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.
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,