Create a Steady Mount


Standing quietly and safely for mounting is a must for any horse, especially when you’re out on the trail. 

As with any new behavior, it is best accomplished by breaking the process into small and understandable steps. The individual steps can later be linked together in what we call a Behavior Chain. 


Standing still is inclusive of many related activities; standing still for the farrier, the vet, while tied, under saddle, in a trailer, in a stock and on a lead are just a few. 


Standing still is inclusive of many related activities; standing still for the farrier, the vet, while tied, under saddle, in a trailer, in a stock and on a lead are just a few. 


A horse of any age from weanling to veteran trail horse can learn the basics of standing for mounting even long before saddle training begins. 


Here’s what you will need to get started 

  • A mounting block or step 
  • Treat pouch and your horse’s favorite flavor of treat 
  • Your regular riding tack 
  • Possibly a helper 
  • Guider whip 


Using food treats creates the expectation of a reward and keeps the horse focused on you. We use a diminishing reward system which means we use treats liberally in the beginning and as the individual steps in a Behavior Chain become easier for the horse we gradually decrease treats and increase stroking or verbal encouragement. 


We always use a mounting block because it not only makes mounting less stressful for the horse physically but it also serves as a target. 


Lead him alongside the mounting block and ask him to halt for a few seconds as you restrict his forward movement and then reward him with the verbal cue of “cookie time” as you give him a treat. Let him stand quietly and enjoy his treat. If you’re teaching him patience you can’t be in a hurry! 


Give him a walk about between sessions. Increase his wait or dwell time at the block by a few seconds with each repetition. Two or three repetitions per session are plenty. 

Position the horse in a way that encourages him to stay put.
Position the horse in a way that encourages him to stay put.

As he begins to expect a reward at the end of his stand time, that will become his focus, not wiggling around. If he does get wiggly, don’t reward him and you may want to give him a walk about. If he’s really distracted, give him a time out and try again later. 


After a few repetitions, I will mount him and reward him afterwards. It’s important to breathe and exhale in relaxation and wait for him to do the same. To a horse, that’s a sign that all is fine. 


Mixing up the sequence and also the number of times I mount or dismount will keep him from anticipating. I change up the timing of the treats too. 

If your horse just won’t stay in position, ask a friend to help you by restricting his forward movement with a rein or by placing her hand on the bridge of his nose. She can also put him back in position by tapping him with a guider or dressage whip just behind your leg. 


Remember- 

Take your time, he will learn to do the same. 

Vary the sequence so he doesn’t anticipate. 

Remember to breathe because it will help both of you to relax. 


Other mounting considerations- 

  • Use the mounting block as a target for the horse to line up with.
  • Even though we are able to mount a horse without a block, the additional elevation of a block lessens the pull on a horse’s body which over time can cause physical problems. Riders that want to mount both sides may find the block helpful. Mounting from both sides helps a horse stay balanced physically. 
  • By standing on the block, the rider can condition his horse to seeing him above and from both sides. 


Position your horse facing a wall or a fence to help restrict his forward movement. 


A side-pass toward and also away from a mounting block is a cool add-on move and can be useful on the trail. 


To teach the side-pass to the block, stand at the horse’s head on the side opposite of the direction you will ask him to step. For instance if he is to side-pass to the left, you will be on his right side. Put the lead or reins in your hand and tip his nose slightly toward you or opposite of the direction you will ask him to move. Restrict his forward movement and ask him to step over, just one step. You may use a guider whip to tap him gently in the middle of the rib cage to encourage him to step 

It’s great to have a helper!
It’s great to have a helper!

As your horse progresses, delay the food treat for a second or two before proceeding to the next sequence. 


It’s the expectation of a reward that will help to keep him focused on you. 


Remedial Mounting 

Most of the problems regarding an adult horse and standing still are the result of an incident that scared him or made him uncomfortable. Training and retraining a horse to stand still requires patience, good horsemanship and willpower to restrain from using “quick fixes”. Adult horses can be retrained but it just can’t be rushed. 


First of all, mentally explore all of the possible reasons the horse may be uncomfortable with being mounted. They could include poor fitting equipment, an inexperienced rider that flops down into the saddle, physical pain, trauma of any type associated with standing still or simply a poor education. Often a horse has been conditioned to walk off during mounting by a rider that has simply allowed him to do so. 


In a remedial situation just as in initial training, never assume a horse knows a lesson that you have not taught or re-taught him! Don’t short cut any of the individual steps involved and help him understand each separate piece of the puzzle of proper mounting on the ground, before you mount


The sequence of the steps should be varied to prevent anticipation and anxiety. This means you’ll also need to simply prevent evasions, one step at a time. Put the horse in position… If he evades by backing, place his bottom toward a fence. If he walks off, position him facing a fence or wall. To prevent side stepping, put him alongside a barrier and have an assistant stand at his head. It may take from one session to dozens or more to cure the evasions. Do not be discouraged, re-training is definitely worth it! 

Standing on a mounting block lets your horse see you from either side and also as you are above him.
Standing on a mounting block lets your horse see you from either side and also as you are above him.

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Sarita Stratton (Saturday, 18 April 2015 03:37)

    Excellent advice as always. Systematic and logical.