The Stables

The Question of Getting On

The lad that competes my young ISH always amazes me with his ability to leap up on him from the ground. In one quick bounce he can be off the ground and in the saddle while the horse is moving. His agility is incredible, given that he is way shorter than me too. I struggle to vault onto a 14 hand pony that is standing still!

However brilliant my rider’s ability is – I prefer my horse to stand still when I get on. Standing still to allow a rider to mount is one of the most important lessons you can teach them. The horse isn’t keen to get moving when he hops from one hoof to the other while you struggle to get your foot into the stirrup. He’s not getting impatient when he wanders off when you are halfway on. In fact moving when he is being mounted is actually a sign of him sussing out who is boss. If the horse assumes he is the boss while you are getting on him, what chance do you have when you are on board?

From the horse’s point of view:

There are two reasons for him to move:-

1)- he is anxious, for a horse moving his feet when he is anxious is his response to danger.

2) The way horses suss out who is the boss in the herd is by making the others move. If a horse can make another move he is the dominant one – so guess what he is thinking if he can have you hopping around all over the place when you are getting on.

Your horse should feel safe enough with you to stand still, but he also should understand that you are the boss and not him.

Apart from these issues there are some pretty good safety reasons why you should make your horse stand. Suspended in mid-air with one leg in the stirrup and one dangling is the most vulnerable you can be while riding.

Many un-necessary injuries and even deaths occur when riders fall while mounting. Falls this way are nasty often resulting in broken hips or spinal injuries.

As riders we often spend fortunes training our horses and ourselves as riders and yet ignore what is a simple thing to teach and something that is utterly vital.

All that is needed to teach a horse to stand while being mounted is a little time and patience.

Working in a smaller area will help initially and when you feel more confident you can move into larger spaces. Be prepared to be in this for the long run – stay at it until you have made some progress.

Begin by bringing the horse to the spot you want to use to get on. Wait until the horse stands still. Be persistent about bringing him back to the same spot every time he moves. Don’t let him get away with shuffling either, he has to stand.

Once the horse has got the message about standing still then you can begin to put your foot into the stirrup. Be aware of making sure that you aren’t jabbing him in the tummy with your foot and thus giving him the message to walk forwards.

It may be that you get the horse to stand still saddled and bridled and that is as much as you can achieve in one day. If the horse is a confirmed shuffler or is really bad at being mounted it may take a while until he will actually stand still, but you must persist and win – but without getting cross and without force.

You may have to work the horse without a bridle and saddle if he associates these with shuffling or dancing around. Strip back everything that you need to until you have the basic requirement – standing still.

If the horse refuses to stand then turn the tables on him and drive him forwards around you in a small circle. Do this with caution as the last thing you want is for him to slip and kick you by accident, or fall down.  Keep him moving in circles until you decide it is time to stop. Nine times out of ten he will stand. This is because you have made him move his feet rather than him making you move yours. It is a subtle battle of wills to see who is in charge.

Once you have achieved this make a huge fuss of the horse – let him know that he has been good and that this is what is required of him.

From here it is baby steps. Standing still when your foot is put into the stirrup, standing when you bounce ready to mount and standing while you are suspended in mid-air, the hardest with a confirmed mover as it is here that you have the least control.

With practice though you should be able to use the reins to halt the horse while suspended before you mount.

The same applies with a mounting block, always take the horse to the mounting block and if he moves bring him back, over and over again until you win.

Once the horse is standing still for you to get on, make sure it stays put until you are ready to ride off. If it starts to move off before you are ready, pick up the reins and back up to the spot you mounted. The faster you react, the faster the horse will realize that standing and waiting is what is required of him. Once you have come this far don’t let the horse go backwards in his habits. Always make him stand while you mount and always make him stand when you are on board until you have got your feet safely in the stirrups.

It is good practice to wait a while before moving off, pick up the reins, fiddle with your stirrups, adjust your hat anything to make the horse wait and show respect for your commands.


Article via Lavender & White Publishing

Image Source: Shutterstock