How Can I Teach My Horse to Stand Still at the Mount­ing Block?

Dressage Today - - Ask The Experts -

My horse al­ways walks on when I am try­ing to mount him. I al­ways have to ask some­body to hold him, but when no­body is around it’s a prob­lem. My ques­tion is how can I teach my horse to stand still at the mount­ing block? He is a quiet geld­ing, who is be­ing schooled in lower-level dres­sage. I am new to the sport and I want to learn ev­ery­thing cor­rectly from the be­gin­ning.

Lau­rie Pratt

Port­land, Ore­gon JANET “DOLLY” HAN­NON

Hav­ing your horse stand to be mounted is an im­por­tant train­ing op­por­tu­nity, as it en­sures that you are able to mount him safely. If your horse walks off while you are in the process of mount­ing and you are not yet prop­erly seated and sta­ble in the sad­dle or don’t yet have your feet in the stir­rups, you are quite vul­ner­a­ble and might even risk an ac­ci­dent.

Most horses learn to stand if you work with them on a daily ba­sis. Most im­por­tantly, you need to be clear and con­sis­tent in your com­mands and ex­pec­ta­tions as well as fair. Food mo­ti­va­tion can also be used to train a horse to stand. In fact, ini­tially, it is of­ten the big­gest mo­ti­va­tor. To get a horse to stand and look for the re­ward at the mount­ing block, I have given a treat from the sad­dle after mount­ing suc­cess­fully.

Mount­ing from the ground can be hard on both your and your horse’s back, so I will dis­cuss mount­ing from a mount­ing block. First, do some ground ex­er­cises with your horse such as lead­ing him at the walk and walk–halt–walk tran­si­tions. If your horse is cold-backed (which means the horse tenses when he is faced with the sen­sa­tion of the sad­dle or girth, hump­ing up or even buck­ing), which is a pos­si­ble rea­son for not want­ing to stand still, it is cru­cial to longe him prop­erly and/or go through some ground work to make sure he’s safe to mount and ride. I rec­om­mend in­clud­ing some walk–trot tran­si­tions in-hand in this case. You can also do turns on the fore­hand or haunches from the ground to im­prove his lis­ten­ing and sup­ple­ness. Be sure to re­ward your horse when­ever he is re­spon­sive. If he is bossy or pushy when do­ing these ground ex­er­cises, do a few rein backs. Use the word, “back,” and ei­ther put some pres­sure—on his chest with your hand, tap him on his chest or even ap­ply some pres­sure from the reins. What works de­pends on your horse’s per­son­al­ity. Once your horse has re­sponded by step­ping back­ward, make sure to re­lease the pres­sure. If you use your aids in a pres­sure-re­lease fash­ion, your horse will soon un­der­stand and re­spond.

When do­ing the ground ex­er­cises, make sure your horse lis­tens to your voice com­mands and stands qui­etly when you say “whoa” and “stop.” Your horse should will­ingly walk out of the halt and trot will­ingly out of the walk if you ask and come back to ei­ther walk or halt. The horse must learn to fol­low your voice com­mands and body lan­guage. Horses usu­ally mimic what the han­dler does as they fol­low your in­ten­tions. This kind of work will gen­er­ally im­prove the re­la­tion­ship with your horse as he learns to lis­ten to you as a ground per­son, not just a rider.

Once you have com­pleted some of these ground ex­er­cises, lead your horse to the mount­ing block and say, “whoa,” or “stand.” Horses rec­og­nize both your tone of voice and words. Have your horse stand next to the mount­ing block and make it a pleas­ant place to be as long as he stands. If your horse is food-mo­ti­vated, use treats to re­ward good be­hav­ior and cre­ate a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence for standing and mount­ing.

When your horse stands qui­etly at the mount­ing block, step onto the block. When he stands as you do this, step down from the block. Re­ward him ei­ther with praise, a treat or a pat ev­ery time he stands. Re­peat a cou­ple of times or as many times as you need un­til he stands as you are step­ping onto the block. When he con­sis­tently stands as you step onto the block, you can add mount­ing as the next step.

Some horses swing away from the mount­ing block as you step on it. If your horse does this, ei­ther step down from the block and straighten him or try to tap him lightly with the whip on his hindquar­ters to en­cour­age him to move back to­ward the block.

Once your horse stands and does not move when you step onto the block, swing your leg over his back and mount. Make sure to sit down lightly to en­sure a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence for him. Next, dis­mount and re­peat sev­eral times. Make sure to re­ward him ev­ery time the mount­ing goes well.

Many horses get into the habit of walk­ing off as the rider is mount­ing be­cause the rider isn’t clear and con­sis­tent enough in her ap­proach and ex­pec­ta­tions. With young horses, we some­times let them walk off be­cause they are not yet com­fort­able with weight on their backs. Re­mem­ber, how­ever, that re­gard­less of your horse’s age, learn­ing to stand while mount­ing is a cru­cial part in his train­ing. If you are con­sis­tent with your ap­proach and act clearly and use re­ward and cor­rec­tion, your horse will learn to stand when you mount.

Hav­ing your horse stand to be mounted is an im­por­tant train­ing op­por­tu­nity as it en­sures that you are able to mount your horse safely.

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