Behavior Problems during Mounting

Kathleen A Lockhart

There are many reasons why a horse won’t stand still for mounting, and before you can change this behavior, you must try to figure out what causes him to be restless as you attempt to mount. Often it’s as simple as no one ever having taken the time to TEACH the horse to stand still. And some riders have the habit of holding very loose rein contact as they get on, so if the horse moves they can’t correct him. It’s easy to dig the horse in the ribs with the toe of your boot as you mount, and many sensitive horses resent this and will try to move away from the discomfort. Other rider bad habits include that of poking the horse in the ribs with the heels or spurs immediately on landing in the saddle, and asking the horse to gallop off. This can be fun for the rider, but will easily become a habit for the horse, who will begin to move off at a quick pace--before the rider is ready. So before you try to teach your horse to stand still, consider the following points:

  1. What does your horse DO when you try to mount? This will help you to develop a game plan for correcting this annoying habit. Does the horse:

    • Back up
    • Rush off forward
    • Swivel haunches sideways
    • Try to bite rider
  2. Check for issues that could be causing the behavior:

    • The girth is too tight: It should be just tight enough to be snug. Don’t “cut him in half” with it.
    • The rider digs his toe into horse’s side when mounting: turn your toe parallel to the horse’s side, and point it toward the ground as you mount.
    • The rider lands in the saddle with a thud: Learn to balance with your hand resting on the pommel or on his neck , or use your knees to hold some of your weight.
    • The rider is abusive when riding, causing the horse to anticipate pain on being ridden.
    • The rider spurs(or whips) the horse into a gallop immediately after mounting, rather than asking the horse to walk off calmly.
    • The rider always schools the horse for very long periods with few or no rest periods.
  3. General approach to behavior correction

    • Find out what precedes the behavior (behavior can be triggered by what happens before it)
    • Find out what follows the behavior (behavior can be influenced by events occurring immediately after it: kicking the horse into an immediate gallop, for example, will cause him to anticipate the kicking, and he will begin to take off without your asking him to do so.)
    • Figure out a way to keep the horse standing quietly without having someone else hold him, for example, position him in the corner of an arena or facing a fence.
    • Take your time and be kind, not punitive. Horses are prey animals; aggression scares them

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