How to Train Your Horse to Stand Still for Mounting: Tips and Techniques
Standing still for mounting a horse should be a simple and safe task, yet many riders struggle with a horse that won’t stand still or even worse, tries to bolt off. This not only puts the rider in danger but can also cause stress and anxiety for the horse. In this article, we will explore practical steps you can take to ensure that your horse is safe and easy to mount. However, simply reading an article won’t do the trick. You need to take action, set up a training program for you and your horse. By following these tips, you’ll be on your way to creating a strong bond with your horse and enjoying your rides without any mounting mishaps.
The Problem: Why Horses Don’t Stand Still for Mounting
There are several reasons why a horse may not stand still for mounting. It could be that the horse has never been clearly and politely taught to do so. Or, the horse may not have developed trust in humans. Additionally, the horse may not be standing square in the first place. Another possibility is that the rider is approaching the horse in a threatening way, with strong eye contact, a square body position, and jerky movements. The rider may also dig their toe painfully into the horse’s side when getting on, make it uncomfortable for the horse by hoisting herself up and thumping down in the saddle, or pull the horse’s mouth when getting on. Alternatively, the horse may be rushing off immediately after the rider gets on, anticipating that he needs to do so. Soreness and discomfort in the horse, uncomfortable equipment, or traumatic experiences can also cause a horse to panic when the rider goes to get on.
What Can I Do to Help My Horse Stand Still for Mounting?
Step One: Join up with the horse (If you have the facilities and know how)
Join-Up is a technique that starts with Monty Roberts and is centred around building a bond, gaining a horse’s trust and respect. But it’s much more of a human training exercise than an exercise for the horse. To achieve a Join-Up with your horse you need to learn good observation skills, correct body language and use of eye contact, timing, confidence and much more…
Step Two: Ensure the horse is comfortable being touched
Make sure your horse is comfortable with you touching and stroking them all over, and massage out any areas of tension. If your horse is not comfortable with this, it will be difficult to train your horse to stand for mounting. You may need to seek advice from a vet or physiotherapist if you find that your horse had any repeatable areas of pain/discomfort when touched. Otherwise, if discomfort is ruled out but your horse is still unsure about being touched then a series of acceptance exercises may need to be done.
Step Three: Make sure your horse understands how to yield to pressure and place his feet as requested.
It seems illogical, but ensuring you can ask your horse to move their feet, in all directions, will actually help you when asking them to stand… This is because having control over the movement of your horse’s feet will help them be more responsive to your cues. This is a principle spoken about a lot here at Intelligent Horsemanship. There are several exercises that can help with this including backing up, L-shape poles, leg yielding etc…
Step Four: Teach your Horse to Stand Firmly at the mounting Block
You should be able to manoeuvre your horse backwards and forwards or around the mounting block, just as in the exercises you’ve been practising, and place them in just the position that you would like. A good way to check that they are standing firm is to give a slow pull on the stirrup leather nearest you, which will cause them to balance themselves.
You can climb up on your mounting block, and if your horse doesn’t stand still, put those feet of theirs back to work – not aggressively, but moving backwards, forwards, bending backwards each way, backwards, forwards again – and then offer them the opportunity to just stand… Eventually they will work out that it’s just easier to stand in the first place.
Take a breath, give your horse a nice stroke and stand on the mounting block again and stroke them and tell them how good they are. If they move off at any time, put them to work again. The first couple of times they stand, just get straight down again and go round the front to pet him.
Step Five: Slowly Work Towards Mounting
Gradually, as they get better, you can progress; stroke them on the opposite side, put a foot in the stirrup, stand up in the stirrup. The person who does this part of the work needs to be experienced, calm and athletic. If that’s not you, then find the right person to help you. From time to time, get right down again and go to the front to tell him how good he is. By the time you actually do get on, he will be wondering what the fuss was about. It is very important now you are up there to just sit for a while – at least for a few minutes. So many of us are in such a rush all the time we can’t blame our horses for getting more and more like us.
Tip: Work your horse in a corner
You can make the job easier for yourself by just working initially in a corner so the horse has less scope for wandering around. You may like someone to hold the horse until they are really relaxed. There are many ‘simplification’ techniques that some people feel they can’t do because it would somehow be ‘cheating’: ‘But of course they’ll stand still if you put them there!’ Remember that in your training sessions you want to make the right thing easy for the horse to do, so they can quickly get the benefits of your rewards. As soon as they understand what it is you want, you’ll be able to get any time, any place, anywhere.
Don’t be afraid of Plan B
It’s common for horse owners to debate which training method is the best, and to align themselves with a particular trainer or approach. Of course, any method that involves cruelty or instills fear in the horse should be avoided. However, what works for one horse may not be right for another, and all methods have the potential to be effective or harmful, depending on the skill and intention of the person using them. When approaching a mounting problem, it’s important to consider the underlying cause, such as lack of training or fear. Observe how the rider approaches the horse and ensure they are not making the horse uncomfortable. Consistent mounting from one side can cause saddle and back problems, so using a mounting block and ensuring the horse will stand still is key. If fear is the issue, building trust through positive interactions is essential.
If you’d like to get help training your horse I suggest you see if you are lucky enough to have a local Intelligent Horsemanship Trainer OR Join as an IH Member and watch our videos on teaching Mounting Manners.