Whether you own a young horse, a hot horse, a horse that’s developed a bad habit or is fearful, here are some tips to train the fidgety beast to stand while you mount. It’s not just good manners, it’s about safety – horse that starts to move before you’re in the saddle and have both feet in the stirrups can be dangerous and you might find yourself hitting the dirt or getting dragged.
1. Pick your time. Don’t start practicing mounting manners on a windy day, or if you’re horse has had a few days off.
2. Ensure your mounting block is on level ground. This applies to mounting blocks of the portable variety. A mounting block that shifts, or worse, tips over into the horse, will only add drama to what is meant to be a calm act.
3. If you do have an anxious horse or a youngster, consider positioning the mounting block near a wall or fence, creating a “chute” or “boundary” and reducing its flight paths. The barrier can often make the horse feel more secure.
4. Lead your horse to the mounting block and stand with it without climbing onto the steps. Let the horse learn to be patient. Pat it gently and give it a treat. Walk on, then repeat a few times to desensitize the horse to the mounting block.
5. If you horse will stand quietly with you on the ground, then it’s time to step up onto the mounting block to repeat step 4, but again, without actually mounting. Reward your horse for doing as you ask.
6. If your horse won’t stay still and moves forward, backs up or steps sideways from the mounting block in step 4 or 5, it’s time to lunge, long rein, or do any other ground activity to burn off some energy before continuing. Otherwise, you’ll both get frustrated.
7. Once you are able to stand on the mounting block with your horse relaxed and standing still, then it’s time to place your left foot in the stirrup. If your horse is remaining still, then add some weight into the stirrup. If that goes well, then continue to mount, but gently swing your leg over, ensuring you aren’t pulling your horse off balance, which can cause it to panic and move away.
8. Once mounted, many horses will instinctively move forward. Keep your horse standing until you’re ready. If they move away, then dismount and try again. There is no failure in having to repeat these steps, especially if you are retraining a horse with bad habits or one that is nervous. It will simply take a bit longer, so be patient!
Many riders don’t bother to train their horse to stand while being mounted. Is it laziness? A sense of immortality? We aren’t sure, but having your horse stand while being mounted, and remaining so until given the aids to move forward, is a successful and safe start to any ride.