Does your horse give you permission for mounting? 5 Tips to make mounting easy

Geeft jouw paard echt groen licht voor opstijgen - 5 tips voor opstijgen met gemak

Mounting is one of the top 10 issues between horse and rider!

Do you recognise yourself in one of these cartoons?

  • Your horse moves away or runs backwards as soon as you try to put your foot in the stirrup
  • You hardly even sit, with one foot still searching for the stirrup, and your horse is already leaving
  • Your horse does not want to stand still at the mounting block … you move the block … horse moves away … you follow with the block … as soon as you put it in position  … your horse moves out of position … repeat … repeat
  • Your horse does stand still at the mounting block … but a bit too close … and pushes you over
  • Your horse needs to be held in place by a helper. Without help you cannot get into the saddle
  • Your horse does not even want to enter the arena, let alone allow you to get on
  • Your horse stands like a statue while you are mounting but explodes as soon as you ask him to move

The message of all these horses is the same: “I don’t want you on my back”

At the end of the day all these behaviour have one origin: your horse would rather not let you mount. He gives a clear “red light”. The reasons can be diverse: pain, discomfort, fear, lack of trust or understanding, he has bad expectations of the ride or – this is often the case – unconciously taught behaviour! Sometimes this pattern gradually develops when small signals of the horse are being ignored, disregarded and overruled. Often we can only point out a moment in time when it really escalated and both horse and rider lost confidence.

“You never get a second chance for a first impression”

One of the most common causes of mounting issues is the way the horse was started under saddle. The procedure may have been to quick for him to mentally keep up. He may have been being lunged, chased forward, somebody forced him to stand still while another person got into the saddle and the one in the saddle has a great skill of sitting out every move the horse makes. When you look at this procedure from the horse’s point of view of course you don’t want to have to endure this. You would not understand, feel afraid and your selfconfidence would be broken. Not a very good foundation to build on.

I meet many horses that lost their trust and selfconfidence exactly in this most vulnerable time of their life. They had to do things they did not understand and it made them afraid. Their body may carry a rider but their mind is blown. This first impression, for which he never gets a second chance, influences a young horse for a long time. Sometimes the consequences even show up much later in life, when they reach a point that they really cannot cope with the pressure anymore. But the good news is: You can change how he feels about mounting!

Submission is not enough

For the partnership with your horse and for your own safety it is crucial that your horse can stand calmly and wait for you to get on. Submission is not enough! Way more important is that your horse really welcomes you on his back. That he trusts you and that he knows that you are not going to force him over his mental, emotional or physical thresholds.  You’ll want him to give you permission to mount: a green light!

5 TIPS to get a green light for mounting

Take your time to make the mounting procedure something valuable and positive. A good start of the ride. He will benefit from that his whole life! He will keep himself and his riders out of trouble. The tips below will help you create a safe and willing horse.

1. OBSERVE AND FEEL: WHAT DOES YOUR HORSE TELL YOU?

Red, yellow or green light? Here are some signs to look for:

  • Tension: Do his muscles feel soft? Does he relax and lower his neck?
  • Breathing: Does he breath calm and deep?
  • Legs: Can he stand still on a loose rein? If not, where does he want to go?
  • His facial expression: Does he have soft blinking eyes, soft ears, loose jaws and mouth?
  • Use your eyes and intuition: Is his mind with you? Positive or negative? Or is he “frozen” and introverted? Especially the horses that stand like a statue should ring your alarmbells. These are the ones that can explode when he reaches the limit of what he can deal with. Standing still is not always a green light!

2. KEEP IN MIND HOW IT FEELS TO THE HORSE

Imagine that your rider wants to sit on your back. When she bumps her feet against your bones, pinches you or pulls you out of balance, you will not like the experience. Neither will you like it when she is not connecting with you. It really does not take any extra time to pay attention to seemingly little details like that but it makes all the difference to your horse:

  • Tightening the girth: do this one hole at a time and from both sides
  • Balance: check his balance before you mount so it’s easy for him to stand still. A practical tip: Grab the front of your saddle and pull and push so your horse has to brace himself a bit and maybe adjust his feet. If he is already standing unbalanced chances are he may have to move his feet while you are mounting.
  • When he walkes away as soon as you are in the saddle: stay relaxed and bend him with one rein until he stops moving his feet, then reward.
  • Pinching his belly or elbows with your toe: if you cannot seem to avoid pinching then pinch the girth instead.
  • Supple and light: jump up high enough so you don’t have to pull yourself up a lot. Improve your own suppleness and fitness if necessary.
  • Leg over: make sure to lift your leg high enough so you don’t kick his hindquarters.
  • Thank him for allowing you to mount before you ask him to move!

3. BUILD SOME CREDIT

Please accept your horse’s reactions as honest feedback. Help him and build some credit. Did he give you a green light for the first time? Then say “thank you” and step down again … or do not even mount at all!
If mounting really is an issue, then it’s a great idea to only focus on mounting for a few days. Spend time on making mounting a positive experience: relax, help him feel good, reward a lot, prepare well, get into the saddle, just walk around a bit and get off again and just chill together for a while at the mounting block. If you immediately set him to work when he only just gave you yellow light to mount, you’ll cause him to say NO again the next day. It is better to give him a good reason to give you green lights, by making the whole riding session a good experience.

4. TEACH HIM TO “PARK” FOR MOUNTING ANYWHERE !!

All our horses have learned to turn towards us and position themselves so we can easily mount. This can be at a mounting block, a gate, a tree, the ramp of a trailer. Very convenient for us and for them too.

You can teach your horse to park for mounting too. Either by inviting him to turn towards a target using clickertraining principles, or by using pressure by swinging the string of your horsemanshipstick over to touch his hindquarters on the other side. Make sure to reward the slightest try in the right direction! That may be just a weightshift or one step in the beginning. From there you can step by step build up to just lifting your hand and he parks in hindquarters right under your hand. Touching your hand on his butt is a clear target. If you can easily touch him there he will probably stand in a good position to mount. So I touch and reward, touch and reward to build that pattern. Building this pattern takes a bit of time and patience and maybe persistance but it will give you both a lifetime of easy mounting.

5. THE FINAL CHECK: CAN HE STAND STILL WHILE YOU MOUNT WITH A COMPLETELY LOOSE REIN?

When you can completely drop the reins you can be sure he gives you a real green light. He does not feel the need to move away and is really relaxed. Once you are seated make it a habit to wait for a moment before you ask him to move. Just let him stand relaxed for a while. To stimulate this and to confirm your connection you can give him a treat from the saddle or pet him.

“Your horse giving permission to mount is a natural result of partnership
and of your horse wanting to be with you”
~ ~

P.S.
If you want to use this article or parts of the article please remember to mention the source like this: “source: Liesbeth Jorna – Sport & United (www.sporthorsemanshipunited.nl)”

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