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Standing still at the mounting block is one thing every horse should know. Not only do a surprising number of riding accidents happen at the mounting block, but these first few moments of your ride can set a tone that will carry through the rest of your time in the saddle that day, and you want that tone to be one of calm attentiveness, not of nervous movement or uncertainty. In this post and this week’s video, I will help you understand why horses move around at the block and how you can train your horse to stand quietly.

I find there are several reasons horses move off at the block.

1. The horse associates riding with discomfort, either physical or emotional and therefore simply want to avoid having you on their back. This could be a horse who is nervous about being ridden, or a mounting problem that arises as a result of a poor fitting saddle that pinches your horse when you ride.

2. The horse simply does not know what is expected at the mounting block. When we are not consistent about how we approach the block, and how we ask our horse to stand there, or we never take the time to teach the horse that we want him to line himself up and then stand there, he may simply be confused.

3. Moving around has simply become a habit. Some horses have moved around at the block so much that it became a habit. They aren’t necessarily nervous or anxious about the upcoming ride, it has just become a habit to, say, swing their hindquarters out when the rider’s foot hits the stirrup.

mounting block

The most effective way to remedy a mounting block problem may vary depending on what is causing the behavior. For a nervous horse or a horse that has the habit of moving around, I will usually break the pattern of mounting – meaning I will put my foot in and out of the stirrup and get on and off several times, so they stop anticipating the process and learn to just stand there and relax.

For a horse who simply doesn’t know what to do, I have found targeting to be a very useful strategy to teach lining up and standing still. You can read more about targeting by Clicking Here.

Of course, if the mounting problem came on suddenly it can be a good reason to consider any issues that may be making your horse uncomfortable.

Most times it is not difficult to get your horse standing still in one session, but that does not guarantee that he won’t be back to old behavior the next time you get ready to start a ride. Repetition and consistency are always important, so take the time to practice the mounting block several times, instead of just hopping on and riding off.

In the video below, I also share how you can ask your horse to move and line up while standing on the block, and of course demonstate with Thunder – who does much better at the block now but took quite a few sessions before understanding what was expected.

If you are in Training Journals, you can see Thunder’s progress with standing still at the block through many of the sessions I did with him. Click Here to join Training Journals.

Do you have any strategies at the mounting block that have worked well for you and your horse? Share them below!

See you in the comments,

Callie

 

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Comments

22 Responses

  1. My horse is so excited about going for a ride he cannot hold still. He dances around and if he does stand he immediately starts pawing the ground. Lately I have started to leave him tied up while I get on and then unhook his lead rope when I am in my other stirrup. Can you address the overeager horse? I see Thunder just standing while you are talking. I can only dream of that 🙂

    1. Hi, Several thoughts on the “over eager” horse. If he is consistently this fired up before the ride, what is causing the excess energy? Is is just energy or is he nervous about riding? If its just energy he will probably be jumpy as you are tacking him up, taking him out to the ring, getting ready for the ride, etc. If he is calm until you approach the mounting block then he is probably more anxious and nervous about mounting and/or riding.

      If it just seems to be extra energy could he benefit from more turnout or some lungeing before riding? And if he is getting nervous, I would do lots of coming to the mounting block without getting on, going through each step of the process and when he is good for it, get off the block and walk off. For example, start with walk to the block, gather your reins as if ready to mount, then stop and walk him away. Take baby steps only expecting him to stand still for a few moments at first before doing more.

      Also, think about how you ride him and why he may be excited about the ride. As an example, if you were training a racehorse you probably wouldn’t expect him to stand still or really care if he did, because you are just going to get on and run. You wouldn’t need or even want him calm. However, if you are training a pleasure, trail, or dressage horse you want them calm and attentive so it is worth the time and effort to help them relax at every stage of riding, including the mounting block.

      So just try to think about what is making him excited before riding, because if you can figure that out and help him realize its nothing to be excited about the issue at the mounting block may go away on its own. Hope this helps! Callie

  2. Hi Callie,
    An excellent video !
    Your first instruction on the video re-enforces what happened to me at the training ; I mounted the horse while holding too tightly on the left hand rein and as a consequence the horse turned his head to the left and his rear end moved away from the block, this happened three times before I realised what was happening.Leave both reins as loose possible while mounting.

    regards and sucess.

    alan

  3. Thanks you. I hired a trainer to work with my horse on the flat. While he’s now much better on the flat, she allowed him walk off as she was mounting. He now will not stand at the mounting block. As you’re mounting, he walks off as you’re halfway in the saddle. Now that I’ve seen the your video, I will try these techniques to get him back to standing still at the mounting block.

