If you understand why a horse walks off while being mounted, you can figure out what will cause him to stand still.
Did you know that problems with mounting can be a huge opportunity to understand your horse’s natural instincts, gain respect, and get a better relationship with your horse?
If you choose to take horses’ natural instincts into account, you will quickly learn to appreciate your horses’ behaviours and be able to help them through their issues. Horses don’t try to make your life difficult (believe it or not!). They use their natural instincts in dealing with situations they are presented with, but they prefer to feel safe, comfortable, and have fun.
So, what causes a horse to walk off when their rider attempts to mount? Can we cause a horse to want to stand still? You will need to do your best at putting yourself in your horse’s shoes and keep in mind that some horses are more sensitive than others.
Does your horse believe he is safe enough to have you on his back? Particularly the newly started or abused horses are the ones that need guidance: where you have to show them you don’t want to hurt them. If you establish trust on the ground first, by the time you get in the saddle, the horse will already know that you aren’t out to hurt him. You will need patience and try to understand that your horse may feel he is literally fighting for his life. If you get aggressive, neither of you will gain respect.
Is your horse comfortable?
Does your tack fit properly? Feel under your saddle for pressure points. Check for new saddle sores, heat, swelling, or any obvious discomforts (burrs or debris stuck to tack).
Are you good at mounting? Or do you pull your horse off balance when you get on? Some horses have not learned to stand square when you mount. If this is difficult for your horse, push and pull the saddle away and towards. He will naturally spread his legs to brace against you. Now he shouldn’t need to move. It also helps to push up with your legs rather than pull up with your arms when you start to mount. If you aren’t physically able or have difficulties, by all means use a mounting block. Your horse will appreciate it!
Do you poke your toe into your horse’s side when you get up? If you’re not sure, have someone watch you while you mount. Does your horse get more tense when you have your foot in the stirrup? Does he throw his head when you start to get on?
And when you are sitting in the saddle, do you sit down softly and quietly, or do you flop down in the saddle? Think of what your horse must be feeling. Every time you get on, you just plop down on him. For some horses this puts a “bad taste in his mouth” before you even start riding. Be aware of your body and work on your coordination if you feel this is the reason your horse walks off when you attempt to mount. Think about sitting down on a pile of glass. Soft and gently.
Is your horse mentally comfortable? A horse’s natural response to stress is to leave the situation. If he is stressed about something, he may have trouble keeping his feet still. If he feels he needs to move, have him flex his head towards you until his feet stop moving and then quickly release his head and stand quietly beside him. Relax your body. He will realize that it is easier and more comfortable to stand still than circle around you. Flex again if he starts moving. Also, the quicker you release his head, the quicker he will learn he did the right thing.
Is your horse comfortable with you being the leader? Or does he disrespect you? Does he try to run you over or push you around? You need to be sure he understands you won’t allow being walked on. Horses are looking for leaders, and they will respect you more for asserting yourself. See ‘Push or be Pushed’ at www.yemayahorseretreat.com for more information on asserting yourself respectfully.
Is your horse ‘programmed’ to go when you get on? Pay attention to your habits. Do you sit a minute or take off as soon as you get on? Horses learn to predict your next move and are very good at making assumptions. If you notice that your horse has been programmed to move, take a few minutes every time you get on to reprogram him. Stand for a few minutes once you get on. If your horse has difficulties, try it a couple minutes up the trail. Just practice patience.
Does your horse get to have fun and enjoy himself when you ride? To some, this may not sound relevant, but a horse may choose to keep you off his back if he does nothing but work. It is important that you find your horse’s niche or thrill. You want your horse to feel that riding can be fun. Get creative and keep his mind stimulated.
Taking the time to figure out why your horse doesn’t want to stand still pays off. You will gain a lot of respect if you take the right approach. Once you’ve got your horse feeling safe, comfortable and enjoying being ridden, he will stand still when you get on.