Stand Still for Mounting

Courtesy of Downunder Horsemanship

A horse that constantly moves around when you try to slip your foot in the stirrup is not only frustrating, but potentially dangerous. A well trained horse stands quietly while you mount and waits for your cue to move off once you’re situated in the saddle. 

People who have trouble with their horses fidgeting when being mounted share a similar habit — they get on their horses and instantly go somewhere. Pretty soon, the horse figures, “Why wait for the rider to tell me to move? I’ll just move when she gets on me. That’s what she’s going to ask me to do anyway.” Then he says to himself, “Why wait for her to get in the saddle? I’ll just start moving when she brings me next to the mounting block.” Before long, the horse won’t even stand still next to the mounting block, or as soon as he sees you raising your foot to get in the saddle, he starts walking forward.

Horses are great at predicting our moves because we fall into habits and rarely change our routines. Rather than inadvertently teaching your horse a bad habit because of your behavior, make a slight change to your normal mounting routine. Once you’re in the saddle, instead of cueing the horse to walk off, spend a few minutes flexing his head and neck. 

Slide your hand down one rein and then bring it up to your hip. Wait for the horse to give to the pressure and to touch your boot or jeans or the stirrup with his nose. As soon as he does, release the rein. Then slide your other hand down the opposite rein. Bring the rein up to your hip and wait for the horse to soften to the pressure. 

Not only is this exercise a quick way to get the horse to check in with you and to ask him to soften to the bridle, but if you do it every time you mount him, he’ll start to anticipate it. Instead of thinking that as soon as you sit down in the saddle he needs to go somewhere, he’ll be thinking about standing still and getting soft. After a few repetitions of flexing his head from side to side, then you can cue him to move forward.