in a better frame of mind.
As with all behavioural problems, first eliminate any physical cause by ensuring your horse’s tack fits correctly and that he has no soreness in his muscles, joints or skeleton. Then follow these tips to help your horse stand quietly while you mount. TIPS FOR TEACHING YOUR HORSE TO STAND QUIETLY FOR MOUNTING:
Always use a mounting block. Mounting from the ground torques the saddle, is uncomfortable for the horse and makes it more difficult for him to balance while you get on his back.
Quietly position your horse so that he is standing with his front feet square (side by side) and his back feet underneath him so that he is balanced and does not need to shift his weight as you mount.
Whenever your horse is standing still, praise him with a soft voice and a scratch on the withers.
If your horse steps sideways or turns towards you, create a boundary on the opposite side by placing your mounting block close to a fence or wall. You can also place a pole on the ground to create a chute.
Calmly ask him to bend to the left so that his barrel is moved slightly away from you and his nose is tipped slightly towards you. Stroke or massage just behind his girth and about level with his elbow to create the bend.
When he comes into the left bend, take up the contact on your reins to keep him in the bend and prevent him from moving forward. Keep your hands and fingers soft.
Exhale deeply, scratch his withers and release any tension from your body.
Gently take up enough contact on both reins so that, if your horse moves forward, you can put a block on the reins.
If he pushes through your block, release it and push him around the mounting block until he is back where he started. Remember that if you are un-training an existing behaviour, it takes more time than learning it right from the start.
If your horse backs up, tap his flank and ask him to move forward. Check your contact on the reins. If you have too much tension it may be the cause of him backing up.
Put your left foot in the stirrup for a few seconds. Make sure your toe is pointing forwards not pushing into your horse’s barrel. If your horse stands quietly, put some weight in your stirrup.
When you are ready to get in the saddle, push yourself straight up as if you are stepping up on a ladder – keep your upper body tall so that you don’t collapse on your horse’s back. Swing your right leg up and over your horse and gently lower yourself into the saddle.
At each step, praise your horse when he stands still for several seconds and even give him a break by walking him away from the mounting block. You can end the session at any point where you feel you have made progress. If may take multiple repetitions of these steps over several sessions for your horse to unlearn his old behaviour. Remember that it takes longer to unlearn an existing behaviour than it does to teach it correctly from the beginning. WHY DO ALL THIS?
It acknowledges your horse’s need to be balanced when you get on his back. He can’t stand still if he is not balanced.
When your horse is in a left bend, you can anticipate where he will go if he needs to move – backwards or forwards in a circle to the left; sideways to the right. He will only be able to move away from you rather than on top of you.
It helps put your horse into a calm frame physically as well as mentally. Instead of standing with his head high and his back dropped (inverted), his head and back are level. In this frame, he is set up to hold your weight without undue stress or strain to his back and joints.
You can connect with how your horse is feeling and help him to relax so that he is mentally and physically ready to be ridden.
Practice these tips with consistency and calmness and your horse will learn to stand quietly for mounting and wait for your cue to walk off. They also help you to develop a relationship with your horse based on mutual trust and respect and to build his and your confidence. The more trust he has in you, the less stress he feels when he is with you and the easier it becomes for him to stand for you.
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You’re welcome to use this article in your blog or newsletter as long as you notify me and give my credit information. ~ Written by Anne Gage of Confident Horsemanship (www.ConfidentHorsemanship.com)
Anne Gage started Confident Horsemanship in 2002 after suffering the loss of her confidence for riding. As she worked on regaining her confidence she discovered that many horse women were suffering in silence – thinking they were alone. Anne works with horse women to regain the CONFIDENCE and PASSION for riding while building a PARTNERSHIP with their horses that they deserve.
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