Training Tip Tuesday: How to each your horse to stand still while mounting

Trying to mount a horse that walks forward, backwards or steps sideways while you’re trying to mount is not only frustrating, but can be unsafe. Here are some simple tricks to try that might help get your horse happily standing while you hop up:

  1. Consistency is Key. As with any training method, persistence and consistency is key. Always practice the same technique every time you mount.
  2. Ground Work. Make sure your horse learns and respects in hand walk-halt-walk transitions, as well as being happy to stand with all feet still for a period of time (sometimes known as ‘parking’). If your horse cannot have patience to stand in hand, chances are the same can be said asking them to stand at the mounting block.
  3. Mounting Blocks. Always use a mounting block. Not only does it make it safer and easier for you, but can be hard on your horses back, potentially causing discomfort and thus exacerbating moving while being mounted.
  4. Removing Extra Energy. If your horse can be girthy, cold backed or is overly excitable, it is a good idea to give them a lunge or hand walk to get them focused on another training exercise to release some energy and get their attention before asking them to stand at the mounting block. Adding some walk-trot-walk transitions are very helpful, as is working on some suppleness exercises such as in-hand turn on the haunches or turn on the forehand.
  5. Get Prepared. bring your horse up to the mounting block and ask them for halt in the same fashion you ask them during lunging or in hand. Make sure all four feet are square so they are balanced for mounting.
  6. Slow and Steady Wins the Race. When you horse will stand quietly at the block, step up onto the block. If the horse does not move, step down from the block and reward them. If they move when you step up, reset them, and try again. Continue this until your horse will stand quietly while you step up and down slowly off the block, and are happy to stand while you are standing on the block.
  7. How to Stop Moving Away. If you are following the steps above and your horse will not stand to be mounted, creating some physical blocks for movement can be helpful. If your horse tends to move sideways, place the horse between a fence or wall, you can even use a trot pole if you don’t have another option. If the like to move forward, face them to an arena wall or fence.
  8. Time to Step in the Stirrup. Once your horse is relaxed and you feel it is safe to mount, a safe option is to slightly tip the horses nose towards you and take up a little more left rein contact. Ensure you have enough rein contact that if the horse moves forward you can gently block with the reins. If your horse moves at this point, remain on the block and have him walk around until they are positioned back where you started. Once standing quietly give him a scratch on the next or wither then put your foot in the stirrup. Ensure your toe does not dig into his side (as this will likely make them move forward). If still standing quietly swing your leg over and mount. Try to sit down as lightly as possible to make it a pleasant experience. Then dismount.
  9. Repeat. Once the above is going well, it is a good idea to repeat several times mounting and dismounting each ride. You can do it all at the beginning of your ride or during your training session. Make sure you reward every small positive behaviour.
  10. Reward. Reward. Reward. No matter how small the step towards the desired behaviour, make sure you make a big deal out of it. Whether you choose to include treat rewards, a big scratch in your horses favourite spot, or just leaving them be to stand quietly for a moment, just make sure it is very clear to your horse they have done the right thing.
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