How to Get to Yes with the horse you have

Teaching a horse to stand for mounting

OK I’ll be honest!! I can’t stand watching the little dance of line up horse to mounting block, he moves as soon as rider starts to get on block, so rider stops getting on and repositions the horse, and the whole thing starts over again ad infinitum. Good grief it doesn’t need to be like that.

Here’s the thing. If a person is unable to change this situation in a few sessions then what it tells me is one or both of the following: a serious lack of ideas when it comes to actually TRAINING (not just hoping they figure it out) and/or a serious lack of willingness to pay attention to how the HORSE is feeling.

Here’s what I would do instead. First, turn the horse on to clicker training. This is especially valuable when you are dealing with a horse who comes to the table with a whole lotta ‘ideas’ that aren’t the best. Second I would spend time with that horse on the ground showing him how I’m gonna make the ‘right thing obvious’. I get his attention and he starts to let go of the worry he’s carrying inside and the need to flee that comes with that. Through rope work I show him how to follow a feel. I do this rope work in a variety of locations not the least of which is while standing ON the mounting block.

With me standing on the mounting block, I have the horse do circles around me and most important changes of direction (a figure eight). This allows me to lead the horse up to the block without getting off. I don’t make him stand. But I do click him every time the saddle is right in front of me. Pretty soon, because click means treat, the horse is putting the saddle in front of me pretty regular. They aren’t stoopid. ;-) Then I put a foot in the stirrup, click/treat. Repeat that a few times. Move the saddle around, click/treat. Put a little weight on the stirrup, click/treat. Start to swing my leg over, click/treat. And so on till I’m sitting in the saddle, click/treat.

Now you go through that process every time you mount (it will get shorter every time), which is not that big of a deal, and soon enough (in a few days) the worst that is happening is that the horse expects a treat as soon as you get on. Now IMO that is a LOT more pleasant that being off to the races as soon as the leg swings over.

How the horse feels after you get on is a whole ‘nuther story but I’d handle that pretty much the same as the above.

Check out this video for an example. This is an actual training session with a horse who is in the habit of taking off as soon as the rider gets in the saddle. It is all connected to her general worry about being ridden. A step by step, positive reinforcement based approach has made a world of difference for this mare.

2 Responses to “Teaching a horse to stand for mounting”

  1. luca says:

    hi,
    it’s a very nice video and a great job.
    Well done!
    Luca
    Italy

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