  4. Where I ride we are all trying to mount up at the same time for our lesson so we hop on and move out of the way for the next rider. I’m pretty sure this has just served to reinforce to the horses to walk off as soon as we stick one foot in a stirrup…so you better be ready and commited to getting on! And then I do exactly what you said and quickly fumble off balance for the other stirrup.
    Think I’ll ask my instructor if we can make this part of class one day…mounting and dismounting a stationary horse. It’ll be good for all of us- riders and horses.

  5. Hi Callie, Great segment on mounting block issues. I noticed about halfway through the video you used your boot to get him to move forward. He did so, but he also swung his hind away from the block. Should that issue be addressed at that moment, or does that get addressed after he has successfully and consistently stepped up to the mounting block? I have an issue with my horse swinging her hind away, especially when I am mounting outside the arena for a trail ride. I am pretty sure it is because she is excited, either to be going on a trail ride or anxious to be leaving the barn. Thanks again for all these great tips.

  6. Great details on how to solve mounting block issues!! Even though my mare has now been trained to stand at the mounting block, just this past weekend she danced around it for some reason. These are great tips to implement for some possible refreshing.

  7. Great job Callie!
    THanks for mentioning the saddle fit. When the rider has one foot in the stirrup that puts a lot of pressure on the opposite side of the horse. If the saddle is pinching at the withers, at cranial nerve 11 and the spinal ligament, it can be very painful and damaging to the horse.
    TTYS
    Terry

  8. Hi Callie,
    I was so excited to find your videos! Thank you so very much for all of the excellent advice and hands on instruction! I look forward to more videos…keep ’em coming!

  9. Hi Callie ,

    I do not use a mounting block . But when I mount my horse he moves away . I hate to having to get someone to hold him . What do I do about this ?

    Sydney

    1. Hi Sydney,

      The basic training process would be the same, I would also pay attention to how you are getting on and make sure that you aren’t accidentally causing the horse discomfort and perhaps this is what causes him to move. When we mount from the ground we tend to put a lot more pressure on the saddle, plus there is more time spend with weight on one side, which can put the horse off balance and also cause movement.

  10. Hi Callie,
    I am working with my Paso Fino. She is standing better now, but it is a very slow process. She was hobble trained by her previous owner and then ridden bareback. She always held still while he jumped on her back. I ride with a saddle. Also, she is medium to high Brio.
    How do all these things effect her ability to stand to be mounted and is there anything else that would work more effectively for her?
    Also, I did use some sending exercises that helped while I had her in her training rope halter, but as soon as I put her bridle on, she back to stepping away.
    Any thoughts

  11. Thanks again, Callie, for the info. I have one that walks off as soon as I go to get on and one that doesn’t. I like the break down and not to always just do it to ride off. I will work on all the things you said. Thank you, the videos are fantastic.

  12. Hi Callie,
    this video was super informative . I just have two questions. I am a member of training journals and would like to watch the rest of your work with Thunder but when I search by horse I cannot find him in the list.
    Also I was very intrigued by your bitless bridle and I was wondering what brand it is , and what your thoughts are on bitless bridles in general.

    Thank you!

  13. Great video! Any tips on helping a horse who bolts as I swing my leg over? I would love for her to just stand there relaxed

    1. Stephanie, that sounds like it could get to be really dangerous. I would work on this slowly, and would recommend giving food rewards when she is standing relaxed. Begin with just having her stand there without the intention of mounting, then stepping up onto the block, and putting your weight over her back – the more you can break this down into smaller bits the better. I’m also wondering if her saddle isn’t making her uncomfortable, was this a behavior that randomly showed up?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    2. Hi, I bought a new pony 3 months ago. We had a good few weeks out hacking and I had a couple of lessons. On the second lesson he became very strong and bolted, I came off. The instructor tried to put me back on but he ran forward again and kicked out. Since then mounting has become a real issue, over a few weeks I have been slowly bringing him to the block, putting foot in stirrup etc , now he has bolted twice, I haven’t come off but it’s denting my confidence. Any advice ?

  14. Hi Callie – we just purchased a gentle giant who is terrified of the block. We were aware of this issue before we bought him. The previous owner only had him for a few months and was told by another owner that he may have been abused. He won’t go anywhere near the block. We’ve tried treats, good boy pats etc and no chance. He is 17.1H so I have resorted to a stool. He doesn’t love this either but I am usually successful. He doesn’t move during the mounting or walk off. The challenge is getting something close to him. He is so sweet and calm which makes this behavior so strange. I guess my question is how do you address fear. We all believe that he is truly scared and have not been aggressive with asking him to comply. Any device is greatly appreciated!

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